One of Rolex’s best known watches, the Air King was released in 1945 and continues to be at the forefront of aviation timekeeping even today. For many pilots, the Rolex Air King is a collectors item that acts as a byword for quality and reliability. In 1989, Rolex introduced an updated version of the much loved Air King that included a new caliber 3000 movement and a sapphire crystal, making this classic as tough as its contemporaries. Newly designed for the modern era, this watch features a 40mm Oystersteel case with a dial that’s as eccentric as you might expect from an Air King watch.
In the era around WWII, Rolex produced a fairly wide range of models for pilots. Many of these were for the British RAF, who had gained a fearsome reputation in the wake of the Battle of Britain. Released in 1945 whilst the war was still being fought, the Air King would go on to be the most enduring of all the “Air” models that included names such as the Air Lion and Air Tiger among many other similar iterations.
The very first Air King is something of a collectors piece, a rare item indeed whose creamy face and arabic numbers make it a unique offering from Rolex. By 1953 the most iconic iterations of the watch were released, sporting the silver dial and unique thin hour hands that would go on to be so iconic and representative of the Air King family for many years.
Four years later, in 1957, Rolex went on to improve on this model and introduced the Air-King that would act as a reference point for the entire line for many years to come. At 34mm, the watch was very small for its time with an Oystersteel casing and Oyster bracelet. This has gone on to become the iconic Air King, famous as it is for its acrylic crystal casing and precision markings.
Over the decades that followed, Rolex barely changed this highly successful model, which was as masculine as it was easy on the eye. In fact, the only notable changes were the introduction of slate grey and black faces on some new models. Another feature that also proved extremely popular was the introduction of Arabic numerals, which brought a touch of flair to the otherwise austere timepiece.
All remained quiet on the Air King front until 2016, when Rolex announced there was to be a new Air King. Newly designed for the modern era, this watch features a 40mm Oystersteel case with a dial that’s as eccentric as you might expect from an Air King watch.
In fact, it is this eccentricity which these days marks the Air King family. As one of the brand’s more accessible timepieces, the Air King has been something of a canvas for experimentation by Rolex. The brand clearly feel that, because this is a lower priced timepiece, they have the freedom to play with wild design concepts with the Air King. Some Rolex fans love this playful approach, which allows the brand to truly express themselves and potentially create something of genius in the process.
Others see the Air King as an uncouth option that should not be taken seriously like other Rolex families such as the Datejust or Submariner. One thing is for sure though, the Rolex Air King has never and will never be a boring timepiece, which ensures that this classic style with modern flair appeals to many watch enthusiasts worldwide to this day.
Modern version of the watch use an innovative winding crown, with Rolex’s patented Triplock technology that the watch pushes into the casing as so tight that Rolex named this the Oyster case, another famous patented technology from the brand. In addition, the Oyster bracelet is as safe and strong as any on the market, making accidental release a near impossibility whilst always looking sleek and luxurious on the wearer’s wrist. In addition, the current version of the watch is waterproof up to 300 metres, a vast improvement on past versions of the product.
The current version of the Air King benefits from a blue Parachrom hairspring. So named because it is thinner than a single hair, it is created using a super strong paramagnetic alloy that utilises niobium and zirconium. Untouchable by magnets, the material is truly a game changer in terms of strength and shock resistance. Naturally, the Air King uses Rolex’s cutting edge caliber 3135 self winding mechanical movement, a leader in the arena.