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Watch Review

The Appealing Simplicity of the Rolex Air-King 14000

Paul Altieri

Sometimes, the occasion calls for a super robust, “hey look at me,” type watch. Other times, it is so much easier to wear a straightforward “I can get the job done well” type watch. When you’re in the mood for the latter, there’s the Rolex Air-King ref. 14000. This model is not to be mistaken for the new Air-King – which, funny enough, has crossed over to join the flashy camp. Let’s get a closer look at the classic Rolex Air-King 14000 with a brief overview of its origin, design, and value proposition.

Air-King 14000
The current model Air-King is a significant aesthetic departure from previous generations.

The Origin and Design of the Air-King 14000

Rolex introduced the Air-King ref. 14000 in 1989 to replace the long-running Air-King ref. 5500. Not only did the Air-King 14000 introduce a sapphire crystal to the collection, but also the then-new Caliber 3000 movement. In terms of design, the Air-King 14000 is one of the most understated Rolex watches you can get your hands on. It sports a 34mm stainless steel case, a time-only dial, and a stainless steel Oyster bracelet.

Compared to the modern Oyster Perpetual with its 39mm case, or the 36mm diameter of the traditional Datejust, a 34mm case may seem somewhat small. But put the Air-King 14000 on your wrist and you may just be surprised at how well it fits. It looks great on my 6(ish)-inch wrist and yes, this is most definitely a unisex Rolex.

Like most casual Rolex watches, the Air-King 14000 offers various dial options including stick indexes, Roman numerals, and even the sportier “Explorer-style” dial with the characteristic 3/6/9 numerals. Color choices run the gamut from crisp white to vibrant blue, to super on-trend salmon. Take a closer look at the dial and you’ll notice that instead of the wordy “Superlative Chronometer Official Certified” text taking up too much real estate, in its place is only “Precision” or “Super Precision” (more on that later).

While the Air-King ref. 14000 includes a smooth steel bezel, there’s also the Air-King ref. 14010 with an engine-turned steel bezel. The engine-turned bezel is not my favorite style but for some, the mix of fluted texture and smooth surfaces on the bezel adds a little more design interest to an otherwise very simple Rolex watch.

Air-King 14000
The 34mm case diameter of the Air-King 14000 allows it to work well on both male and female wrists.

Rolex Air-King 14000 vs. 14000M

You may have come across both the Air-King ref. 14000 and the Air-King ref. 14000M, but what’s the difference? As previously mentioned, the Air-King 14000 runs on the Caliber 3000. The automatic Caliber 3000 movement operates at a frequency of 28,000bph and offers wearers a 42-hour power reserve.

On the other hand, the Air-King 14000M – introduced in 2000 – is fitted with the Caliber 3130. The Caliber. 3130 movement also beats at 28,000bph, but it includes a balance bridge instead of a balance cock, as well as a Breguet overcoil hairspring. Its power reserve is also slightly higher at 48 hours. However, despite the new Caliber 3130 movement, the Air-King ref. 14000M remained a non-chronometer tested watch throughout its production run – similar to the Submariner ref. 14060M.

In 2007, Rolex eventually replaced the ref. 14000M with ref. 114200, which was the first Air-King to receive COSC certification.

Air-King 14000
Although it is simple in design, the Rolex Air-King 14000 is available with a number of different dial styles and colors.

Value Proposition of the Rolex Air-King ref. 14000

Given that the Air-King ref. 14000 is one of Rolex’s simplest models and it runs on a non-chronometer (but still a very dependable) automatic movement, it is one of the most affordable Rolex watches available.

You can pick up a pre-owned Air-King ref. 14000 (or 14000M) on the secondary market for $3,500 or less – a fantastic price for an everyday watch from Rolex. Low-key in design yet high-end in quality (as you’d expect from the Crown), the Air-King 14000 is perhaps one of the best deals you can get in the Rolex realm right now.  

Paul Altieri