The Rolex AirKing was one of the Rolex’s most enduring models, but like some of Rolex’s wristwatch models such as the Turn-O-Graph, the model came to an end in 2014. Seen as a simple beauty with its three hands, solid color watch face and smaller 34mm size, the Rolex AirKing was and still is a favorite to many.
The Rolex AirKing has a long a storied history spanning back to the mid-1930. Prior to World War II, British pilots utilized Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatches as they were slightly larger than British standard issue at the time, and were much more reliable. Rolex learned of the pilot’s preference for Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches and during the late 1930’s and into the war, Rolex created wristwatches such as the “Air Lion,” “Air King,” “Air Tiger,” and “Air Giant.” The first actual Air King was born in 1945 and acted to conglomerate all the “Air” watches into one watch.
The Rolex AirKing remained relatively untouched going into the 1950-1960’s with the exception of some visual refinements. Staying at 34MM, the AirKing was available in gold plating, and two tone bracelets and bezels. Without a date mechanism and being 2mm smaller, the AirKing did not compete with the ever-popular Rolex DateJust. In 1989/2000 the AirKing received a movement improvement, and later in 2007 became a fully certified COSC chronometer like the majority of the Rolex watch line.
The AirKing possessed all the qualities that make it a bona fide Rolex. A watertight Oyster case to 100 meters, screwdown Twinloc crown, Oyster bracelet, and COSC automatic winding movement are pure Rolex qualities. The two-tone AirKing doubles as a watch for the boardroom or an elegant evening. The AirKing’s 27-jewel movement, uncluttered dial and stick hands make this a clean, no nonsense watch that possesses all the Rolex qualities that made it a durable classic.
Starting in 2014, the Rolex AirKing was dropped from the Rolex Oyster lineup. Despite this loss, AirKings are readily available in the pre-owned market, and the model been replaced in the Rolex line with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual. The Oyster Perpetual is a watch that has the same three-handed, uncluttered simplicity as the original Rolex Oyster Perpetual from the 1930’s. The 2014 Oyster Perpetual possesses the same durable Oyster case, but now has a Parachrom hairspring with Breguet overcoil, 904L stainless bracelet and case, Chromalight lume, a variety of watch faces, and available in 26mm, 31mm, 34mm, 36mm sizes.
Although one will not find the storied AirKing in Rolex literature and catalogs, its replacement, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, is a fine watch with a provenance that was the underlying basis for the Rolex AirKing. Come to Fourtané and see all the dial styles and sizes. Be careful, once you try one on, its easy to find it way into your collection.