Review: Rolex Air King

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Every once in a while, Rolex produces some rather interesting and unusual watches. In the recent years, it include striking pieces such as the Milgauss and the Deepsea Seadweller D-Blue. And for this year’s Baselworld, Rolex surprises us once again with the all-new Air King.

For some, the Air King is either a love-it-or-hate-it watch. For the purists, the contemporary and edgy design might not be their cup of tea. For them, Rolex is no-nonsense and solid, with a timeless and classic aesthetic. But for others, the Air King’s aesthetics may be the tinge of excitement that many classic Rolex models miss.

The new Air King reignites Rolex’s ties with aviation since its golden age in the 1930s. Many historical flights were timed with Rolex Oysters. For example, the Houston Expedition, which was the first ever flight over Mount Everest at an altitude exceeding 10,000 meters in extreme weather conditions. And when in 1934, Owen Cathcart-Jones and Ken Waller made a return voyage from London to Melbourne in record time on board a twin engine De Havilland Comet, using a Rolex Oyster as their on-board chronometer. The new Air King is Rolex’s tribute to these heyday, and their way of tipping their hat to the epic story of aviation.


The Case, Hands, and Dial


The Rolex Air King. One glance, and you can tell that it is a modern Rolex.

The Rolex Air King. One glance, and you can tell that it is a modern Rolex.


Needless to say, the main talking point of the Air King is probably the dial design. As mentioned in our news article previously, we reckon the Air King was partially inspired by the devices that Rolex produced for the Bloodhound SSC project. Bloodhound SSC was an attempt to break the world land speed record, where Rolex developed and engineered two bespoke cockpit instruments – a speedometer and an analog chronograph.

As for the “3, 6, and 9” hour markers, you would have certainly guessed that it came from another iconic Rolex timepiece as well – the Explorer. The combination works rather well, and we feel that it gives the watch a unique identity. In fact, you could probably recognize this piece from afar with ease.


The timing device that Rolex had created for the Bloodhound SSC project. See the resemblance? Picture (C) Rolex

The timing device that Rolex had created for the Bloodhound SSC project. See the resemblance? Picture (C) Rolex


On top of that, the dial features some rather interesting details as well. For instance, the Rolex Crown logo is finished in bright yellow, while the word “Rolex” is done in dark green. The latter is matched with an equally unusual green seconds hand. The color and font of these details are a throwback to the original Air King design language used on the model in the 1950s.


A closer look at the watch dial.

A closer look at the watch dial.


In addition, the usual Rolex elements still apply. These include the “Mercedes” hour hand, the 40mm stainless steel Oyster case, as well as the durable Oyster bracelet. Additionally, the bracelet is accompanied by a steel folding Oysterclasp, which features a Rolex-patented Easylink rapid extension system that allows the bracelet to be lengthened by 5mm. It is pretty useful, as the bracelet can be shortened/ lengthened without the need to remove or add any additional links.


The Movement: Perpetual Calibre 3131


Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified. The four words that guarantee the accuracy and toughness of a Rolex's movement.

Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified. The four words that guarantee the accuracy and toughness of a Rolex movement.


The watch is fitted with Rolex’s self-winding Calibre 3131. This is a time-only movement, and it features a power reserve of approximately 48 hours. Despite being a simple movement, Rolex had spared no expenses in making it reliable and precise. For instance, the movement is fitted with Rolex’s patented blue Parachrom hairspring which is both amagnetic and more shock-resistant.

In addition, as with all current Rolex watches, it is Superlative Chronometer Certified, a certification redefined by Rolex in 2015. This means that the watch had undergone stringent testing, and it is precise to the point that it was only off by 2 seconds per day during the test period. It is more than twice as stringent as the requirement of an official COSC certified chronometer.


Concluding Thoughts


Yay, or nay? The folks at Deployant are at odds on this one, to be honest.

Yay, or nay? The folks at Deployant are at odds on this one, to be honest…


So, do we like this watch? Personally, the author thinks that the new Air King is a breath of fresh air for the Rolex collection, as it injects some playfulness into an otherwise serious and utilitarian collection. However, some of the writers at Deployant think that the design is not of their taste, and that it is too radical for a Rolex timepiece.

But aesthetics aside, we feel that the Air King is a darn robust sports watch. Every component of the watch, ranging from the case to the bracelet, feels very solid like how a Rolex should be. The movement, similarly, is well-engineered and it performs way beyond what it is required.

Would we get one? Probably. It is an exciting entry-level Rolex, and we think that this might also attract some younger collectors who want to own an excellent timepiece from a reputable watchmaker. Just like most Rolex watches, you can’t really go wrong with them. And it is the same for this one.


Rolex Air King Technical Specification

Reference 116900

  • Model Case Oyster, 40 mm, steel
  • Oyster Architecture Monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown
  • Diameter 40 mm
  • Material 904L steel
  • Bezel Smooth
  • Winding Crown Screw-down, Twinlock double waterproofness system
  • Crystal Scratch-resistant sapphire
  • Water Resistant Waterproof to 100 metres / 330 feet
  • Movement Perpetual, mechanical , self-winding , with a magnetic shield to protect the movement
  • Calibre 3131, Manufacture Rolex
  • Precision-2/+2 sec/day, after casing
  • Functions Centre hour, minute and seconds hands. Stop-seconds for precise time setting
  • Oscillator Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring
  • Winding Bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor
  • Power Reserve Approximately 48 hours
  • Bracelet Oyster, flat three-piece links
  • Bracelet Material 904L steel
  • Clasp Folding Oysterclasp with Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link
  • Dial Black
  • Details Highly legible Chromalight display with long-lasting blue luminescence
  • Certification Superlative Chronometer (COSC + Rolex certification after casing)

About Author


  1. I have the explorer 39mm and three days ago added New Airking in my collection. Both weight, size and dial are total different. Both good are nice.

  2. I still have a hard time understanding why anyone would choose this over the Milgauss (esp the green blue), which also has whimsy but with a little more history. Same case, same functionality.

    Wonder if PP’s entry into pilots’ watches last year was a factor in revising the Air King.

    • Good points. But sometimes, there might be no need to choose. The Milgauss and Air King are quite different watches, and I can imagine, funds permitting, owning both.