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Watch Review

One Lucky Winner of the King of the Skies

Paul Altieri

A vintage Rolex Air-King 5500 finds a new home via Bob’s Watches’ private auction

Air King 5500
The Air-King is originally for pilots.



The Untouched Air King 5500

Here at Bob’s Watches, we recently hosted the latest installment of our private auction series by offering a vintage Rolex 5500 Air-King. During World War II, Rolex founder, Hans Wilsdorf, launched the “Air” line of Rolex watches – Air-Lion, Air-Giant, Air-Tiger, and Air-King as a tribute to the heroism of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots. The Air-King collection featured several reference numbers since its inception in 1945, however, the reference 5500, originally launched in 1957, is the star among them with a 37-year production span. The Air-King 5500 has become a highly popular choice among Rolex watches for its simplicity, history and accessibility.

The Air King 5500
Made for the British, the Rolex Air-King 5500 became very successful.


The vintage Air-King 5500 that was up for sale during the Bob’s Watches private auction was an especially special piece as it was completely unused – referred to as “New Old Stock” (NOS). It originally belonged to an engineer that worked for the global oil company, Aramco, and he was gifted the Rolex watch after 20 years of service. However, he never actually wore it and the watch sat undisturbed in his dresser drawer for about 38 years, along with the original Rolex box, paperwork and caseback sticker. In the world of vintage Rolex watches, it is highly unusually to come across a “brand new” almost 40-year-old piece.

This particular ref. 5500 was manufactured circa 1977 and its stainless steel 34mm Oyster case encases a silver dial with applied gold baton hour markers with lume plots, luminous gold hands and sweep center seconds. At 12 o’clock sits the gold Rolex “coronet”, above the three lines of text “ROLEX, OYSTER PERPETUAL, Air-King”. Housed within the case is the Rolex Caliber 1520 and it is equipped with the original rivet Oyster bracelet. Naturally, as the watch was never used, it remains in spectacular pristine condition.

Rolex Air-King Reference 5500
The Rolex Air-King 5500 is a beautiful watch, in this case, it was hardly touched.


Sold for $2,725, the winner of the Air-King was a 60-year-old investment manager who has enjoyed collecting watches for five years. The gentlemen’s current collection includes over 50 watches from Rolex, OMEGA and Glycine, and now, it also includes this Air-King 5500 in brand new condition.

As a token of our gratitude for the watch and clock repair education provided by the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI), all proceeds from this auction sale are reserved for their ELM Charitable Trust. We are indebted to the vital work that AWCI does for our industry. You can see where the true value of the Air-King lies throughout its history.

Rolex Air-King 5500
The Face of an Air-King is simple and easy to read.

We look forward to our next private auction event in the near future, and should you be interested in staying up to date on which models Bob’s Watches will be offering, register online at www.bobswatches.com/auctions. Who knows, perhaps you will come across the next addition to your Rolex collection.

Paul Altieri
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