Airain Drops Two Handsome New Type 20 Re-Editions For Pre-Order
The Quartz Crisis was a difficult time for the watch industry. The advent of quartz watches led to a significant upheaval of the established order. I’m certain that we are all well-versed in the story and chain of events that led to the demise of many well-known watch brands of the time. One such brand was Montres Airain, which has returned with two new Type 20 watches for preorder.
Montres Airain was founded in 1934 by the Dodane family, a well-known house in French watchmaking since the mid-1800s. Along with the Dodane brand, Airain became one of the selected suppliers of the Type 20 watch for the French Army in the 1950s and 1960s. Type 20 refers to a specification for pilots’ chronographs issued by the French Ministry of Defense. Collectors of vintage chronographs and military heritage watches will be more than familiar with the Type 20. I won’t initiate you with the specifications of the Type 20, but if you’re unfamiliar and interested, you can read more in this article covering Airain’s LE Type 20 relaunch.
The Type 20 Chronograph was designed for pilots
When the brains behind the Lebois & Co resurrection relaunched the Airain brand in 2021, the Type 20 was the logical choice for the flagship model. A clean and faithful reproduction of the original design, the Type 20 was readily accepted by collectors, and the initial run sold through fairly quickly. Demand has remained despite the sell-through, so Airain saw fit to produce another run of watches to keep fans happy. This is what we’re looking at today. For the most part, the watches are the same but with a few subtle tweaks.
As with the original launch, Airain is launching two variations in this production run. First, a “standard” black-dial version will be permanently available moving forward and strictly adheres to the Type 20 specifications. Additionally, there will be a limited-edition variation for fans of something a little different. Airain chose gorgeous brown and green dials for the first two limited editions, and now the brand is following those up with an even tastier gray “Furtivité” dial. Brand owner Tom Van Wijlick explains that Furtivité is French for “Stealth.” I’m not sure gray is especially stealthy compared to an all-black concept, but the gray dial paired with an anthracite DLC-treated case is definitely my favorite here. The name is not important as the execution hits just right. The black/steel dial will keep the purists more than happy, but the gray? Yes, please!
Now, I mentioned some slight tweaks, didn’t I? Other than the DLC coating on the gray version, the other tweaks are subtle enough that you might not have noticed without me telling you. Firstly, the crystal received an “upgrade” to sapphire. I use inverted commas there because, when it comes to technical performance, I believe it is an upgrade. I prefer the scratch resistance of sapphire over acrylic. The latter has a warmer feel that some people staunchly prefer, but give me sapphire any day.
A new movement for the Type 20
The other tweak that Airain has made is the movement. Though not an upgrade per se, it is more a strategic change to ensure that it does not downgrade the Type 20’s function. For the original relaunch, Airain used its caliber AM1 supplied by La Joux-Perret (LJP). Based on LJP’s 7733, this chronograph movement had the all-important flyback functionality. Per original Type 20 specifications, the flyback function was a requirement of the French Ministry of Defense.
LJP has redesigned its movement bases in the past year or so and no longer makes the 7733. Instead, LJP’s chronograph base is the L100 movement; however, there is no flyback option at this time. Obviously, the flyback was very important to Airain and a defining characteristic in the Type 20 re-edition. This meant that a movement change was necessary for the latest production run. To solve the issue, Airain turned to Manufacture AMT, the department within Sellita responsible for high-end movements. AMT provides the new AM2 caliber for Airain, a manually wound column-wheel chronograph with the all-important flyback complication. Seeing as Airain keeps the movement hidden behind a closed case back, it’s unlikely that you’ll notice any difference.
The crystal, the movement, and the DLC coating of the LE are the only major changes from Airain’s original Type 20. The dial layouts are the same thanks to identical sub-dial placements. All dial markings also remain the same except for the jewel count. The AMT movement uses one less jewel than the old LJP caliber, so the dial text is updated to reflect that. I can’t imagine this will upset any prospective buyers, though.
Last but not least, I must mention the straps that come with the Type 20 as they’re rather handsome little numbers. Airain chose to continue using the same lovely suede leather for its straps. For the regular black-dial edition, we get the same lovely cognac color, which perfectly offsets the simplicity of the black dial. It would have been a bit of a cop-out to match it with a black suede strap and be done with it. The cognac is a wonderful complement and gives a welcome burst of color.
The gray-dial Furtivité sees a color-matched gray strap rather than a contrasting color. Despite what I just said about being glad the black-dial model has a contrasting strap, I am also glad to see a gray strap for the Furtivité. I really dig the grayer-than-gray vibe. I am here for it. Both straps feature Airain’s handsome signed double buckle.
Final thoughts on the Airain Type 20
It’s nice to see Airain in a place where it can offer the Type 20 as a permanent part of the collection rather than just producing in small batches. The Airain Type 20 is a gorgeous watch, and the more people can experience and enjoy it, the better. The real winner here is the gray Furtivité model. It’s simply gorgeous. Limited to 134 pieces, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them gone in a flash.
If you’re keen to place a pre-order, you can do on the Airain website right now. The brand accepts 50% deposits, or you can pay the whole amount up front if you wish. Click here for the black dial or here for the gray Furtivité model. Airain expects to make the first pre-order deliveries in Q4 of this year. Prices start at €2,650 and go up to €2,900 for the Furtivité model. As a bonus, shipping costs, duties, and taxes are included for customers in the USA, Switzerland, the UK, and the EU. There’s a lot of value on offer here — I said the same when I reviewed the 2021 limited-edition version, and I stand by that statement today.