Out of all the days in May we were expecting something this wasn’t it. We awoke this morning to excited news that the brands of the Swatch Group have launched their new collections today. Of course, with Swatch no longer being a part of Baselworld there isn’t a press show to attend, I suspect it was a little too short notice to do something without potentially damaging the brand reputation. But, that means we have to wait a little bit longer for a hands-on. One of the watches I’m most looking forward to seeing is a watch based on a historical model that most haven’t heard of before.
We all know the story of the Fifty Fathoms or at least parts of it. Originally issued as a military-only watch, you had to be a part of the armed forces to get hold of one. The Fifty Fathoms was and still is a fantastic piece of engineering which attracted praise from the United States Navy. Blancpain, feeling empowered by their new found friends, made the Air Command watch for the Air Force, it was released in the late 1950s. There’s no official documentation detailing how many were made, but it was most likely that the Air Command was extremely limited in its production.
The new watch follows on in the footsteps of the original and looks almost identical. The dial is clear and legible with a tachymeter scale printed on it and a bi-directional pilot’s countdown bezel on the outside. The hands and markers are covered in pre-patinated lume which gives a warm vintage vibe, and the words for ‘Air Command’ and ‘Flyback’ are printed in a shapely cursive font. Minimalism is where it’s at here, the chronograph features only two subdials, but as the dial states, it is a flyback chronograph.
The movement in the original Air Command was a Valjoux 222 flyback movement, a real workhorse meant for daily action. The movement inside the re-issue watch is made in-house by Blancpain. The calibre F388B runs at 5Hz for a more accurate chronograph and offers a 50-hour power reserve. It’s sparsely decorated, but not neglected in its finish. The matte silver finish is pleasing from a distance and contrasts the gold brushing of the three-bladed propellor style automatic rotor. All of this sits inside a 42.5mm case which is 13.77mm thick and comes on a leather strap.
Unfortunately for me (I dig this), it’s limited to just 500 examples worldwide and priced at CHF18,500.