The Air-King came out in 2016 as a model re-release paying tribute to the history-making impact of the Oyster Perpetual watch during aviation’s golden age of the 1930s. The Rolex Oyster watch has accompanied many pioneers and travelers in the flight world on record-breaking trips through extreme conditions and unprecedented heights. One example of such a trip is 1933’s Houston Expedition, which was the very first flight over Mount Everest in Nepal that reached altitudes above 10,000 metres (33,000 feet) in extreme weather. In 1934, the Oyster watch actually served as the onboard chronometer for a return voyage from London, England to Melbourne, Australia taken by Owen Cathcart-Jones and Ken Waller on a twin-engine De Havilland Comet plane. Thanks to the reliable precision of the Oyster, Jones and Waller arrived in record time*.
The Air-King is actually one of Rolex’s oldest models, originating back in 1945 when Rolex founders sought to recognize the British Royal Air Force for its heroic efforts in World War II with an “Air” collection of watches. This tribute spawned models called the Air-Lion, Air-Giant, Air-Tiger, and Air-King. These pieces were all made of stainless steel with 34 mm cases, and they were poised as Rolex’s bare-essential timepieces. The Air-King was discontinued in 2014 and temporarily replaced by the Oyster Perpetual as Rolex’s entry-level model. However, Rolex decided to bring it back with updated features and reintroduced this model at the 2016 Baselworld Fair.
With a style that effortlessly combines sportiness and elegance, the Air-King now features a case that is 40 mm in diameter made of high-grade 904L Stainless Steel with a black dial.
- Perpetual Calibre 3131 – The Air-King is driven by a self-winding Calibre 3131 movement with a power reserve of approximately 48 hours. Inside this movement are high-performance components like an oscillator that is fitted with the Rolex-patented Parachrom hairspring. This blue hairspring is an exclusive paramagnetic alloy made of zirconium and niobium that can withstand magnetic field interference and temperature fluctuations. It is also resistant to shocks, under which it maintains precision levels that are ten times those of regular hairsprings under shock. Also present in the movement is an escapement with a paramagnetic escape wheel made of a nickel-phosphorus alloy. The robust alloy of this escape wheel is made using a process called UV-LiGA, Rolex’s manufacturing technology that fabricates micro-sized parts by electroforming.
- Oyster Case with Magnetic Field Shield – The Air-King’s Oyster case is made of a solid block of 904L stainless steel, an industrial steel grade used in chemical and aerospace industries. This grade of steel is also exceptionally pure and corrosion-resistant, giving it a lustre that is typically characteristic of precious metals. The case also guarantees water resistance to depths of 100 metres (330 feet). Among the features that give the case its great water-resistance and durability is the fluted case back that is hermetically screwed down with strength comparable to that of a submarine’s hatch. The case’s winding crown is protected with a Twinlock double waterproofness system that allows it to be securely screwed down against the case. A monumental new feature of this latest version of the Air-King is a protective shield inside the case that protects the watch from magnetic field interference. Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal protects the dial of the watch.
- Oyster Bracelet – Complementing the chic style of the case is the signature Oyster bracelet, a solid, broad three-piece link bracelet made in 904L stainless steel for the Air-King. The bracelet is equipped with Easylink, the rapid extension system that extends the bracelet length by about 5 mm.
- Black Dial – Air-King models boat a bold black dial with Arabic numerals and a pronounced minute scale for easy navigational time reading. Also enhancing readability are enlarged hour markers at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, and as an ode to the vintage Oyster, the dial displays the name “Air-King” in the same lettering as that on the Oyster models of the 1950s.
Design / Color Features
The Air-King is available in one bracelet option and one dial design:
- 904L Stainless Steel Oyster Bracelet with Oysterclasp and Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link
- Black dial with white gold hour markers and Chromalight blue luminescence display.
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