Towards the end of last year, Airain announced its second revival project, the Sous-Marine. This retro-cool skin diver comes from the archives of the brand, just as the reborn Type 20 has its origins in the past. In typical 1960s style, the Sous-Marine is yet again a faithful rendition and will be available in six different references. Following the initial CoLAB phases, in which people are invited to join in on the design process, the Airain Sous-Marine now moves into the prototype phase. As luck would have it, we had the chance to go hands-on with three of the six upcoming models.
The exterior of the Sous-Marine looks very familiar since this style of watch was quite common in the 1960s. Nevertheless, the stainless steel case feels crisp and is nicely finished, with straight brushing on the sides and circular brushing on the top. The bezel is always finished in black PVD, engraved with a diving scale which is then filled in white. To add a bit of a historic twist, Airain has decided (and the people have voted) to install a Parmentier crown, which means you can unscrew the cap, rotate it and use it to wind the movement (if desired since it’s also done automatically). While the voting showed most people would love to have it with an acrylic crystal instead of sapphire (53% over 47%), the prototyping phase showed that it would not be possible to use an acrylic crystal whilst also retaining the 37.5mm diameter, 10.45mm height (12.77mm with the crystal) and 200m water-resistance. The caseback is decorated with a diver holding a spear, which received a decisive 73% of all the votes.
The collection comprises six references in total, two of which are known as the Re-Edition Lollipop and Re-Edition DNA Strand. For both, the dial will be black with luminous light old radium indices, 18k gold-plated hands with matching Super-LumiNova inserts and either a lollipop or DNA-strand seconds hand. The remaining four dials are Deep Blue, Faded Black, Tropical and Ocean Green. All are finished with large painted hour indices in beige or white, depending on the dial colour. The hour hand has a classical sword shape, and the minute hand has a broad arrowhead tip. The window at 3′ reveals the date disc, which will have alternating red and black digits (in the prototypes, it was all black).
On the inside, nothing has changed from the initial design. The Airain Sous-Marine will come with the calibre AM5, which is the brand’s name for the La Joux-Perret G100 automatic movement. This will provide a healthy 68 hours of power reserve generated by a tungsten central rotor. Although it’s hidden from view, the decorations include Côtes de Genève, blued and polished screws and gold engravings.
During a recent chat with Tom van Wijlick, the driving force behind both Airain and Lebois & Co., we learned that a few things will be addressed before the Sous-Marine will hit production;
- The shape of the six on the dial is not yet as envisioned in the original design
- The bezel alignment will be improved to line it up with the indices a bit better
- The engravings on the bezel will be 60% less deep
- The teeth in the crown cap will be changed to provide more grip when used to wind the watch
- The length of the minute hand will be reduced by 0.5mm
- The production model will come with an alternating red and black “roulette” date disc
All things considered, everything already looks and feels great. There’s no play in the bezel or crown, the cap screws on and off nicely, the movement did its job as intended during the time we had with the watches, and the design already oozes that delightful vintage Skin Diver vibe. It is yet again a very close rendition of a cool watch from the past, with a lot of care and attention poured into it. And although I was a bit sceptical at first about the Parmentier crown, it does add a good chunk of character to the watch and seems to operate just fine, even in its non-final state.
Airain will provide a black, blue or green tropic-style FKM rubber strap with the watch, depending on the dial colour. Next to that, Airain will also reintroduce the FixoFlex bracelet, the rights to which were acquired by Tom van Wijlick. Each Sous-Marine will be provided with one for that finishing vintage touch. The Re-Edition Lollipop and Re-Edition DNA Strand will not be limited, but the others will be. The exact number of pieces per colourway has not been determined yet. All references will be priced at EUR 1,600, with the next phase being the evaluation of the prototypes. Next month the second pre-order round will start, after which production will commence. If all goes according to plan, the Airain Sous-Marine will start being delivered to clients from October 2023 onwards.
For more information or to pre-order one of the six available models, please visit Airain.com.