The Air-King, for the longest time, has been Rolex’s entry-level watch. Its admirers were not only drawn by its being more affordable but also by the enduring appeal that showcased everything Rolex stood for. The Air-King has a long history, with the watches first introduced in 1945 as a fusion of all the pieces Rolex has released as pilot watches: the Air-Lion, the Air-Giant and the Air-Tiger. In 2014, Rolex decided to drop the Air-King from its repertoire, and had Oyster Perpetual take over as the brand’s least expensive watch. To everyone’s surprise, what was thought to be a discontinuation turned out to be just a hiatus two years later—the Air-King was reintroduced during the Baselworld 2016.
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Release date: 2016
When the Air-King came back to life in 2016, it made quite an impression with its brand new look, even hogging the attention from other Rolex watches revealed at the same time. Many felt ambivalent towards the reimagining of the line as it was a great departure from the design that made it identifiable and beloved. From the dial down right to the size, it appeared to be more similar to other Rolex collections than the original Air-King. Soon enough though, initial thoughts amongst enthusiasts began to change, and the watches were found on the wrists of Rolex fans all over.
- Movement: Mechanical, self-winding, perpetual
- Caliber: Rolex 3131
- Precision: -2/+2 sec/day, after casing
- Power reserve: ~48h
- Functions: hour, minute, seconds, stop-seconds
- Case material: Oystersteel
- Case diameter: 40mm
- Winding crown: screw-down, twinlock
- Glass: scratch-resistant sapphire crystal
- Water resistance capacity: 330ft/100m
- Certification: COSC and Rolex certification
While the overall design divides fans, what cannot be denied about the new Air-King is Rolex’s fine execution of the materials to give us the same quality that propelled the brand to the limelight. Everything you’ve loved about the finish of Rolex watches is right here, even with its relatively affordable price tag. Its bracelet is nothing new to fans, as it is still secure and noise-free as previous iterations, and the watch is deceptively light despite its masculine and bolder appearance. If you’re looking for the upgrade that the line has taken to shed its former image, then what you really should be checking out is its movement. The Rolex caliber 3131 is what powers the new Air-King, which is also featured with the more expensive Milgauss. It is anti-magnetic, similar to the Milgauss, but the likeness can also be seen through the case. The Air-King is a superlative chronometer, which means that it goes steps ahead than just the COSC standard.
Purists who have loved the pre-2016 Air-Kings will be torn over the line’s new appearance, as it exchanges conservative and minimalist in favor of a more modern design. The dial is especially busy, as the large Arabic numerals are mixed in with the branding and the green hand.
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