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Watch of the Week: the Rolex Air-King ref 116900

January 24, 2018

BY Paul Altieri

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Everything about the modern 6-digit Air-King reference 116900 screams “Rolex sports watch” unlike the classic references from decades ago. The Air-King, as many collectors may know it, was discontinued in 2014, with the newer 6-digit reference 116900 debuting shortly after in 2016.  The differences between the old and new Air-King watches are obvious. The original Air-King featured a more modest 34mm Oyster case and a dial commonly set with simple applied indices and hands. While the newer reference boasts a larger 40mm Oyster case, a more secure folding Oysterlock clasp, and a dial topped with luminous hour markers and hands.

Rolex Air-King ref 116900

The Rolex Air-King ref 116900 is a watch with a long history.

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The New Pilot’s Watch

While the Air-King ref. 116900 may look like a completely different watch, it stays true to its humble beginnings as a pilot’s watch.  The case is still equipped with a screw-down crown that can withstand depths of up to 330 feet as well as higher altitudes.  This newer reference, however, takes advantage of a Twinlock screw-down crown for extra waterproofness, a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and 904L stainless steel.  While the “Air-King” logo has been moved lower on the dial, avid Rolex collectors will be pleased that it is still present on the dial, just like the original Air-King.

Rolex Air-King ref 116900

The Rolex Air-King ref 116900 carries qualities of both vintage and modern qualities.

A next-generation calibre 3131 perpetual movement beats within the case providing an accuracy of -2/+2 seconds a day.  Newer Rolex movements often utilize Rolex’s patented shock-resistant technology via the addition of a Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring.  The movement also boasts a 48-hour power reserve and COSC rating.

The most notable change made to the new Rolex Air-King ref 116900 is the updated black dial.  In lieu of the traditional index hour markers, the dial features polished steel Arabic markers at the 3, 6, and 9 positions and 5-minute graduations at the remaining hour markers.  Similar to other Rolex sports references, a luminous triangle sits at the 12-hour marker.  Chromalight lume emits a distinct blue glow and fills the 5-minute hour markers and hands for a clear reading in light or dark environments.  A yellow crown and green accents including the Rolex logo and a green seconds hand, seal the new Air-King’s fate as a Rolex sports watch.

Rolex Air-King ref 116900

What are your thoughts on the Rolex Air-King ref 116900? Comment below.

Each Rolex sports watch is developed with a specific application in mind, whether it be as a diver’s watch, a pilot’s watch, or a tool watch for spelunkers, one thing’s for sure, Rolex has a timepiece to suit the needs of the wearer no matter what their profession or desire may be.  The Rolex Air-King ref 116900 is an excellent choice if you’re in the market for a Rolex with an incredible history and application at an entry to mid-level price range.

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