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After successfully relaunching long-dormant Airain Watches with a stunning recreation of the classic Type 20 chronograph, Dutch watch collector and entrepreneur Tom van Wijlick started looking for the next model. Airain has a deep catalog of vintage watches, and it was no easy task. But after seeing an old advertisement for the Airain Sous-Marine, van Wijlick couldn’t get it out of his head. Not long after, van Wijlick met with a fellow watch lover in Paris. The two shared stories and watches, with the collector having brought a surprise: a vintage Airain Sous-Marine, then van Wijlick shared the treasured piece on social media and put it to the people: should the brand reissue the Sous-Marine for its next watch? Not surprisingly, the response was an overwhelming “yes!’ While van Wijlick’s mind may well have been already made up, the resounding approval of those who voted in that impromptu poll sealed it: The Airain Sous-Marine was being remade.

Once again, van Wijlick, through his CDMLEC company (which also owns Airain sister brand Lebois & Co.), is taking a collaborative approach. As was done for the Airain Type 20, the Sous-Marine is being developed using the CoLAB process, allowing prospective buyers and watch enthusiasts alike to make design decisions across four steps. In March of 2022, Airain launched Step One, in which it revealed prospective designs and the public voted on the crystal and the seconds hand. Step Two revealed hi-res renders and allowed voters to choose the caseback engraving and dial text. Now in Step Three, with the designs finalized, 3D renders have been revealed and round one of pre-orders has been opened. As we wait for Step Four to see full production prototypes, it’s the perfect time to take a look at the reincarnated Airain Sous-Marine as it stands.

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The re-edition of the Sous-Marine has remained incredibly faithful to the original. While the case diameter has been sized up slightly from 37mm to 37.5mm (the new model measures 38.2mm with the bezel), the remainder captures perfectly the vintage essence of the 1960s Airain and its skin diver kin. The 316L stainless steel case retains the well-defined fully brushed finishing and the blocky silhouette that defines the skindiver watch type: a barely-curved outline, the squared-off 20mm lug box, an incredibly subtle arc from lug to lug, and a lack of crown guards. The watch’s gentle curvature, 48.2mm lug-to-lug, and 10.45mm thickness make it ideal for almost any wrist. Airain decided to upgrade the old aluminum bezel insert with a black DLC steel 160-click bezel with white engraving and a lumed pip, providing more durability to one of a watch’s most wear-prone areas. The watch will be offered with both a quick-release FKM rubber tropic-style strap matched to the dial color and a brushed Fixoflex® bracelet. That’s right, presto expando! Not content to simply revive two brands, van Wijlick went the extra mile and brought back the ultra-vintage stretchy Fixoflex® bracelet brand, which will feature a fitted endlink for the Sous-Marine. With two historically accurate band options, there’s sure to be a perfect fit for everyone, and drilled lugs (also featured on the original model) will make swaps easy.

The case may be attractive on its own, but the crown is an almost unseen novelty that lets the Airain Sous-Marine truly stand out. The original was notable for many things, but perhaps chief among them is its peculiar Parmentier crown. Developed by Jean René Parmentier, a former colonel in the French Air Force, it’s this unusual crown design that helped the original watch achieve its 200m water resistance and does the same here. What makes this so unique is the cap that’s affixed over the winding crown: to wind the watch, unscrew the cap, flip it around, slide it on over the interlocking grooves of the winding crown, then wind away! Airain has updated the design, though, to ensure a more secure fit of the cap when not in use. (Even without the protective cap, the watch will be water resistant at least 30m.) In addition to including the remarkable crown system, Airain had to make a decision about the crystal. While voters in the Step One survey chose an historically accurate acrylic crystal by a somewhat close margin of 6% over the more modern sapphire, there was one problem: using acrylic while achieving the desired 200m water resistance would require changing the profile of the watch, and van Wijlick was adamant that the form factor be recreated as closely as possible. That meant prioritizing aesthetic accuracy over material accuracy. As a result, the modern Sous-Marine will be made with sapphire crystal, retaining the original’s form factor and its 200m of water resistance.

The Airain Sous-Marine will come in a true-to-form “Re-Edition” model and four limited-edition models that have a bit of fun with the historic design. The Re-Edition models will feature a glossy black dial with big, bold alternating hashes and vintage-style numerals (and that amazing ‘6’) marking out the hours. At the periphery, a minute track features block lume plots every 5 minutes. The handset is an exact replica of the original, with 14k gold plating and generous lume application on both the broadsword hour and the long arrow hand with its broad arrow. On the Re-Edition model, the lume will all be done in Super-LumiNova Light Old Radium to best match the vintage look. What will stand out the most, though, is the optional “DNA strand” seconds hand, with its dot-dash segmentation and teardrop end. Although voters in Step One opted for a more traditional lollipop (which was featured on another Airain Sous-Marine model), van Wijlick wanted to give potential buyers the opportunity to choose between the two seconds hands. The four limited-edition models will feature the lollipop seconds hand, the Airain crown above the brand name at 12 o’clock, and be available with a Deep Blue, Ocean Green, Faded Black, or Tropical dial. The models feature different lume depending on the dial, with the tropical model featuring bronze-colored hands and the Deep Blue having white-painted hands.

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The solid screw-down caseback features an engraving of a diver spearfishing, which was selected by a round of voting based on three divers-in-action graphics. For the movement under the caseback, the brand went to La Chaux-de-Fonds-based movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret, as it did for the Airain and Lebois & Co. chronographs. La Joux-Perret has produced movements for some of the most prestigious brands in the world, and Airain is now deservedly among them. The Sous-Marine is powered by the AM5 movement, based on La Joux-Perret’s G100. This robust movement has a lengthy 68-hour power reserve, beating at 28,800 for a perfectly smooth sweep of the seconds hand. Although it may be concealed by the solid caseback, rest assured that the movement is finished to the highest standards, with Côtes de Genève, blue polished screws, and the brand name engraved in gold upon the solid tungsten rotor. The movement further features 24 jewels and hacking functionality and has been adjusted to four positions prior to casing to ensure optimal accuracy on the wrist.

The Airain Sous-Marine builds on the success and execution of the Type 20 and serves enthusiasts with vintage dive options from this historic brand. Airain has struck the balance with a stunning reissue one more time: Through its collaborative approach, the brand has managed to revive a classic from its rich history while catering to the modern preferences of potential owners. Maintaining the historicity of its forebear, the updated Sous-Marine provides an array of colors and unique vintage accents that will have fans of the brand and of vintage watches eagerly anticipating the next Airain. The Airain Sous-Marine is available for pre-order at $1,643 until January 6, 2023, with a second pre-order round in April 2023 at a smaller discount. The black dial Re-Edition models are unlimited, while the Limited Series will be limited to the number ordered during the first two preorder windows. The watches are set for an October 2023 delivery. For more information, please visit the brand’s website

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