Originally developed in the 1950s and based on specifications outlined by the French Ministry of Defense, the Type 20 is widely considered to be one of the most famous pilot’s chronographs ever created. The history of the Type 20 is inextricably connected to both France and the world of aviation, and for its latest release of 2024, Airain has teamed up with the French design studio seconde/seconde/ to create a limited-edition version of the Type 20, which combines this historic French military design with the playful, modern, and slightly irreverent aesthetic that is emblematic of seconde/seconde/‘s creations. Featuring pixelated cloud images and the tip of the Eiffel Tower within its sub-dials, the new Airain Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” aims to bring the Type 20 back to its roots, which is both in the sky and in France.

The new Airain Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” is based upon the core platform of Airain’s standard Type 20 flyback chronograph, which was revived by the brand several years ago. Airain was among the original companies that produced the Type 20 back in the 1950s, and rather than just being homages to this famous style, Airain’s Type 20 watches are actually contemporary recreations that have returned after a solid half-century hiatus. While the brand’s modern Type 20 watches are fundamentally different timepieces than their vintage processors when it comes to their materials and manufacturing methods, few companies offer a more legitimate claim to the Type 20 chronograph, and you can get your hands on one of Airain’s modern Type 20 watches for an exponentially more reasonable price than what it takes to secure a vintage example.

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Crafted from stainless steel with brushed and polished surfaces, the case of the Airain Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” follows the blueprint established by the standard-production models, and it measures 39mm in diameter (or 39.5mm when measured across its bezel) by 10.85mm thick, with 20mm lugs and an overall lug-to-lug profile of 47.7mm. Once you factor in the double-domed sapphire crystal that sits above the dial, the total height of the watch comes in at 14.77mm, and surrounding its crystal is a bidirectional friction-fit bezel that features a 12-hour countdown scale finished in black. Just like the brand’s standard Type 20 watches, operation of the flyback chronograph movement is achieved by using the winding crown and pump-style pushers that are located on the 3’oclock side of the case, while water resistance comes in at the same 50 meters that can be found throughout the rest of the collection.

Despite its playful design elements, the Airain Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” maintains the overall appearance of the classic Type 20, and it remains instantly recognizable as the famous purpose-built flyback chronograph that was supplied to the French Ministry of Defense during the 1950s. The goal of the “Up in the Air” collaboration model was to create a fun timepiece that could start a dialog about the Type 20, while still retaining the historic identity that makes it one of the most famous pilot’s watches ever created. Additionally, while the Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” is still fitted with a solid screw-down caseback, it swaps out the standard model’s markings for engravings that pertain to the concept behind this collaboration model, which is to “put the Type 20 back where it belongs” by playfully reinforcing its French origins and aviation heritage.

While the dial fitted to the new Airain Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” follows the same overall design and layout as what can be observed among traditional Type 20 watches, its playful design flourishes from seconde/seconde/ are immediately visible within its pair of sub-dials and the Airain logo at below the 12 o’clock marker. The polished frames for the two registers are intended to emulate the appearance of airplane windows, while the sub-dials are adorned with 8-bit pixelated cloud images in blue and white. Appearing within the running seconds register on the left-hand side of the display is the tip of the Eiffel Tower to underscore the French heritage of the Type 20, while the “Airain” name on the upper half of the dial receives a blue bracket under the letters “Air” to further underscore the model’s history as a purpose-built pilot’s chronograph.

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Just like Airain’s standard-production Type 20 watches (and Type 21 models), the new Airain Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” is powered by the brand’s Caliber AM2 manual-wind flyback chronograph movement. Developed for the brand by Manufacture AMT in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Airain’s Cal. AM2 is a 24-jewel movement based upon the fundamental gear train of the Sellita SW510, and it runs at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 63 hours. Additionally, rather than relying on a cam-operated setup, the Airain Cal. AM2 uses a column wheel to control its chronograph complication, and just like the original Type 20 watches that were produced during the 1950s, the Cal. AM2 features flyback functionality, which was one of the original requirements outlined by the French Ministry of Defense in its initial specifications for the Type 20 watch.

The new Airain Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” comes as a set with two different straps, which include a black leather strap and a blue/black striped NATO-style fabric strap. The leather strap features a tapered design with small cream-colored contrast stitches near the lugs, and it appears to be largely identical to the leather straps that the brand fits to its standard-production Type 20 models. Meanwhile, the NATO strap is made from black fabric with a blue stripe running down the center, and the shade of blue used for the strap matches the hue that appears within the sub-dials on the watch. The chunky stainless steel hardware is signed with Airain’s logo, and while the leather strap offers a fairly traditional overall appearance, the blue and black striped NATO provides the watch with a noticeably more relaxed overall aesthetic that complements seconde/seconde/’s lighthearted design elements.

The Airain Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” will be available starting on July 14th, 2024, and it will have an official retail price of €3,450 EUR (or approximately $3,700 USD, at the time of writing). Additionally, just like nearly all of seconde/seconde/’s collaborations, the new Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” will be a small-batch limited edition, and production will be capped at 88 total examples, with the first 44 pieces delivered in August, and the second batch of 44 watches slated for delivery in September. Between the popularity of seconde/seconde/’s collaborations and the heritage of the Type 20, the 88 available examples will likely be claimed rather quickly, and I’m personally a big fan of this rather playful and irreverent way of highlighting the Type 20’s French aviation heritage. For more information on the Airain Type 20 x seconde/seconde/ “Up in the Air” watch, please visit the brand’s website.

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