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Flying and Diving with Blancpain and Glashütte Original

Two of the six watchmaking companies that debuted new products during last week’s ‘Time to Move,’ the Swatch Group’s three-day watch debut press event, showed new collections that ventured beyond their traditional focus.

Blancpain, well versed in dive watches with its pioneering Fifty Fathoms collection, showed a vintage-inspired Air Command pilot watch. Glashutte Original’s many debuts included an entirely new collection, Spezialist, a set of vintage-inspired dive watches.

Air Command

Blancpain's new Air Command

Couched as the ‘rebirth of a legend’ by its maker, Blancpain’s Air Command is a 500-piece limited edition steel-cased aviation watch that echoes a 1950s Blancpain chronograph created in very limited production for the United States Air Force. After successfully providing the U.S. Navy with Fifty Fathoms dive watches, Blancpain offered the original Air Command to American military pilots through the distributor Allen V. Tornek. Blancpain made perhaps a dozen Air Command prototypes.

The new Blancpain Air Command (left) and the original, a prototype from the late 1950s.

The new ode to that design is a clear descendant of the original, but with plenty of technical and aesthetic updates. The new Air Command’s dial is faithful to that of the original, as is its ratcheted bezel, which was originally designed to allow instantaneous reading of the time when the fuel reserves are low.

On the 42.4mm steel new model, the bezel’s scale, the dial hour-markers and hands, are made of SuperLuminova called "old radium" type, which echoes the orange hue of the original chronograph indications. The new watch retains a tachymeter scale, a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, and adds a 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock.

Blancpain has also now added a sapphire box-type crystal to better recall the vintage late-1950s look. The watch is powered by a modern movement, namely the Blancpain F338B, a high-speed (36,000 vph) column-wheel chronograph caliber with a superior vertical clutch. The caliber’s high frequency enables each second to be divided into tenth-of-a-second intervals. This allows for timing with greater accuracy.

Blancpain headquarters in Le Brassus, Switzerland.

During his introduction of the Air Command at Blancpain’s workshop in Le Brassus, Blancpain President & CEO Marc Hayek explained that “Like the Fifty Fathoms, these watches started out as instruments and they weren’t in jewelry stores. We need to understand this. It’s what helps us keep the spirit of Blancpain.” Price: 18,500 Swiss francs.

Blancpain President & CEO Marc Hayek introduces the Blancpain Air Command in Le Brassus.

Spezialist Collection

Sports watches are hardly new to Glashütte Original. The company’s historic marine chronometers, observation watches, pilot and diver’s watches can still be found on the wrists of vintage watch enthusiasts and in museums worldwide, a testament to the company’s long history as a maker of instrument watches.

Glashütte Original SeaQ Panorama Date on a grey fabric strap

In 1969, the then-East German company (called Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb) introduced its first sports dive model, the Spezimatic. Directly down the street from the modern Glashütte Original headquarters you can see many Spezimatic models on display at the German Watch Museum.

The original 1969 Spezimatic.

Glashütte Original for 2019 has taken a deep dive into both the look and the technical development of one of these watches, the Spezimatic Type RP TS 200, as it set out to expand its current lineup with a devoted dive collection.

Glashütte Original says that the resulting new collection, called Spezialist, is meant to echo the look of that historic model, but now presented in a technically up-to-date design.

Glashütte Original SeaQ, a 39.5mm steel dive watch. On this unlimited version of the SeaQ the numerals, indexes and hands accentuated with the historic color now called “old radium.”

The company debuts the Spezialist with the SeaQ and as the more contemporary SeaQ Panorama Date, with a black or a blue dial. In addition, Glashütte Original offers a special sixty-nine-piece limited edition version, called SeaQ 1969, with a dial that most closely replicates the 1969 original.

The new Glashütte Original SeaQ 1969.

Both the SeaQ and the SeaQ 1969 collections are made up of 39.5mm steel watches with 200 meters of water resistance, ceramic bezels and solid casebacks engraved with a series or limitation number. The fully in-house automatic movement Caliber 39-11 powers both watches. Prices will begin at about $9,500 for the SeaQ.

Trident caseback engraving on the back of the SeaQ 1969, with limited edition number, the Glashütte Original Double-G and 20 waves, which symbolize the 20 bar (200 meter) water resistance.

The SeaQ Panorama Date, however, is a somewhat larger watch (43.2mm in diameter), features a clear sapphire caseback with a view of the excellent Caliber 36-13, and also injects Glashütte Original’s signature large date into the sporty mix. And despite the clear caseback, the watch boasts a higher water resistance rating than the other SeaQ debuts. Prices for the SeaQ Panorama Date start at 11,000 euros, or about $12,250.

Glashütte Original SeaQ Panorama Date

As a German-based watch manufacturer, Glashütte Original subjects all its dive models to stringent tests to pass both the German DIN and the international quality ISO standards in terms of water resistance, legibility, shock resistance and resistance to salt water. For additional details on the Spezialist collection, click here.

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