Review: new Blancpain Air Command Flyback Chronograph

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The Blancpain Air Command collection is inspired by a highly sought-after 1950s Blancpain chronograph that was produced in tiny quantities. In the slipstream of its predecessor, the new Air Command model is now available in titanium and rose gold.

Blancpain Air Command Chronograph

The recent homage Air Command Chronograph was first revealed in 2019 to great success. The homage model was a hit among collectors and bicompax fans. Following in the laurels of its success is a new variant in a different styling. This time, the new model comes in blue and has a more subdued case finish. The modern take on the timepiece to not artificially age it with patina lume also gives the new model a very different look and feel to an otherwise identical watch.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

Available in red gold or grade 23 titanium – a high-end variety rarely used in watchmaking – the 42.5 mm-diameter case is water-resistant to 3 bar (approximately 30 metres). Alternating between satin-brushed and polished surfaces, such as on the outer edges of the lugs and the contact surfaces of the pushers, the new variant is a sportier design as compared to the previous all polished case of the black dial model.

The model is paired with a blue calfskin strap featuring white stitching. Like the case, the bi-directional rotating bezel is also made of titanium, but with a ceramic insert.

With a conventional chronograph, each new measurement requires three presses – on two separate pushers – to stop, reset and restart the mechanism. The purpose of the countdown bezel is to indicate the time remaining until the destination is reached. Its numerals or hour-markers run counter-clockwise, unlike those on the bezel of a diver’s watch. The Blancpain Air Command also has a tachymeter scale indicating ground speeds, a 30-minute counter with three elongated markers marking three-minute increments and a 12-hour counter.

With a bi-compax layout, the chronograph displays reinforces the vintage vibe of the Air Command Chronograph. The minutes sub-counter is located at the 3 o’clock position while the hours sub-counter sits at 9 o’clock. As in the original, the chronograph seconds is indicated by the central hand, though there is no running seconds.

The dial is enhanced by a fine sunburst pattern, while the chronograph counters are finely snailed. This contrast heightens the legibility of the timepiece, which is optimal for both day and night thanks to the use of Super-LumiNova® on the hands and hour-markers. This luminescent material is also found on the watch’s bezel, which incorporates a scratch-resistant ceramic insert matching the dial colour.

The dial is signed with the company marquee, as well as the inscriptions ‘Air Command’ and ‘Flyback’.

The Movement

Driving the Blancpain Air Command Chronograph is the 35-jewel Calibre F388B. The automatic movement has a power reserve of 50 hours and operates at a speedy 5 Hz beat rate, thus allowing the chronograph to be precise up to 1/10th of a second. The F388B movement comprises a column wheel system with a highly advanced Blancpain vertical clutch ensuring perfect starting and stopping without the jerks that occasionally occur with horizontal constructions. It is self-winding and topped by an open-worked gold oscillating weight with a snailed finish identical to that of the calibre’s bridges. This aesthetic coherence is accentuated by the colour of the rotor,
which matches that of the watch case.

Concluding thoughts

The new Blancpain Air Command rides the waves of its predecessor but somehow lacks the finesse of the black dial model. Limited to 500 pieces, the 2019 model is mostly sold out if not completely sold out in stores. The new model benefits from it being a lighter and stronger material – titanium, and for those who prefer a subtler look, has a mostly matte finished case. In and of itself, the watch design is nicely executed and has a great movement behind it. And for those who prefer a blue dial over a black dial, a contemporary look over a homage, the new blue dial variant might be a better choice. But for those who prefer a more historically reminiscent timepiece, the 2019 homage would still be the leader of the pack.

The new 2021 model is priced at USD 18,500.


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