The Blancpain Air Command AC01 Flyback Chronograph arrived in 2019 as yet another reissue that garnered a fair bit of attention upon its launch. Remakes are a tough thing to get right, and while fans are desperate to see a remake or continuation of a cult classic, there’s always a chance of ending up with a real GhostBusters of 2016 on your hands. However, when you turn to the right people, you’re more likely to get the 2006 remake of the original Casino Royal from 1967.
This Blancpain Air Command Flyback Chronograph is definitely of the latter. When talking about a brand like Blancpain, who is technically the oldest surviving watch company in the world, you know they have one of the most diverse and rich catalogs to choose from; they’ve made enough hits to put the Wu-Tang Clan, Drake, and Avicii to shame.
Most of their real ‘legacy pieces’ are dive watches, but the original flyback chronograph was produced around the 1950’s in an attempt to try and get some orders through the United States Air Force. Sadly it seems that there have been no documents to confirm this, and there are no exact production numbers. The original watches from the 50’s have seldom been seen at auctions, and when they do they sell for a lot of money.
This remake thankfully (unlike the aforementioned) won’t be as rare as seeing a parking space be made available in the busy streets of Manhattan. The Blancpain Air Command was produced in a limited run of 500 units, offered at an initial MSRP of 18,500 Swiss Francs. Fitted with the Blancpain caliber F388B—which is based off the Frederic Piguet 1185—it features a vertical clutch, column wheel, flyback function, an anti-magnetic silicon hairspring, and a running frequency of 5 Hertz. The only thing smoother than the 36,000 vph frequency would be the smooth jazz styling of Duke Silver of ‘Parks and Recreation’, or Kenny G.
Blancpain didn’t stop at just making the movement a work art with a propeller prop as the winding rotor and generally thoughtful and well executed movement finishing. They also paid that same attention to detail on every other component of the watch. The dial layout has been kept true to the original, with small detail changes that require a world champion ‘Where’s Waldo’ player to notice. You might note some updates to the sizing of the numerals, and the addition of the word ‘flyback’ to the dial—a subtle reminder that this watch does a whole lot more than look pretty. Keeping true to the original sizing of 42mm, the modernized diameter was only upped by half a millimeter, with a very wearable thickness of 13.77mm. It’s wonderful to see that over the years the watch diameter hasn’t grown like my waistline.
There are always reservations when wearing and using a vintage watch. However the Blancpain Air Command really does allow for you to enjoy both ends of the spectrum of having a watch that is capable of doing anything you could throw at it, while giving the sense of really owning a piece of history. When using the chronograph function there is no fear in the back of your mind that something could go wrong as compared to the vintage counterpart.
Not only does the current offering allow that piece of mind during operation, but the feedback when using any of the functions have a sense of purpose and intention. With so much of our lives revolving around the technology that surrounds us, creating a fair amount of magnetic waves in the process the F388B movement’s previously noted use of a silicon hairspring is yet another layer of comfort and protection that ensures that the watch will remain accurate, regardless of where you end up taking it.