CoLAB Sous-Marine

Step 1: Design foundations

CoLAB – Airain Sous-Marine

Help us shape Airain’s next flagship

Hello, fellow watch aficionado! We are delighted to welcome you to our collaborative designer platform (CoLAB). Your valuable insights and love for watch aesthetics will help us streamline the process of developing Airain’s latest treasure, the Sous-Marine Re-Edition.

We’ve chopped up the development process into four phases: design, technical development, prototyping and final production. The design phase is subdivided into several steps, in which we’ll cover anything from the overall shape down to the bezels and bands. You’re more than welcome to explain your thoughts further down this page.

With your input, Airain’s new Sous-Marine will become a joy to watch.

Update: September 8, 2022
Right before our holiday, we sat down with our Swiss manufacturers to discuss some design choices for the Airain Sous-Marine, based on the CoLAB polls. One of the conclusions is that we may have to rebalance some aesthetic decisions against technological considerations, to ensure the best possible watch quality. A tricky process, but we’re confident the definitive watch will be in its best form!

That said, we will be opening the first pre-order round in October. If you don’t want to miss it, keep a close watch on our social channels and your inbox.

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Why This Watch Matters

An affordable yet capable skin diver

The name Sous-Marine itself will tell the connaisseurs among us that this watch is suitable for underwater use. The original Sous-Marine was advertised as highly reliable and accurate while submerged. An absolute must-have for (skin) divers at the time.

Nowadays, the original Sous-Marine has become an extremely rare sight, and those who are lucky to own one are reluctant to give it up.

And they don’t have to, because we are going to start producing a brand-new Sous-Marine.

With your esteemed input combined with Airain’s long-standing tradition of excellence, we will match the old watches in accuracy, durability AND beauty.

How Voting Works

The design phase is subdivided into several steps that run for a certain length of time. In each of those, we ask your opinion on all the details of the new Sous-Marine, ranging from glass types to dial colours, hands, bezels, and wristbands.

Each time, you can choose from several proposals that we think are possible within the limits of Airain’s character and history. After a voting deadline, we tally the total number of votes. Choices with the highest votes will be used to produce the Sous-Marine’s final looks.

If you have a certain idea that we haven’t covered in our steps, you’re free to express it in the comment section below. We may decide to run it through our Quick Polls!

This vintage poster sparked our interest in reviving the Sous-Marine

Cast Your Vote

First thoughts

Our head of design Matthieu Allègre is currently going over the lines of the old Sous-Marine for inspiration. With those in mind, he will first explore the overall case shape and the unique elements that gave the Sous-Marine its great appearance. The results will be presented in the next step.

We’re also contemplating the Parmentier crown and a Fixoflex wristband for a future design step. In this first step of the design phase, we’re asking you to cast 2 votes: on glass and hand types. You can explain your choices in the comment section below.

First Sketches of the Airain Sous-Marine Re-Edition by Matthieu Allègre, Watch Designer

Design choice 1: Acrylic vs. Sapphire Glass

During the design process of our Type 20 Re-Edition, we ever so often received this difficult question:

Will there be a version with sapphire glass?

At the time, we wanted to make the new piece as historically accurate as possible. Acrylic crystals, perhaps better known as hesalite or plexiglass, were the industry standard in the watch’s heyday. And it lent them such warmth and organic richness, the Re-Edition simply had to be acrylic. No doubt about it.

For the Sous-Marine Re-Edition, it’s a similar story. We want to be historically accurate, but we’re also actively looking to add a new chapter to the watch’s history, with current technology at hand.

Both acrylic and sapphire have their pros and cons. But since this is a CoLAB endeavour, what do you think?

Acrylic

Pros

  • historically accurate
  • fits the warm hue of vintage watches
  • very shatterproof and impact-resistant
  • scratches can be removed

Cons

  • prone to scratches, despite being anti-scratch treated

Sapphire

Pros

  • very scratch resistant
  • relatively shatterproof

Cons

  • not historically accurate
  • lacks the warm hue of acrylic

Design choice 2: DNA Strand vs. French Lollipop

The earliest Sous-Marine models stood out with a combination of skin diver hands and a unique, sweeping second hand. This Enicar sweep (named after early Enicar diver watches) had a ‘DNA strand’ luminous hand, which further enhanced the Sous-Marine’s revolutionary design.

Later iterations had a French lollipop sweep hand, more commonly seen on skin diver sports watches from the era.

Which one do you prefer?

DNA strand

French lollipop

Next Step: Revealing the Design

What’s next?

All right! With your feedback we will go right ahead and start designing this beautiful diver’s watch. In the next CoLAB step we will show you the designs we’ve made and ask you to vote for some final details.

Quick Poll

You talk, we listen

From time to time, we pick up great ideas from the comments and feedback from the community. We present them as a Quick Poll right here to see what the rest of you think.

Project Timeline

 

March 29, 2022 Step 1: Design foundations
May 13, 2022 Step 2: Revealing the design
October, 2022 Step 3: Presenting the results in 3D and technical details
October, 2022 Pre-order Round 1 (pre-prototype)

The above timeline is an estimate and can be adjusted if necessary.

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  • Avatar Dcf says:

    Please make an all green one with gold DNA hand

  • Avatar rweidler7711 says:

    I really like the design. I agree with Neil 38mm would be a perfect size!

  • Avatar Jay says:

    Sapphire & French please

  • Avatar Steffen says:

    Make sure the bezel markers are fully lumed – and the bracelet has a proper extension.

    • Avatar John says:

      While a fully lumed bezel is cool, The original does not have a fully lumed bezel.. and if you are trying to be as accurate to the original than the pop at 12:00 should be the only luminous part of the bezel.

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Thanks Steffen. While the idea for lumed markers on the bezel is cool, we agree with John that it would be quite different from the original. So for the Re-Edition is makes sense to stick with just luming the dot on 12 o’clock.

      Working on the bracelet. More to come soon!

      Cheers,
      Tom

  • Avatar Jim says:

    I really like the Sous-Marine design so far.

  • Avatar Ron says:

    Sapphire+ French

  • Avatar vintage_watch_adverts says:

    My 2 cents:
    – acrylic crystal
    – two options for the second hand on the pre-order
    – slight increasing of the case size to 38mm
    – roulette date disc.

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Thank you vintage_watch_adverts!

      Given the distribution of votes on both hands, that might be a good idea. We will consider the idea!

      More on the size in the next step.

      Cheers, Tom

  • Avatar Milwatch says:

    I voted for the plexi to be as close as possible to the original, easy to polish or to replace.
    I also voted for the large hand because I own both and this one makes thé watch more sexy to my eyes. It is wrong to say it belongs to enicar, pierce, Nitella, ogival and certainly others used this type of hand.

  • Avatar vintage_watch_adverts says:

    The original seconds hand is a must.

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      It’s really something isn’t it? We’ll get back to that in step 2. 🙂

  • Avatar Simon A says:

    Looks an exciting project Tom! Can’t wait to get my hands on the Type 20, however this could be another purchase 😉 My preference would be for the French Lollipop with Sapphire – Although I would prefer the Acrylic, I think this is going to be a more durable and appropriate for those who want to use it for its intended purpose. Please don’t make it too small – 39-40mm minimum please.

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Thank you Simon and we agree! 🙂 And thanks for casting your vote. The size might be slightly under 39. Would that still be OK for you? Cheers, Tom

  • Avatar O says:

    What were the dimensions of the original watch, and have you decided what size the re-edition will be?

    As other people have pointed out there are other watches that look almost identical to this one already available from Glashutte and Wolbrook. However, they are both around 40mm, use sapphire crystals etc. If you decide to keep your re-edition as close to the original as possible (acrylic crystal and size around 36mm maybe?) you will have a diver that cant be found anywhere else at the moment (Ive been looking for one like that for several months). This is your chance to create a truly “vintage” watch, unlike most other re-editions which are usually just modern watches with vintage looking dials. I would love to see a flex bracelet also!

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Thanks O! I like your ideas. We are indeed looking to keep the Re-Edition as close to the original as possible. The original piece was slightly bigger than 36mm; it was 37.3mm in diameter at the bezel. We’ll know more about the sizes in the next step(s). Cheers, Tom

      • Avatar Neil says:

        I’m looking forward to the next step where size will be discussed. To me at this point in my collecting I’m looking for a reedition as close to the original as possible, 37.3 to 38mm will be perfect.

  • Avatar Spyridon says:

    Voted for the DNA strand.It really makes the watch unique.
    Actually you can offer both styles.

  • Avatar Giorgio says:

    Ho votato per il vetro zaffiro, in quanto la moderna tecnologia permette di realizzare vetri che presentano caratteristiche estetiche identiche al vetro plexi , garantendo i vantaggi dello zaffiro quali resistenza agli urti e trasparenza

  • Avatar Johan Van Goolen says:

    voor het glas heb ik op saffier gestemd , je kan dezelfde vorm maken in saffier en is sterker en verkleurd niet , voor wijzers moet je dezelfde wijzers gebruiken , DNA -streng , ( zeker niet veranderen dat maakt je handelskenmerk ) een datum hoeft helemaal niet , wel een goede hanteerbare praktische opwindkroon en een binnenwerk wat goed is geregeld in 5-6 posities voor minimale afwijking per dag ; de buitenste ring moet slijtvast keramisch zijn , geen aluminium en verdraaibaar met degelijk systeem ( kleine verhoudingen ) degelijkheid en afleesbaarheid en kwaliteit voor alles

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Bedankt voor je stem, Johan! Ook dank voor je andere opmerkingen. Kwaliteit staat sowieso voorop. Het horloge wordt gemaakt volgens de huidige normen.

      English:
      Thanks for your vote, Johan! And also thanks for your other comments. Quality indeed comes first. The watch will be made according to current standards.

  • Avatar Juan says:

    My vote is for: Sapphire Glass and French lollipop sweep hand!!

  • Avatar Ashley Mason says:

    While being historically accurate is a virtue, the watch should take advantage of contemporary technology and improvements over the original such as sapphire glass rather than acrylic.

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Thank you Ashley. I agree with you on developing and building the watch according to current modern standards. But it is of course debatable whether sapphire is better in all respects. It is certainly harder, but acrylic has anti-scratch treatment these days, which we have very good experiences with with our Type 20, which also has acrylic. Let’s see what the outcome of the votes will be.

      Cheers, Tom

  • Avatar Simon Meachin says:

    Looks great Tom, I will definitely be very interested. I originally selected the Lollipop second hand but after watching the video and reviewing the pictures, I think it has to be the DNA selection as well as the addition of the acrylic crystal. As faithful a reproduction to the original would be my choice all the way. Good luck and I am still waiting for the second release of the salmon dial Heritage Chronograph! I am ready to jump on that when they are available. This is great stuff,
    Cheers, Simon

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Thank you for voting and your kind comments, Simon. Great you like it!

      Pre-order Round 2 for the Lebois & Co Heritage Chronograph will go live as soon as prototypes are finished. Can’t wait either! 🙂

      Cheers,
      Tom

  • Avatar Muir MacKean says:

    Great to see that you are reviving the Sous Marine. Re. the Parmentier crown, I once owned an Airain ‘Tous-Temps’ which had one, and living with it was one of the reasons I eventually sold the watch. Every time I removed it to wind the watch I was fearful of losing it, and gripping the small winding crown under the Parmentier was uncomfortable. I suspect you won’t be using the Parmentier in the new Sous-Marine, but in case you are thinking of it, I would vote against.

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Thank you Muir! You have been lucky to have owned a Tous-Temps. I guess those are just as rare as the Sous-Marine! We are actually leaning towards implementing a Parmentier crown but rest asured; we will make sure it will be easy to wind + provide a solution when losing the crown.. 🙂

  • Avatar Brett says:

    Sapphire crystal can be in a ‘bottle-cap’ configuration – and that would help to show the vintage distortion effect that acrylic or plexiglass would have. Acrylic (Plastic)…is plastic. The vintage originals show ‘yellowing’ and a tendency to age-develop some brittleness or stress cracks. Who knows how the modern formulations of acrylic shall last?

    That’s why I vote for sapphire. I admit it is a close call. Those old plexiglass crystals were beautiful in their own unique way. But my experience is (Rolex) they can crack and/or craze. And sometimes it might not be evident unless studied closely. My watchmaker found that my vintage (1972-ish) Rolex crystal had cracked around the perimeter of the crystal such that it was not visible…until he went to replace it.

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Thank you for voting, Brett! Acrylic vs. sapphire is always a nice discussion. That is why we have also included it in this first step. 🙂 From a manufacturer’s point of view we would sometimes argue that things like the crystal need to be replaced in time to keep the watch in top condition. And of course this really doesn’t have to be every 5 years but at some point it might be a good idea to do so.

  • Avatar k says:

    oh, will it have a roulette date? <3

  • Avatar k says:

    in fact this is my favourite dial style

  • Avatar Gregory Box says:

    I prefer the acrylic crystal and the French lollipop seconds hand.

  • Avatar Marc says:

    Bonjour à tous,

    Si le graphisme peut ressembler le plus près possible à l’original,
    Nous devons fabriquer une montre digne des technologies les plus modernes : solide, fiable, facile à entretenir…

    Même en montre de plongée, un fond transparent serait le bienvenu à condition d’avoir un bon et beau calibre à admirer.

    Marc

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Salut Marc,

      Nous voulons en effet que la nouvelle montre ressemble le plus possible à l’originale. Bien sûr, la montre sera techniquement développée et construite selon les normes modernes actuelles.

      Plus d’informations sur le fond du boîtier à l’étape suivante ! 😉

      Acclamations,
      Tom

      In English:
      Hi Marc,

      We are indeed going for the new watch to resemble the original as much as possible. Of course, the watch will technically developed and built according to the current modern standards.

      More on the caseback in the next step! 😉

      Cheers,
      Tom

  • Avatar Mohd Salim says:

    For the re-edition of Sous Marine, it will be great if you can do away with the date window; have a sandwich dial and an aluminum bezel.is this something that can be incorporated in the design?

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      For us the objective of the re-edition is to stay close to the original. So losing the date window and making a sandwich dial do not really fit into this idea. An aluminum bezel is one of the things we are currently exploring. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Avatar Markus says:

    For the Crystal: I voted for Acrylic for the looks. However, it is possible to make great sapphires – just look at the Oris Diver 65.
    For the seconds hand – well you named it: The original DNA for the “baroque” hand comes from Enicar. Beside the fact that I do not like this shape for a professional dive watch, the only brand that should use it is imho – Enicar.
    Just fyi: Regarding the general look: Please look also closely to Glashütte Original, as the have a very similar watch in their program… However, I like your watch and I like Airain… 😉

    • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

      Thank you for voting, Markus!

      I understand what you are saying regarding the DNA seconds hand. Enicar would have been the first to use it but since the original Sous-Marine had it too, we do feel we also have legitimacy using it.

      Yes, Glashütte Original’s SeaQ is indeed very similar and also based on an earlier version of one of their watches. Although it has a higher price tag than we are aiming for it is great looking and for us proof that it makes great sense to re-introduce such a watch.

      • Avatar John says:

        ONE thing to note about the Airain Sous marine vs any other watch that looks similar, is that Airain did it first.. this maxi numeral dial design and skin diver hand combination was first developed and implemented by Dodane the producers of the original watch.. so in fact, the other watches look like the Sous-marine, not the other way around..

  • Airain Watches Airain Watches says:

    Hi fellow watch enthusiasts, team Airain Watches is here to answer your questions and comments. You are welcome to join the discussion!

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