Editor’s note: This is a quick Hands-on Review of the Blancpain Air Command 36.2. For our usual detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here. This is not a sponsored post.
Small Is Beautiful
Last year when we previewed the Blancpain Air Command, I wrote: “This is one for those with larger wrists who love the idea of owning a handsome timepiece that’s roaring with the spirit of the vintage pilot’s watch aesthetics and dazzling with the charm of a contemporary personality”. With measurements of 42.5mm diameter, 13.77mm thickness, 51.2mm lug-to-lug spacing and 22mm lug interhorn spacing, this bigger version was a stellar option and aimed more at the masculine market.
This year, in May, Blancpain went ahead and did the impossible: they created the perfect chronograph for those with slim wrists. The relatively new Blancpain Air Command Flyback Chronograph with its diminutive 36.2mm diameter case and a larger than life wrist presence is perhaps one of the best sports watches to come out of the industry since the pandemic first reared its ugly head.
Officially targeted towards the fairer sex, the Blancpain Air Command 36.2 is a timepiece for both sexes, and for anyone who enjoys value in compactness.
E. F. Schumacher, the author of the famous book ‘Small Is Beautiful’ partly quoted Einstein and said: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction”.
I reckon that the new Blancpain Air Command 36.2 watches showcases the brand’s willingness to take risks, to go against the grain, to deliver a small powerhouse of a watch that’s sporty, elegant and sans an unnecessary cluttered complex dial. Small is beautiful.
Of late, there has been a slowly emerging trend of smaller watches, partly brought to the fore by smaller or micro brands such as Ming and Baltic. With government like 5-yearly plans and bureaucracy and what not, bigger brands usually take a while to accept the trends. So it’s also welcome that a haute horlogerie brand such as Blancpain is willing to adapt, and the Blancpain Air Command 36.2 is one to definitely lead the way.
Acing The Herculean Task
A big part of the charm of the last year’s Blancpain Air Command was in the 42.5mm diameter case that housed a bi-compax layout dial with perfect symmetry. My primary concern when the new Blancpain Air Command 36.2 was announced was how would this smaller sibling manage to retain that symmetric charm. But the new Blancpain Air Command 36.2 in comparison works, and I might even go ahead to dare say that it outperforms.
The Blancpain Air Command courtesy its 36.2mm diameter and 11.5mm thick case sits very nicely on my 16.25cm wrists. It is the greater than 10mm thickness that lends that extra appeal, making the presence felt, without overpowering my wrist in terms of diameter. Add to this the only 18mm lug-interhorn spacing and the petite 43mm lug-to-lug spacing, and what you get is a perfectly balanced timepiece.
The classic Rolex OP 116000 measures 36mm in diameter, 11.9mm in thickness, and 44.3mm lug-to-lug with a 20mm lug interhorn spacing. Despite similar core dimensions to the Blancpain Air Command 36.2, the larger lug-to-lug and especially the greater lug interhorn spacing mean that it sits more flat on the wrist. Good for a dressy watch with sporty overtones. The Blancpain Air Command 36.2 thanks to the smaller lug interhorn and lug-to-lug spacings sits more blocky, an aesthetic that adds volumes to its sporty personality.
A couple of other smaller watches I recently went hands-on with also had similar diameters but not as nice proportions as the Blancpain Air Command 36.2. The Perpétuel Baltic MR01 which is a beautiful dress watch measures in 36mm in diameter and (slimmer) 9.9mm in thickness. With a larger 20mm lug interiors and 44mm lug-to-lug spacing, it somehow wears much smaller. The sizing of the Ming 37.07 on the other hands is nearly perfect: 38mm x 10.9mm with a 44.5mm lug-to-lug and 20mm lug interhorn spacing. For a dress watch, it sits very nicely on my 16.25cm wrist.
One the most interesting sports watch releases of recent times has been the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Blue. It brought the Rolex sports watch into modern times with its sizing, and the dimensions of 39 x 12.5 x 47.2 x 20mm are rock solid that cover a large range of wrists. But personally I reckon that the 36.2 x 11.5 x 43 x 18mm dimensions of the Blancpain Air Command 36.2 are simply too perfect for those men with slim wrists or the fairer sex members that prefer smaller watches.
When we got to check out some of Blancpain’s novelties at a private event earlier this month, a question was raised from a legendary Aussie watch journalist: which do we think was the best watch of 2022? I have been thinking about that a fair bit, and if I was to sum up the best watches from this year categorically, I would say that the Blancpain Air Command 36.2 is definitely the winner in the sports watch category (and the MB&F M.A.D Edition1 and Ming 37.07 would be my other two picks in the avant-garde and dress watch categories).
Coming back to the symmetry, in addition to the case dimensions, the bi-compax layout of the dial is highly appealing too. As an architect (with slim wrists), I tend to first focus on the proportions and dimensions, in addition to the visual aesthetics of a watch. The two-way rotating titanium bezel with blue ceramic insert and Super-LumiNova® hour-markers beautifully frames the blue dial that features a subtler blue sun-ray base with powerful azurage sun-ray sub-dials. Evoking visual reminders of the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Blue, the blue bezel and blue dial aesthetic is further improved due to the lack of an essay on the dial — unlike the Tudor — with just the bold branding at 12 followed by complimentary italicised ‘Air Command’ and ‘Flyback’ texts.
The peripheral tachometer scale brings a welcome contrast to the otherwise openness of the main dial with its busy petite format. The bold Arabic numerals and lume in-filled hands ensure that legibility is not sacrificed at any point of the day or night. I also appreciate the differentiation in the Arabic numerals fonts present on the dial and the bezel, which further helps the readability.
And just like its bigger sibling, the Blancpain Air Command 36.2 also balances the act between vintage and modern, with the piston-style chronograph pushers, the “glass box” style sapphire crystal that evokes an imagery of 1950s models, and the simple brushed/polished case finishes ensuring no details are left unattended to.
Blancpain Air Command 36.2 – Understated or Bling?
Like most of the brand’s 2022 novelties, the new Blancpain Air Command 36.2 has been released in two versions, the titanium Grade 23 version retailing for 24’700 AUD and the Red Gold version retailing for 40’800 AUD.
Flip the watch and mechanics are the same: both are powered by the Caliber F188B. This 26.3mm diameter and 5.5mm thick movement comprises 255 components and 35 jewels, beats at a low frequency of 3Hz, and provides a 40-hour power reserve. It features a free-sprung silicon balance, a vertical clutch that ensures smooth activation of the chronograph seconds hand, a column-wheel system, and an open-worked gold oscillating weight, and decent finishings overall including circular graining, bevelling and snailing.
This is of course different to the Calibre F388B used in the bigger versions from last year, that measured 31.8mm x 6.65mm and beat at the higher frequency of 5Hz providing a decent 50-hour power-reserve. If I was to dig deep and find a gripe with the new Blancpain Air Command 36.2, it would be the low power reserve. And the low 30m water-resistance as a whole. But that’s about it.
In terms of which of the two 36.2 versions to pick from, as much as I am not a wearer of gold watches, in the case of the Blancpain Air Command 36.2, I would recommend to go bold with gold if you have the funds. While the dial treatment and colours are the same in both versions, the intensity of shininess of the gold is subtly gorgeous, and between the two, adds a certain feel of premium.
The titanium version is very nice too — and given my personal funds are limited would be my choice by default — but features more sporty and tool watch vibe whereas the gold version has the duality of being worn as a dress watch as well. In person, the sun-ray effect of the dial is also more prominent when framed by a rose gold case.
The other difference to consider is the weight of the two versions: the gold Blancpain Air Command 36.2 weighs ~85g while the titanium version weighs about 50g. So depending upon whether you prefer your watches to have some heft or be very lightweight, you can choose between the two.
That’s All Folks!
I will wrap this up with another E. F. Schumacher quote: “An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory”. Watch brands, collectors and enthusiasts can all engage and talk about the perfect sizing and dimensions of watches as much as we all like, but the new Blancpain Air Command 36.2 walks the talk and puts the theory into practice.
One look at this in person and the slim wristed maven of fine watches will sigh in relief: the Blancpain Air Command 36.2 is exactly what the stale sports watch industry needed – an electric dose of petite, pretty, and a pragmatic approach to go against the grain.
To find out more about the Blancpain Air Command 36.2 and other Blancpain timepieces, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated are ©WatchYaGonnaDoAboutIt.