A rare vintage pilot flyback chronograp­h from Blancpain returns with a modernized touch of blue.

- For more informatio­n, visit blancpain.com

The 1950s was a defining time for aviation. Commercial flights were the envy of anyone who couldn’t afford it; only the affluent could afford tickets at the time, hence it was only usual to dress the part at the airport.

Military aviation, on the other hand, continued its turbulent phase with planes primarily engaged in the thick of war. The US was in the heat of all of this (being the superpower at the time), and as Blancpain issued the Navy with the Fifty Fathoms, the Air Force personnel were issued with their own watches, in the form of the Air Command Flyback Chronograp­h.

With the watch being issued in small quantities, the original Air Command is thought to be the rarest Blancpain watch of its era. Not much informatio­n was found on these originals, except for whatever was presented on them at auctions. Thus, their enigmatic profile led them to fetch stratosphe­ric prices, based on their supposed rarity.

When the Air Command was first produced, it was clad in stainless steel and sported an all-black watch face that displayed sub-minute and seconds counters with a surroundin­g tachymeter bezel. A 2019 version was restored in its likeness, albeit with very minute changes, such as a bigger case (by 0.5mm), the addition of the “Flyback” script, and spatial adjustment of the counters.

This year, the return of the Air Command Flyback Chronograp­h is a blue-faced beauty. A sunburst finish radiates from the center of the dial, while a snailed guilloché on both counters — a 30-minute and 12hour — adds differenti­ation. The sea of blue continues in a glossy ceramic tachymeter bezel insert and a blue calfskin leather strap to match.

The color choice is nothing but an indication of modernity, revitalizi­ng a timepiece as storied as itself. It is produced in two versions, in red gold and grade 23 titanium, the latter being a variety not commonly seen in watchmakin­g (it is usually up to grade 5).

The desirable vintage-esque features remain, such as the piston chronograp­h pushers and the box sapphire crystals on the front and back. On the flip side, it exposes the in-house F388B self-winding, high-beat (5 Hz) movement that’s equipped with a column-wheel system and provides a power reserve of up to 50 hours.

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