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The Rolex Air-King: Ode To Aviation

The release of Rolex Air-King after World War II paid tribute to the brave British Royal Air Force who fought in the Battle of Britain. Although several other Airs were made such as Air-Tiger, Air-Giant, and Air- Lion, only the Air-King remained and is the only one being produced by Rolex up to this day. It has proven to be durable and reliable that is why it is coveted by many watch enthusiasts and collectors around the world. 

Prices at a Glance: The Most Popular Rolex Air-King Watches 

ModelPrice (Approx)Features
Rolex Air-KIng Ref. 116900 $ 7,000 USD

- Oystersteel

- Twinlock double waterproofness system

- Scratch-resistant sapphire

- Perpetual, mechanical , self-winding, with a magnetic shield to protect the movement

- Oyster bracelet

- Caliber 3131

- Automatic movement

- 31 jewels

- Black dial

- 44mm

Rolex Air-KIng Ref. 5500$ 3,300 USD

- Caliber 1520 or Caliber 1530

- Oyster bracelet

- Oyster case

- Sunburst effect dial

- 26 to 26 jewels

- Domed acrylic crystal

- Automatic movement

- 34mm 

Rolex Air-KIng Ref. 4925$6,000 USD

- 33mm

- Mechanical movement

- Screw-down case back

- 17 jewels

- Stainless steel case and bracelet

Rolex Air-KIng Ref. 14000M$4,000 USD

- 34mm

- Twinlock winding crown

- Silver sunburst dial

-  Tritium on the dial

-  Caliber 3000 automatic, self-winding movement

- Stainless steel

Rolex Air-KIng Ref. 5501$3,500 USD

- 34mm

- Stainless steel

- Automatic winding

- 14c yellow gold fluted bezel

- Acrylic crystal

- Oyster case

Rolex Air-KIng Ref. 4499$3,000 USD

- 40mm

- 17 jewels

- Patented Rolex Superbalance

- Raised art deco Arabic numerals

- Oyster case

- Chamfered bezel

- Screw-down Rolex crown 

Rolex Air-KIng Ref. 14010$4,300 USD

- Oyster case

- 34mm

- Steel Jubilee bracelet

- Oyster case 

- Caliber 3000

- Automatic movement

Rolex Air-KIng Ref.  6552$3,500 USD

- 34mm 

- Automatic movement

- Stainless steel case

- Stainless steel Oyster bracelet

Rolex Air-KIng Ref. 114200$5,500 USD

- 34mm

- Stainless steel case with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal

- Caliber 3130

- Automatic movement 

- Oyster bracelet and case

- SuperLuminova luminescence accents on the dial

- Chronometer-certified 

Rolex Air-KIng Ref. 5700$3,900 USD

- 34mm 

- Mechanical automatic

- Calibre 1535

- Stainless steel case

- Oyster bracelet

- Date feature

 

How much is a Rolex Air-King watch? 

The great thing about the Rolex Air-King is its price point. Compared to other Rolex watches, the Air-King is considerably cheaper. Watch enthusiasts often call it an “entry-level” timepiece for those who want a Rolex on their wrists. But of course, it is still a luxury item, so we would not really say that it is affordable for most people. 

The latest Air-King is the 2016 model, which is the Rolex Air-King Ref. 116900 that costs around $10,000 USD, brand new. The Rolex has not released any new models since then, so the 116900 is newest and is still being sold brand new. However, you can check pre-owned pieces to be able to save more and will cost you more or less $6,000 USD, depending on its condition. 

With this in mind, you would know that the other Air-King models would be vintage pieces already. For instance, the Air-King Ref. 5500 was released in 1957 and was produced for 37 years, which means you will be able to find a lot of second-hand pieces that would be around $3,300 USD. If you want an Air-King that has a date feature, you might want to look into Rolex Air-King-Date Ref. 5700. The pre-owned price of this classic design with an added date feature will cost more or less $3,500 USD. Luckily, with the quality of Rolex watches, you will surely find most of the Ref. 5700 in great working condition.

The first COSC-certified Air-King, the Rolex Air-King Ref. 114200 can be bought second-hand as well for the price of around $5,500 USD. While this model has a classic look, the Air-King Blue Ref. 114200 has a blue concentric and bold orange numerals which you can get for $4,000 USD, pre-owned.

Up Close with the Ref. 116900: The Latest Rolex Air-King

In 2016, Rolex re-introduced the Air-King with a new look and larger case. From 34mm, the new Ref. 116900 model now measures 44mm, which is 10mm bigger than the older versions. It has an Oystersteel material meaning it is corrosion resistant and definitely high-quality. Do not confuse this with the 904L stainless steel as they are actually the same and it seems like Rolex just wanted a proprietary term for it.

It has a Caliber 3131 movement, which is made in-house by Rolex and is only used in Air-King 116900, Milgauss 116400, and Milgauss 116400GV. Caliber 3131 has 31 jewels, a Paraflex anti-shock system and a Blue Parachrom hairspring which has anti-magnetic features. In addition, it is Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified, which means it guarantees superb performance in waterproofness, power reserve, precision, and self-winding.

Unfortunately, there is only one design for the 116900 model. It features a black dial with large 3, 6, and 9 markers and minute scale for easier time reading. The dial also has an “Air-King” inscription written in the same lettering as their 1950s model. In addition, if not the only one, it is one of the few Rolex watches that has the logo and name in different colors. The crown logo is gold while the word “ROLEX” is green. This has taken aback Rolex enthusiasts since the brand has always matched these two ever since. However, this added a sporty yet elegant look to the watch making it a versatile timepiece that you can use on a daily or multiple occasions. A brand new Air-King 116900 will cost around $7,800 USD but you can get a second-hand for around $7,500 USD.

Rolex Air-King: Is it a good investment?

Rolex watches are always a great investment due to its durability and timeless design. The Rolex Air-King line is most fitting for those people who want a luxury watch but are looking to purchase it for a fair price. We recommend that you opt for Air-King pre-loved pieces instead since it is not as famous as the Rolex Submariner or the Rolex Daytona and the original owner would have already absorbed the depreciation, which means the second-hand price would be even cheaper. However, with the Rolex Air-King, you will get the best of both worlds — a luxury watch at a reasonable price.

Vintage Rolex Air-King Watches

Considered as one of the most famous Air-King models, the Rolex Air-King 5500 has been a classic and iconic watch ever since it was released in 1957. It was very much adored by watch aficionados that the model was produced for 37 years. The 33mm timepiece features the classic Oyster case that Rolex has been using since 1926 and a simple dial that has varying colors. 

With varying versions, the Air-King 5500 either has a “Perpetual” or “Super Perpetual” writing on its dial. The Perpetual has a Caliber 1520 that contains around 26 jewels while the Super Perpetual which has a Caliber 1530 contains 25 or 26 jewels. The Caliber 130 is also used in the famous Rolex Submariner.

Due to its long years of availability, the Air-King 5500 is quite a common timepiece. Add to that its lower price tag compared to the other watches offered by the luxury brand making it a sought after piece by anyone who wants to own a Rolex watch. Nevertheless, Air-King 5500’s minimalist look makes it a timeless timepiece that will never go out of style. Since this model is no longer being produced, you can buy yourself a second-hand for more or less $3,300 USD. 

History Behind the Rolex Air-King

In 1905, at a young age of just 24, Hans Wilsdorf saw the potential in making elegant and reliable wristwatches. With this, he created his own company with his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis, called Wilsdorf & Davis Ltd. In 1908, they changed it to Rolex, a company specializing in producing and distributing timepieces. Rolex became the first wristwatch to be granted the certificate of chronometric performance, meaning it is a high-precision watch.

Fast forward to 1945, Wilsdorf wanted to honor the British Royal Air Force by creating a Rolex inspired by these respected soldiers. In addition to this, he also wanted it to be a tribute to the golden age of aviation. An example of this would be the Houston Expedition that took place in 1933 which was the first-ever successful flight over Mount Everest. The pilots were accompanied by the Rolex Oyster Watches.

He created several “Air” collections such as the Air-Tiger, Air-Giant, and Air- Lion, and Air-King. Unfortunately, only the Air-King 5500 remained and continued to be in the market for 37 years. It was later on replaced by the Air-King 1400 and in 2007 by the Air-King 114200, the first Air-King to be certified by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).

The Rolex 114200 had rhodium-pleated dials, large bezel, 70190 stainless steel Oyster bracelet, and a domed sapphire crystal. In 2014, Rolex discontinued the production of Air-King but reappeared in 2016 with the reference number 116900. The Rolex 116900 borrowed several elements from its other Rolex siblings. Just like the Rolex Explorer, the Rolex Air-King 116900 has large 3, 6, and 9 numbers on its dial and the Mercedes-like symbol on one of its hands which is common for Rolex sports watches. The green accents on the seconds hand and green “ROLEX” logo paired with the gold crown gave this model a sporty yet sophisticated look.

If you are someone who is fond of flying, the Rolex-Air King is one of the most recommended watches. The older models were sought after by pilots, most especially by British fighter pilots, back in the day due to its simple and readable dial and robust quality. The latest model, the Air-King 116900, is specifically made to withstand magnetic fields, thanks to the Caliber 3131 movement making the watch more precise time and have continuous winding.

Five Reasons to Buy a Rolex Air-King Watch  

The feeling of owning and wearing a Rolex watch on your wrist is truly a privilege most of us can only dream of. Apart from the fact that the Air-King line honors soldiers and the golden age of aviation, here are five reasons why you should consider buying a Rolex Air-King watch.

  1. The Air-King is an entry-level timepiece perfect for those who want a Rolex watch for a reasonable price.
  2. The simple yet timeless and sophisticated look of the vintage Air-King watches can be worn in any situation and never goes out of style. While the new 116900 is still elegant but has a touch of sportiness.
  3. The fact that Air-King 5500 went on for 37 years means it is reliable and well-liked by many.
  4. The Air-King 116900 has a Caliber 3131 which is the same caliber of the more expensive Rolex Milgauss 116400 and Milgauss 116400GV have. It has antimagnetic properties to protect the movements of your watch especially during flights.
  5. The clean-looking and minimalist dials of Air-King watches are made for faster and easier time reading.

The Most Famous Patron of the Rolex Air-King 

If you know the movies La La Land, The Notebook, Blade Runner 2049 or Crazy, Stupid, Love, most probably you are familiar with Ryan Gosling. He is a Canadian actor who started his acting career at a very young age and is actually a musician as well. 

Gosling has been spotted numerous times sporting a Rolex watch. However, instead of wearing a Daytona or a Submariner, which is more common in celebrities, he opted for his vintage Rolex Air-King 5500. During the Golden Globes in 2017, Gosling wore the 34mm watch with a white dinner jacket that complemented the off-white to almost champagne face of the classic timepiece. In the same year, he wore his vintage watch again for the 89th Academy Awards or The Oscars. He does not only wear it during events but even during work and regular days as well. 

Rolex Air-King: Your Best Entry-Level Rolex Watch

It is no secret why Rolex remains one of the top luxury Swiss watch brands in the market. They continue to evolve while maintaining the durable and reliable quality of their timepieces. This is evident in the Rolex Air-King collection as it continues to provide fairly priced luxury items that will last a lifetime and can be passed on to the future generations.

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