Blancpain Air Command

The Vallée de Joux Goes Diving: Our Favorite 2019 Blancpain Novelties

During #TimetoMove, the scenic Swiss Jura played host to six of Swatch Group’s most popular brands. One of our first stops was a visit to the Blancpain manufacture to discover the brand’s novelties.

By Vincent Daveau

Instead of exhibiting at Baselworld, Swatch Group chose to offer two hundred journalists the chance to visit their manufactures and discover the novelties firsthand and for the first time outside of a trade show.

About the Manufacture

Blancpain's manufacture has significantly evolved since its humble beginnings in 1735. Today, the brand is located in Le Sentier and Le Brassus. The company has extensive know-how and the ability to produce its calibres in-house. Blancpain’s primary movements are made in Le Sentier, while more complicated pieces are assembled in the beautiful town of Le Brassus where the brand has been since the 1990s.

Blancpain: Evoking Its Roots

Among the highlights of these new novelties, is the Villeret Extra-Plate. A great classic revisited! This timepiece is the sign of the manufacture’s desire to return to the essential. A minimalist piece (available in red gold or steel) and powered by the manual winding 11A4B caliber derived from the famous caliber 1150.

With a power reserve of four days thanks to two barrels powering high-performance balance springs. A power reserve indicator is located the back of the piece and viewable via a sapphire crystal case back. This piece will stimulate fans of sport dials. It is sized at 40 mm and only 7.40 mm thick and outfitted with an opaline dial on the red gold variant or white dial in steel. The piece is also available on a metal bracelet.

Also presented in this collection is a new edition of the Villeret GMT, in a 40mm case crafted in red gold or steel and powered by an automatic caliber 5A50. This piece is sure to charm frequent travelers.

And to complete this collection is the Lady Villeret with date. The piece asserts every detail of its feminine character via a 33.2mm case. Available in red gold or steel and with the choice of gem setting, with or without diamonds.

Military Inspiration

But of all the timepieces presented, the military pieces were undoubtedly the most impressive. In tribute to their close collaboration French combat divers, Blancpain implemented a special edition of its famous Fifty Fathoms.

On the dial, you can spot the number seven: a number reminiscent of the maximum depth at which military divers equipped with oxygen can swim before it becomes toxic. Limited to 300 pieces, this 45mm piece is water-resistant to 300 meters. Carrying the robust caliber 1315, regulated by a silicon spiral, meeting the strictest antimagnetic standards. Equipped with three barrels mounted in a series, it also provides a five-day power reserve.

Another of the reissued pieces is inspired by the German Navy’s collaboration with the German company "Barakuda." This 40mm piece is water resistant to 300 meters and inherits the name its original supplier. The Barakuda features a dial combining black background with large red and white indexes. These are reminiscent of "old radium." The date takes its position in the counter. Furthermore, Blancpain has added its iconic unidirectional bezel with scratch-resistant domed sapphire insert.

The Reborn Of a Legend

The most talked about piece would have to be the Air Command chronograph. During our tour, we spotted a rare original piece on the wrist of Marc Hayek. An instrument with a military vocation; this scarce timepiece has become almost mythical. For the record, it's said that Blancpain previously produced a series of 12 pieces that Allen V. Tornek - their reseller in the United States - was to offer to the United States Air Force. To satisfy those who are desperate to find an original version among the small number of known references existing, the manufacture has chosen to relaunch its production in a limited series of 500 pieces.

This faithful interpretation is sized at 42.5mm and carries the prestigious, self-winding caliber F388B whose high-frequency operation (5 Hertz or 36,000 vibrations per hour) is perfectly adapted due to its high precision and ability to measure to the tenth of a second accurately. The sapphire case back makes it possible to appreciate how great the finishes are and to admire the gold oscillator, which reminds us of an airplane propeller. The pieces come on a patinated calfskin strap to emphasize its vintage character.

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