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ROLEX BLOG

A New Twist on An Old Favorite – The Rolex 116900

April 28, 2016

BY Paul Altieri

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After being discontinued for two years, the Rolex Air-King is back for Baselworld 2016. As Rolex’s simplest line of watches, it is often overshadowed by more expensive and feature-rich offerings; however the Air-King actually has one of the oldest and most interesting histories among the various Rolex lines.

Rolex Air-King 116900

The Rolex Air-King is back for Baselworld 2016.

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Rolex Air-King 116900

In the 1930’s, many British Royal Air Force pilots chose to wear the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King instead of the cheap, field watch that they were issued. When word of this reached Rolex co-founder, Hans Wilsdorf, he decided to honor his country’s brave pilots by creating a line of simple and reliable Oyster watches specifically dedicated to the sky.

Rolex has revived the Air-King for 2016, and their most recent rendition is somewhat of a departure from the dead-simple and Spartan appearance of its predecessors. The previous Air-King was among the smallest men’s Rolex available at 34mm; however the new version uses the same 40mm case from the Milgauss, making it highly antimagnetic, and slightly larger than the contemporary Rolex Explorer.

Rolex Air-King ref. 116900 has a black dial with applied markers in the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock locations

Design

The more extroverted style of the 2016 Air-King is reflected in the design of the dial, which is uncharacteristically colorful and quite busy by Rolex standards. The black dial has applied markers in the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock locations, while the rest of the dial receives white, transferred 5-minute markers.

Another interesting detail about the new Air-King dial is that the Rolex name appears in green text (to match the green seconds hand), while the Rolex crown is printed in yellow. This is the first time in the company’s history that the crown and signature have been printed in two different colors, further adding to the uncharacteristic nature of this particular reference.

In addition to its antimagnetic case, the 2016 Air-King also borrows the caliber 3131 movement from the Milgauss, making the new Air-King as resilient to electromagnetic forces as the legendary watch designed for scientists working with particle accelerators.

The Rolex Air-King 116900 from Baselworld 2016.

The new Air-King is still priced as Rolex’s entry-level watch

 

Style

Despite its bold new style, larger case design, and upgraded antimagnetic capabilities, the new Air-King is still priced as Rolex’s entry-level watch. Although it is larger and better shielded from electromagnetic fields than the new Explorer, the new Air-King will actually retail for about $300 less than the reference 214270 Explorer.

Although some may object to the Air-King’s new and unconventional styling, it is undeniable Rolex is giving buyers a lot of watch for their money. The addition of the antimagnetic shielding borrowed form the Milgauss gives the Air-King the exact same functionality at roughly three-quarters of the price. Only time will tell if the bold new styling will be a hit with customers; however on paper, the new Air-King has all the makings for success.

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