Three years ago, an enterprising Dutch watch enthusiast secured the trademark for Airain, a defunct watch brand renowned for its Type 20 Flyback chronographs made for the French Air Force in the 1950s and 1960s. As part of Tom Van Wijlick’s umbrella company (Compagnie des Montres Lebois & Cie) devoted to the revival of dormant watch brands Lebois & Co. and Airain, the faithful re-editions of the Airain Type 20 have been wildly successful. Following in the footsteps of the limited-edition brown and military green dial versions of the Airain Type 20, the latest model is this handsome grey edition known as the Furtivité (French for stealth). Rolled out in a limited edition of 134 pieces, the Furtivité and a non-limited black dial edition are open for pre-orders today. Read on to learn about the new movement supplier and a practical design decision based on customer feedback.
After WWII, Airain was one of seven watch brands that supplied Type 20 chronographs to the French Army. Designed as cockpit instruments for the French Air Force and other flying corps, mandatory features included a rotating countdown bezel, a black dial with luminous Arabic numerals and hands, and, most importantly, flyback functionality to allow pilots to perform successive calculations. We’ve extensively covered the history of Type 20 chronographs on MONOCHROME and invite you to read the genesis and DNA of these watches in Max Reddick and Brice’s in-depth articles.
loyalty to original
The Airain Type 20 Re-edition has won much praise among fans for its faithfulness to the historical model. The look is spot on, starting with the 39.5mm case, the piston-style pushers and the large crown. Other features reproduced from the original are the bi-directional 12-hour countdown bezel, the domed Hesalite crystal and military markings on the screwed caseback.
Compared to the military green and brown dial models, the anthracite DLC coating on the stainless steel case on this Furtivité model gives it a more high-tech, stealth appeal. Listening to customer feedback, Van Wijlick has decided to substitute the Hesalite acrylic crystal for a more resilient and scratch-resistant domed sapphire crystal.
The dial replicates design elements of the original Airain Type 20 with period-correct fonts, numerals, hands, logo and the two registers and 3 and 9 o’clock. The stealth grey mood of the watch continues on the dial with its sandblasted anthracite background giving it a matte, slightly gritty texture. The interior of the sub-dials – 30-min elapsed times at 3 o’clock and running seconds at 9 o’clock – are snailed, and the hand for the chronograph counter and central chronograph seconds have an arrow-shaped tip. Replicating the colour of luminescent material used in the original Type 20, the beige Super-LumiNova is hand applied to the large Arabic numerals and central baton hands.
New movement supplier
Another detail that marks a before and after in the reincarnation of the Type 20 is the change of movement supplier. According to Van Wijlick: “The original’s flyback function was a game changer back in the days, and therefore a defining characteristic in our re-edition. Our previous Type 20 movement supplier could no longer support that option, leaving us no choice but to find a new supplier who could. Manufacture AMT – the department within Sellita responsible for high-end movements – will now supply our AM2 movement, a manual-wind column wheel chronograph with flyback complication.” Beating at 28,800vph, the manual-winding column-wheel movement has a slightly higher power reserve of 63 hours and is adjusted in five positions.
Availability & Price
The Type 20 Furtivité comes on a casual grey suede leather strap with a steel pin buckle. It is limited to 134 pieces and can be pre-ordered today, with deliveries expected in Q4 2023. The retail price is EUR 2,900. For more information, please consult airain.com.