Today (following a significant redesign), the trendy Rolex Air-King is squarely located as one of many model’s skilled instrument watches. Nonetheless, that hasn’t all the time been the case. Whereas this watch has all the time technically been a pilot’s watch, it has largely been a extra well-liked alternative for entry-level Rolex collectors due to its timeless design and inexpensive value level. Over the a long time, it turned extra of a cult-favorite on the perimeter slightly than a mainstream piece beloved by the plenty.
The Rolex Air-King is among the oldest names within the model’s catalog with the very first occasion of its use relationship all the way in which again to the 1940s. All through these years, we’ve seen some nice iterations, improvements, and upgrades to this basic and chic line. We’ve additionally seen a significant shift in positioning by Rolex, stopping manufacturing after almost 7-decades to completely upend the design in favor of turning it again to its authentic, tool-watch roots.
Right here on this information, we’ll clarify the storied historical past of this timepiece, speak about its worth, and description all the options, choices, and upgrades we’ve seen over time. Should you’re considering of investing in a Rolex Air-King, we’ve nearly compiled all the pieces that you simply’ll must make an knowledgeable resolution proper right here. So, let’s get began!
Air-King 116900 Key Options:
Case Measurement: 40mm
Supplies: Oystersteel (904L stainless-steel)
Options: Time + operating seconds; inside antimagnetic protect
Bezel: Mounted; easy stainless-steel
Motion: Caliber 3131
Water Resistance: 100 meters / 330 toes
Strap/Bracelet: Oyster bracelet
5 Fast Details In regards to the Air-King
Earlier than we dive into the intensive historical past of the Rolex Air-King, listed below are 5 attention-grabbing details about its evolution over the a long time.
1. The Air-King was made in honor of WWII Pilots
Throughout, and instantly after WWII, Rolex launched a line of ‘Air’ watch fashions. They had been created to honor the British Royal Air Pressure and its pilots. There have been Air-Lion, Air-Tiger, Air-Large, and Air-King (amongst others), however the Air-King is the one one nonetheless in manufacturing immediately.
2. The Air-King has all the time been thought of massive
When the Rolex Air-King was first launched as its personal standalone assortment in 1958, it clocked in at 34mm. Whereas that is thought of small for immediately’s requirements, again then it was fairly massive. Consequently, when the watch was re-released in 2016, it was reimagined in a very new manner, with certainly one of its most important updates being a bigger 40mm case.
Three. The Air-King is certainly one of Rolex’s oldest collections
Though the very first use of the “Air-King” identify dates again to 1945, the Air-King assortment as we all know it immediately didn’t be a part of Rolex’s catalog till 1958. Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf initially rolled out the Air-King as a tribute to pilots, and he probably had no concept it might develop into one of many model’s most enduring collections.
four. The Air-King was revived and re-invented in 2016
After being briefly discontinued for a few years in 2014, the Rolex Air-King was re-released in 2016 within the type of the reference 116900. The important thing distinction? As an alternative of being thought of an inexpensive and basic entry-level Rolex with a 34mm case, the brand new Air-King is a correct aviation timepiece with a 40mm antimagnetic case borrowed from the Milgauss.
5. The New Air-King is anti-magnetic
Powered by the Rolex Caliber 3131, the brand new Air-King ref. 116900 is provided with a specialised inside protect to guard its motion from magnetic fields. Each the case and the bracelet of the current-model Air-King are the identical ones discovered on the Milgauss, granting Rolex’s aviation watch the identical legendary antimagnetic properties as its iconic mannequin for scientists.
The whole lot You Want To Know: Historical past of the Rolex Air-King
First showing in 1945, the Air-King was half of a bigger assortment of watches made by Rolex to honor the RAF pilots of the Battle of Britain. The vary consisted of the Air-Lion, Air-Tiger, Air-Large, and Air-King (amongst a variety of different Air-themed watches. The Air-King is the one mannequin that continues to be in manufacturing immediately, and most curiously, Rolex doesn’t think about these early fashions to be the official begin of the gathering.
The primary references to bear the “Air-King” identify, such because the ref. 4925, ref. 4499, and ref. 6652 are all thought of to be comparatively uncommon and sought-after immediately. Nonetheless, not all the examples of this reference included the Air-King identify on their dials, and Rolex more-or-less appears to disregard that these watches ever existed as Air-King fashions, as a substitute preferring to categorise them as simply normal Oyster Perpetual watches.
Because the historical past of the Air-King has spanned almost eight a long time, the easiest way to discover its total historical past is thru its references. Right here, we’ll look at the Rolex Air-King historical past by means of its 5 most necessary references.
Rolex Air-King (1958-1989)
Nonetheless within the early years of the Air-King’s prolonged historical past, the ref. 5500 was solely the fourth era of this watch. Nonetheless, Rolex considers the reference 5500 to be the official begin of the gathering, and its long-production historical past made a severe and lasting influence. Actually, whenever you ask most collectors what watch involves thoughts when they give thought to the Air-King, the ref. 5500 is most certainly the watch they think about. That includes a 34mm case, an austere dial design, and plain stick fingers, this watch was extremely minimalistic – there wasn’t even Rolex’s signature date-display on the Three o’clock location.
Over the a long time, the aesthetics didn’t change all that a lot. Nonetheless, we did see two totally different actions fitted to the ref. 5500. First, there was the cal. 1530 adopted by the cal. 1520 in 1963. Regardless of there being chronometer-rated variations of the cal. 1530, not one of the Air-King 5500 watches had been truly chronometer-certified for the reason that watch was all the time positioned to be extra of an entry-level providing inside the Rolex lineup.
Accumulating this period
For collectors, the Rolex Air-King 5500 is a superb watch to snap-up. Not solely is it essentially the most cheap Air-King reference, however it is usually one of many least costly classic Rolex fashions. This pricing, alongside its basic and timeless seems, makes it an amazing timepiece to start out out your Rolex assortment.
Rolex Air-King (1989-2006)
Finally, the ref. 14000 changed the beloved ref. 5500. Nonetheless, this watch wasn’t all that totally different, nonetheless that includes a 34mm stainless-steel case and modest, easy styling. Though, this time you probably did have some totally different dial colour choices like salmon, blue, white, and black. You possibly can additionally select between a easy or engine-turned bezel, additional increasing the choices inside the assortment. Different upgrades included a sapphire crystal and the brand new caliber 3000 motion which gave the watch a frequency of 28,800vph, permitting it to face alongside the remainder of Rolex’s highly effective, dependable choices. Nonetheless, you will need to observe that the cal. 3000 wasn’t COSC-rated, that means that it didn’t promise the very same timekeeping requirements as the remainder of Rolex’s lineup.
On the new millennium, Rolex up to date the 14000 with the ref. 14000M which featured a cal. 3130, ticking on the identical fee however benefitting from a Breguet overcoil and a full steadiness bridge. This new motion nonetheless didn’t acquire COSC certification, as a result of extra manufacturing prices related to submitting actions to the COSC for official testing.
Accumulating this period
In the case of accumulating this period, these watches symbolize an amazing alternative. You’ll pay extra for a ref. 14000 or ref. 14000M Air-King in comparison with the ref. 5500 as a result of upgraded motion and sapphire crystal. With that in thoughts, you might have much more choices right here when it comes to aesthetics which make accumulating enjoyable. And compared to different Rolex fashions, you may nonetheless get a very nice deal on an Air-King from this era.
Rolex Air-King (2007-2014)
In 2007, the Rolex group was stunned to see the Air-King transfer right into a extra trendy period – one which embraced a extra up to date really feel and bolder options. Whereas the ref. 114200 nonetheless boasted a 34mm case, it was bulked up with wider lugs and general bigger look on the wrist. The dial was additionally an enormous change, as you possibly can now select from a fair wider number of colours – for the primary time you possibly can even select a flowery 18okay white gold fluted bezel. One other first was the brand new, redesigned 904L Oyster bracelet and clasp with fully strong hyperlinks. The ref. 114200 nonetheless boasted the cal. 3130 however this time it was lastly COSC-certified, bringing the Air-King proper in-line with the remainder of Rolex’s assortment.
Accumulating this period
That is an attention-grabbing Air-King period to gather for just a few causes. For one, the reference 114200 had a reasonably quick run (particularly in comparison with the ref. 5500), which makes it a reasonably nice collector’s merchandise. Nonetheless, they’re nonetheless fairly straightforward to search out on the secondary market, which suggests whereas they aren’t all that frequent, they’re nonetheless inexpensive. As we see it, there’s additionally nice potential for these to rise in worth, particularly as a result of this was the final era of 34mm Air-King watches earlier than it was discontinued in 2014 after almost a 70-year manufacturing run.
Rolex Air-King (2016-Now)
After being discontinued in 2014, Rolex reimagined the Air-King and re-released it in 2016 within the type of the ref. 116900. The brand new Air-King now clocks in at 40mm, and shares each its case and Cal. 3131 motion with the Milgauss, granting it the identical antimagnetic properties.
Regardless of its structural similarities to the Milgauss, the aesthetics of the brand new Air-King are all its personal, with an uncommon black dial that options placing inexperienced and yellow accents. Actually, the Air-King is now the one piece from the model to have the crown emblem and the ‘Rolex’ title set in two totally different colours. Different options embody Arabic Three/6/9 hour indexes in 18okay white gold, whereas the remaining markers are occupied by distinguished white minute markers, which makes your complete face actually legible and ideal as a pilot’s watch.
You will get an Air-King ref. 116900 for $6,450 retail immediately, making it an amazing entry-level watch alongside different cult-favorites and legendary instrument watches just like the Oyster Perpetual and the Explorer. With this new reference, we noticed Rolex embrace this watch by doing what it does finest — making rugged, fashionable instrument watches which are constructed to final a lifetime.
How A lot is a Rolex Air-King?
You should buy a Rolex Air-King brand-new from a certified retailer for $6,450; nevertheless, it’s probably that there shall be a slight ready checklist for it. When you get into discontinued fashions on the secondary market, there’s a whole lot of alternative for collectors not solely when it comes to value but additionally with regard to fashion and design. For instance, most classic fashions hover round $Three,000 to $four,000, however this all depends upon their particular reference and situation. Beneath, now we have compiled an inventory that outlines pricing for particular Rolex Air-King references.
|Mannequin||Retail Value||Second-Hand Value||Measurement||Bezel|
|Ref. 5500||N/A||from $2,795||34mm||Clean; Metal|
|Ref. 14000||N/A||from $2,995||34mm||Clean; Metal|
|Ref. 14010||N/A||from $Three,195||34mm||Engine Turned; Metal|
|Ref. 114200||N/A||from $Three,895||34mm||Clean; Metal|
|Ref. 114210||N/A||from $Three,895||34mm||Engine Turned; Metal|
|Ref. 114234||N/A||from $5,695||34mm||Fluted; 18okay White Gold|
|Ref. 116900||6,450 USD||from $6,500||40mm||Clean; Metal|
Shopping for Pre-Owned vs. New
For many years, what attracted many collectors to the Rolex Air-King was its affordability. As a result of it had basic, easy aesthetics and a low value level, the Air-King was usually touted because the ‘entry-level’ Rolex for up-and-coming collectors. At present, that also stays true whenever you have a look at classic and pre-owned Air-King fashions, as these watches are available in at an amazing low value level and provide a wide selection of styling whereas nonetheless remaining timeless.
Nonetheless, when Rolex determined to reinvent the Air-King for its re-release in 2016, the brand new design was seen as considerably polarizing. The bolder face design and pops of inexperienced and yellow turned a whole lot of entry-level patrons off who sought out this assortment for its simplicity; nevertheless, others cherished it for its totally trendy tackle the basic pilots watch. At present, the Rolex Air-King could be very a lot a instrument watch, and people who purchase it, usually put on it as such. With that in thoughts, you will need to observe that the worth has not modified drastically, as its $6,450 retail value sill makes it one of the vital inexpensive males’s Rolex fashions at the moment out there.
So to sum it up: whether or not you go new or pre-owned, you may all the time get a Rolex Air-King for an amazing value. In the long run, what it actually comes down (as all the time) are your preferences and finances.
Rolex Air-King References
When the Air-King first appeared in 1945, it existed as just a few totally different references till the Air-King assortment was formally launched in 1958. Whereas these fashions are technically Air-King watches, under we’re solely highlighting the reference numbers that existed after the official begin of the Air-King assortment – those you’re more likely to encounter.
– Ref. 5500 (34mm; easy bezel)
– Ref. 14000 (34mm; easy bezel)
– Ref. 14010 (34mm; engine-turned bezel)
– Ref. 114200 (34mm; easy bezel)
– Ref. 114210 (34mm; engine-turned bezel)
– Ref. 114234 (34mm; fluted bezel)
– Ref. 116900 (40mm; easy bezel)
Want To Know: Rolex Air-King Options & Choices
Aside from just a few classic Rolex Air-King Date references, the Air-King assortment has all the time been a simple, time-only watch. Right here, we’ll discover the totally different options and choices out there on the Air-King over time. Though dial kinds have ranged dramatically from stark black or silver dials with conventional stick indexes to brightly coloured diamond-set dials, the core performance of the Rolex Air-King has remained largely unchanged over time.
Rolex Air-King supplies
Aside from a small handful of classic references, the Rolex Air-King has all the time been cast out of stainless-steel. At present, Rolex makes use of their proprietary 904L stainless-steel which isn’t solely extraordinarily sturdy, but additionally extremely corrosion-resistant. Nonetheless, throughout the extraordinarily lengthy manufacturing run of the ref. 5500, we noticed strong gold, two-tone, and even gold-capped Rolex Air-King watches. Then a lot afterward, some fashions of the Air-King ref. 114200had been out there with an upgraded fluted bezel in 18okay white gold.
Rolex Air-King sizes
At present, the trendy Rolex Air-King clocks in at 40mm. That is massive in comparison with the 34mm sizing that was used on the Air-King case from 1958 till 2014. Nonetheless, again within the day, the 34mm sizing was thought of fairly massive for a wristwatch. At present, 40mm is definitely thought of common and plenty of now see Rolex’s 36mm sized watches (just like the Datejust and Day-Date) as small. How occasions change, proper?
Rolex Air-King bezels
Famously, the Air-King embraced the simplicity of a easy bezel. Actually, for many years, it’s virtually all you possibly can get (assume ref. 5500) apart from some gold fluted bezels. Finally, we entered the ref. 14000 period we obtained an engine-turned bezel (which collectors both cherished or hated) along with an 18okay white gold fluted possibility. On the present 40mm Air-King, you may solely get a easy, stainless-steel bezel.
Rolex Air-King dials
Over time, the Rolex Air-King has constantly been supplied with extra dial colour choices. The earliest examples had been virtually solely fitted with both black, silver, blue, or grey dials. When the ref. 14000 changed the beloved ref. 5500 we obtained new colours like salmon and whereas alongside the basic blue and black. At present, the trendy Air-King is barely out there with a black dial, though it does function a yellow crown and shiny inexperienced printed Rolex emblem.
Rolex Air-King bracelets
The Air-King has all the time been outfitted within the basic, Three-piece Oyster bracelet; nevertheless, sure classic examples can be discovered with the dressier Jubilee. The bracelet all the time matches the Oyster case, as properly, being cast out of the identical sturdy and dependable alloys.
Rolex Air-King actions
The actions contained in the Rolex Air-King solely turned COSC licensed with the ref. 114200 which housed the cal. 3130. Earlier than that, Air-King watches had been solely allowed to be marked with wither ‘Tremendous Precision’ or ‘Precision’ on their dials, as they lacked chronometer-certification. Beneath are the actions used from the 1950’s Air-Kings till immediately.
– Caliber 1530
– Caliber 1520
– Caliber 3000
– Caliber 3130 (each with and with out COSC-certification)
– Caliber 3131 (COSC-certified)
Learn how to fashion the Rolex Air-King
The Rolex Air-King is such a simple watch to fashion in your on a regular basis wardrobe. As a result of this timepiece has traditionally been cast out of stainless-steel (with just a few luxe exceptions), the Air-King is the proper understated accent that may simply transition from the workplace to errands and weekend adventures. Right here, now we have just a few concepts on how one can incorporate one into your individual wardrobe.
Dressed down together with your classic Air-King
This stainless-steel watch is the proper on a regular basis accent as a result of it’s timeless and sturdy. We love the classic fashions particularly as a result of they function these easygoing, easy dials which are easy to pair with totally different outfits. For instance, this silver dial ref. 5500 is relaxed and low-key, making it the proper accent to strap on for weekend actions like brunch or rooftop drinks with pals. Because it’s a Rolex, it’s all the time going to steal glances. But, the understated design means that you can pair it together with your favourite t-shirt and denims or button up with a cool sample. Need to go bolder? Add a enjoyable coloured pair of sneakers to your look.
Dressed up together with your diamond Air-King
For essentially the most half, the Rolex Air-King is an understated watch. Nonetheless, with additions like gold and fluted bezels, and even diamond-set dial upgrades, you possibly can positively go for a extra luxurious have a look at a cheaper price level. Girls, attempt pairing this watch with some diamond studs or a diamond tennis bracelet for an evening out. Gents, pair a diamond-set Rolex Air-King with a pair of darkish wash denims, a crisp white shirt, and a darkish blazer for an effortlessly good-looking and elevated look.
Your on a regular basis look together with your up to date Air-King
You both love or hate the brand new Air-King – and we personally find it irresistible. Whereas some are on the fence about its styling, it’s plain that it makes an amazing on a regular basis timepiece. The darkish dial with extremely legible numerals makes it good for many who journey quite a bit for work or are too busy to even seize their cellphone and test the time throughout the day. Plus, the inexperienced and yellow accents actually add a pop of colour, whereas additionally being totally sudden for Rolex. Should you’re searching for a watch that turns heads and begins conversations, this Rolex Air-King is it. Strap it on with a go well with and tie for work or with denims and a t-shirt for the weekend. This contemporary Rolex is all the time going to look good.
Continuously requested questions in regards to the Rolex Air-King
What’s the Air-King made to do?
The Rolex Air-King was initially made as a pilot’s watch. It doesn’t function any extra capabilities like a timing bezel or a devoted GMT hand like another pilot’s watches. Nonetheless, the dial was purpose-made to be simply learn whereas in flight. At present, essentially the most trendy iteration of the Air-King extra intently follows that design ethos than ever earlier than, providing a extremely legible show and magnetic safety.
Is a Rolex Air-King a very good funding?
The Rolex Air-King is a superb funding piece. As a result of you will get this watch (retail or second-hand) at such an inexpensive value level, it’s a nice watch to put money into if you do not need to spend an excessive amount of cash however nonetheless get a wonderful, timeless, and beneficial Rolex. With that in thoughts, we all the time suggest buying a pre-owned Rolex ought to funding be your primary objective, as any preliminary depreciation would have already been absorbed by the preliminary purchaser, permitting you to get acquire certainly one of these nice watches for the most effective value potential.
Is the Air-King discontinued?
No. The Air-King was faraway from the Rolex catalog briefly in 2014, however then redesigned and re-introduced at Baselworld 2016 within the type of the reference 116900. A big departure from the earlier 34mm Air-King watches with conventional styling, the present 40mm Air-King 116900 boasts antimagnetic capabilities and incorporates a bolder dial with shiny inexperienced and yellow accents.
How can I spot a pretend Rolex Air-King?
When purchasing for a Rolex Air-King the clues are all the time within the particulars. Use our ‘Learn how to Spot a Pretend Rolex’ reference information that can assist you hold an eye fixed out for what to search for when verifying the authenticity of a watch. Nonetheless, our largest recommendation is to all the time do your analysis and solely purchase from a trusted and respected vendor.
Is the Air-King the most affordable Rolex?
IWhen the Air-King was simply 34mm and boasted a non-chronometer licensed motion it was the least costly timepiece you possibly can purchase from Rolex on the retail stage. At present, the Air-King has magnetic resistant capabilities and a chronometer-rated motion which has raised its retail value. Now, the Oyster Perpetual assortment is the least costly within the Rolex catalog. Nonetheless, when purchasing on the secondary market, Rolex Air-King watches are amongst the least costly watches you should buy. Remember to browse our catalog to see what nice offers are ready for you!