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Revived traditional brand from France
The Pilot Watch Magazine
09 May 2024

Pilot timepieces from French watchmaking dynasty

Airain is part of the watch label Compagnie des Montres Lebois & Cie, or CDMLEC, founded by Dutch watch enthusiast and entrepreneur Tom van Wijlick. Van Wijlick acquired the Montres Airain brand, which had already disappeared off the map by that time, from a French entrepreneur in 2014. Since then, it has been part of the CDMLEC portfolio – like its sister brand Lebois & Co.

What is special about CDMLEC is that, under van Wijlick’s leadership, the company revives disused watch brands, continues the development of modern models with the participation of its target audience, and thus revives the heritage and history of long-forgotten timepieces. And all this at a price-performance ratio that is attractive to van Wijlick’s clientele: High-quality Swiss-made watches with history in a luxurious finish at a fair price.

Airain gained fame in the 1950s and 1960s for its reliable and high-quality timepieces.

Tom van Wijlick

Airain is founded in 1934 by the legendary French watchmaking dynasty Dodane. Timepieces made by Dodane are famous far beyond the borders of France due to their accuracy, quality and reliability. In the 1950s and 1960s, Airain is one of a select few watch suppliers to the French Air Force. Extremely popular among pilots is the pilot’s watch of the so-called Type 20, developed by Airain, which in particular contributes to the fame of Airain pilot’s watches.

The Type 20 as a blueprint for modern pilot watches

The designation Type 20 – also called Type XX in the civilian version – refers to a specification for pilot chronographs defined by the French Ministry of Defense in the early 1950s. This description is virtually a first blueprint for modern pilot watches. In particular, it includes a case diameter of around 38 millimeters wide and a maximum height of 14 millimeters, a screw-down case back, black dial with two registers at 3 and 9 o’clock that can count up to 30 minutes, Arabic numerals, luminescent material on hands and numerals, and a fully automatic reset – the so-called flyback function. Furthermore, a 12-hour bezel that can be rotated in both directions, accuracy of up to eight seconds per day, power reserve of at least 35 hours, and the ability to reliably operate the chronograph function at least 300 times.

The story of Airain continues

Incidentally, the Type 20 chronograph is not the only Airain timepiece that still enjoys great popularity today. The 1950s Airain ’77’ model, an elegant anti-magnetic wristwatch with a 50-hour power reserve and Incabloc shock protection, also remains in high demand among watch enthusiasts. With the revived Airain brand, CDMLEC is now continuing the story of a fascinating watch brand.

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