The recently introduced Airain Type 20 Re-Edition faithfully matches the design and specifications of the original 1950’s Type 20. That even includes a hand-wound, two-register, column-wheel chronograph with flyback function. Plus the remarkable countdown bezel and a domed Hesalite crystal.

Type 20 chronographs are post-WWII aeronautical instruments, made to French government requirements. They’re basically based on WWII two-register chronograph from Hahnhart, Tutima, and Glashütte. However, Type 20 had to meet more stringent specifications. A flyback function was indispensable, plus the accuracy of within 8 seconds/day, a power reserve of more than 35 hours, and the ability to handle the start-stop-reset operation 300 times without any problems.

Airain Type 20 Re-Edition

Airain Type 20 Re-Edition

It was only a while ago that Robert-Jan informed us about the revival of the Airain brand. Now, not even three months further, we’re already able to show you Airain’s first watches. Although Airain was also known for its pocket stop-watches and diver watches, it became famous with its interpretation of the Type 20 chronograph. So it’s no surprise that exactly that model became their first re-edition.

Vintage original Airain Type 20

The origins

A short stroll back to the origins of the Airain Type 20 chronograph. Once upon a time… ? Well, no. In the late 1950s, the Dodane family was one of the watch manufacturers that produced chronographs according to the French Type 20 requirements. Others were Matthey-Tissot – who seems to have made the first batch Breguet branded Type 20’s as well – Auricoste, Vixa, and, of course, Breguet. Before producing Type 20 chronographs, Dodane was already a well-known chronograph service partner to the French government. Watches produced by Dodane were branded Dodane, Airain, Seliva, Chronofixe, and some weren’t branded at all.

It gets a bit shady here. In 1956 a second French specification surfaced, named Type 21. The Type 21 requirements were mainly built on the same specs as Type 20 but specifically required more reliable and better serviceable, let’s say more modern movements. So far, I’ve never seen any Dodane chronograph signed with a Type 20 indication; the ones signed all seem to be Type 21’s. Which makes sense because Dodane didn’t use the older Lemania, Hanhart, and Valjoux calibers sometimes used by other manufacturers for Type 20 chronographs. An oddity about the Dodane’s was the bezel, which counted down from 12 to 1, rather than 1 to 12. This, however, we find at Type 20 chronographs produced by Dodane but signed with different brands – like Airain – as well.

Branded Airain, on the other hand, I’ve never found chronographs signed Type 21; they’re all Type 20’s. Why and how isn’t clear to me, as the Dodane and Airain models are pretty much equal. Not only aesthetically but technically as well. Both use the countdown bezel, and both use the same – at that time – modern calibers.



The situation today

From the brands that originally supplied Type20/21 chronographs, currently only Breguet, Auricoste, Dodane, Mathey-Tissot, and now Airain still exist. Breguet revived its type 20 (or actually the Type XX civil version) already in 1995.  Auricoste and Dodane both offer a serious attempt to re-edition as well. Mathey-Tissot, unfortunately, fails to do so. And meanwhile, some others produce Type 20/XX-mimicking watches as well, for instance, the one we reviewed from Undone.

case back


From all Type 20 re-editions, I must conclude that the new Airain is the most faithful to the original. The count-down bezel, Hesalite crystal, hands, typography, everything is very, very close to the original watches from the past. Even the movement. Of course, there’s no Valjoux caliber 222 inside, but how about a hand-winding La Joux Perret SA based column-wheel caliber? Column-wheel and hand-wound, that’s as close as it gets and different to all other current suppliers who chose for automatic calibers. Size-wise, while the Type 20/21 watches from the 1950s and 60s had a diameter of around 37.5mm, the current Airain is only slightly larger with 39mm. All others, Breguet, Auricoste, and Dodane, are with respectively 44mm, 42mm, and 41.5mm, even larger. It will be clear – see the differences in appearance and construction – that contrary to the early days, Dodane does not produce the current Airain models anymore.

black strap



Pricing and availability

Even price-wise, the re-edition from Airain seems the most attractive as well. With the Breguet in the € 20,000 area, the Dodane € 3,900 and the Auricoste being € 3,750, the Airain has the most attractive price tag; € 2,750 (for pre-orders even € 2,540). Except for the most attractive price, the Airain re-edition with a manual winding movement makes it, for me, the most attractive one of all current Type 20/21 chronographs. Don’t get me wrong, the Breguet is a class-act, of course, but for my taste a bit too far away from the original Type 20/21, aesthetically and technically. The Dodane and Aricoste aesthetically aren’t as close as the Airain, besides being powered by an automatic movement with Dubois-Depraz module.



Next to the regular 421.436 and 421.437 versions, Airain offers a to 134 pieces limited edition with a chocolate brown dial and strap. Buyers can choose their favorite number – as long as it’s available – on the Airain website here.

…a minor disadvantage

There might be one minor disadvantage to the Airain Type 20 Re-Edition. Or probably I should say it’s disappointing rather than a disadvantage. And that’s the availability. Although there’s the possibility to pre-order at this moment, the first watches won’t be ready for delivery before July 2021. And I can imagine that for many it’ll be difficult to wait that long for such an attractive watch.

Compagnie des Montres Lebois & Cie

Investing in the company

The company owning and producing the Airain Type 20 isn’t unknown in the watch world. Their first project was the Lebois & Co Venturist; we reviewed that watch here. Compagnie des Montres Lebois et Cie, the umbrella company of both brands, offers the possibility to become a shareholder. Through the Eureeca platform, one will be able to join and learn at the same time that shareholders enjoy substantial discounts on Lebois & Co and Airain watches. A possibility that is certainly worth looking into. Unfortunately, at this time, only non-US persons are permitted to register as investors on the Eureeca Website.

You’ll find more information, plus the possibility to pre-order, on the Airain website. You’ll find me on Instagram @gerardnijenbrinks.