Airain Unveils The Long-Awaited Prototypes For Its Sous-Marine Re-Edition
It is no secret that we are fans of the Airain brand here at Fratello. Sure, there is some home-team sentiment at play here, but Airain’s CEO Tom van Wijlick has a sharp focus on creating some amazing watches. That’s why we love what he does. The Airain Type 20 has grown into a fan favorite that brings back the brilliant aviation flyback chronograph in style. For the newest product launch, Airain brings back another iconic silhouette. The new Airain Sous-Marine revives the classic skin diver and brings its execution up to modern standards. And the results are, once again, nothing short of impressive.
If you are a regular reader of Fratello, you might know that this Airain Sous-Marine did not come as a surprise. It’s the result of a year-long project in which the brand and a dedicated group of consumers have collaborated to come to the best results possible. The Sous-Marine is the second Airain model to bring back an iconic silhouette from the past with a great story and instantly likable designs. As Thomas explained in his article announcing the Sous-Marine project a year ago, it is a very deliberate effort to bring back heritage watch brands and their classic models. In this next step, the Sous-Marine prototypes are revealed, and the second round of pre-orders is live.
The Airain Sous-Marine project
CDMLEC, the company behind the revival of Airain and Lebois & Co, has successfully reintroduced these two dormant brands. As a crucial part of bringing the watches to life, both brands collaborate with their fans to develop the designs. Because of this, the Sous-Marine project has been in development with fans for well over a year, and people can give their opinions every step of the way. This is done through iterative polling and regular virtual coffee meetups. And the best thing is that everyone can join in. It’s not a unique approach as there are other brands, such as Christopher Ward, that have a similar strategy for their product development.
The big plus of this collaborative design approach is that people are instantly connected to the products and can help improve them. The potential downside is that outcome could become a consensus-based design that tries to integrate too many features and elements and not produce the best results. But leave it up to Airian CEO Van Wijlick to make sure nothing like that will happen. As a true fan of watches, he is passionate and dedicated to bringing the absolute best to the new owners of the Sous-Marine. The prototypes that you can see in the pictures show that in all its glory.
The story of the Sous-Marine
The story of the Airain Sous-Marine skin diver dates back to the 1960s. The watch was one of the many skin divers in the golden age of dive watches. As such, it featured a typical squared-off case combined with oversized Arabic numerals on the dial and a great “DNA strand” seconds hand. Going back to the collaborative design project, the majority of people initially voted for a lollipop seconds hand, essentially deeming the “DNA strand” seconds hand out. But thanks to the persistence of the fans of that hand style and Van Wijlick listening to his community, it is still there as an option, and I love that. This quirky detail looks good and adds some standout character.
So let’s go over the details that came out of the prototyping phase to give you an idea of what the series will be like. First of all, the skin-diver-style case measures 37.5mm across with a slightly wider 38.2mm bezel diameter. The case thickness is 10.45mm without the sapphire crystal, which is 2.92mm thick. The total thickness of the watch on the wrist is 12.77mm, with a lug-to-lug of 48.2mm and a 20mm lug spacing. With these dimensions, Airain stays true to the original size of the skin divers, something that can only be praised. With the case dimensions, the new Sous-Marine is a perfect fit for a variety of different wrist sizes.
The interesting Parmentier crown
The case features a so-called Parmentier crown that adds even more character. The Parmentier construction consists of a small winding crown and a large screw-on cap to cover it. This helps make the Sous-Marine water resistant to 200 meters. The screw-on cap features a notched recess on the outside so you can operate the small crown underneath. A practical thing to keep in mind is that the cap comes off the watch as a separate element. Therefore, you have to keep an eye on it if you decide to unscrew it.
The watch comes with a black PVD-coated 120-click unidirectional bezel that features the 60-minute countdown scale in white and a Super-LumiNova dot at 12 o’clock. If we zoom in on the dial, the oversized Arabic numerals stand out immediately. In combination with the large hands, they make it easy to read the time in any situation, both during the day and at night. Having said that, the hands and numerals also add a ton of character. It’s one of those cases where functionality is the key to an instantly recognizable design. A nice twist is the roulette date disc that all the watches will have, displaying alternating red and black numerals.
What also adds character is the variety of different color combinations and dial executions. Of course, this ensures that people can pick their favorite. However, it also shows how well the design works in these colors. It even makes it hard to choose. Overall, there are three versions that I could easily see myself wearing, even though all six are quite attractive. I love the overall design balance despite some odd-sized elements. It all makes perfect sense just looking at it.
Five different dial colors
Let’s go over the different color options. The first Sous-Marine model (ref. 524.437A) comes with a glossy black dial, light “Old Radium” Super-LumiNova, gold-plated hands, and a lollipop seconds hand. A variation and fan favorite comes in the same combination of colors but swaps the lollipop hand for the aforementioned “DNA strand” hand (ref. 524.437B). The third black option comes with a faded black dial with C3 lume and polished silver hands (ref. 524.407). The fourth option features a deep blue dial with BGW9 lume and painted white hands (ref. 524.422). Option five comes with an ocean-green dial with light Old Radium lume and polished silver hands (ref. 524.481). The sixth and final option is the tropical dial with light Old Radium lume and bronze-colored hands (ref. 524.457).
The watches are powered by the AM5 automatic caliber. This movement was developed by La Joux-Perret and is based on the manufacture’s G100 movement. It operates at 28,800vph, has 24 jewels, and provides a 68-hour power reserve. Additionally, the caliber comes with a solid tungsten rotor, its accuracy is regulated to no less than four positions, and it is finished in “Soigné” fashion with blue screws. It seems like the perfect movement for this reimagined skin diver.
Reviving the Fixoflex bracelet
All the watches come with a matching Tropic-style FKM rubber strap and a stainless steel Fixoflex bracelet. These cool expandable bracelets give the watches even more character and are a joy to wear. They were a staple from the 1960s to the 1980s, and Van Wijlick has been able to reintroduce the brand and use the bracelets for the Sous-Marine. It’s another cool move in this project that will please enthusiasts. I know that quite a few of the Fratello editors were absolutely stoked to hear about the return of the Fixoflex bracelets.
We had a chance to go hands-on with the prototypes and unanimously agreed that the first results are impressive. But leave it up to Van Wijlick and his community to strive for the absolute best. In fact, there will be more optimizations done in the upcoming days and weeks. Small but essential details are crucial in making this series a success. Think of adjustments in bezel alignment, improving the Fixoflex bracelet, optimizing the font type slightly, adjusting the indentations on the cap of the Parmentier crown, and shortening the minute hand slightly. It shows that Van Wijlick goes to great lengths to make the Airain Sous-Marine the best as it can be.
What’s next for the Airain Sous-Marine?
As mentioned, the list of improvements has been set based on the prototypes, and they will be adjusted for the final production models. The next step is a second round of pre-sales, through which you can secure your Airain Sous-Marine for €1,550. This second pre-sale will go live in early July, with production of the watches starting at the end of July. Delivery of the Sous-Marine is currently scheduled for October of this year.
As I mentioned, we are rooting for the home team here. But we definitely would not be doing that if we weren’t true fans of this new Airain Sous-Marine. Knowing Van Wijlick’s passion and dedication to creating something great, we knew the Sous-Marine would be a great step for the brand. For €1,550, you will get a great reimagination of a classic silhouette with a fantastic execution. It’s hard to believe that it wouldn’t be after the great Type 20 and seeing how this project has evolved.
For more information on the new Sous-Marine or to secure one of the watches, visit Airain’s official website. Let us know in the comments section which of the six models you like best.