Home Business Insights & Advice The curious history of the Rolex Air-King

The curious history of the Rolex Air-King

by John Saunders
18th May 20 4:13 pm

The Air-King name dates back to the Second World War. After the war was over in 1945, the line was created specifically for RAF pilots. At the time, it was measured to be 34 millimetres in diameter and considered to be large; hence the name King was used. It was the name that outlasted the other watches that were introduced by Rolex at the time, like the Air Giant, the Air Tiger and the Air Lion.

The initial design of the watch was very basic but adopted a dial that was more focused on using numerals instead of batons, as it was more legible to pilots. However, it was also an approach that was more accepted during the time. The case design, even at this point in history, looked very similar to what we would expect to see from a modern oyster case. One of the giveaways was the vintage engine-turned crown.

Unfairly pigeonholed

Fast forward to the late 50s. The Air-King adopted a formula that would see it all the way through to the modern era, going from a 34- to a 36-millimetre case and adopting a simple dial layout primarily in grey. At this point, the watch was considered entry-level and has since stayed in the same position in Rolex’s catalogue.

The question on our minds is whether it should have been more than that. After only being around for just over ten years, this watch was left to the wayside while other names of Rolex watches flourished. This piece was designed with pilots in mind, making it a watch with a fascinating history as well. Although it never summited Mount Everest or sunk to one of the lowest depths in the ocean, it nevertheless deserves to be promoted as a premier sports watch.

Modern models

Nowadays, the Air-King has almost been phased out. Until the most recent model, there have been a few over the years, mostly reminiscent of the Explorer motif. The modern return of the Air-King has proven to be a bit of a revival of the brand, and it has garnered much attention for its sleek design in recent years.

The core element of having the five-minute increments printed on the dial is reminiscent of aviator watches, bringing the model back to its roots, which gives it a particular cool factor. We also believe that the touch of green and yellow on the most recent Air King models is a nice addition. It gives the watch a more classical feel.

As a result, we have a unique design, creating both a sport and dress orientated watch, making it a perfect one-watch choice. Of course, this design is not for everyone’s taste, but no watch in the world can satisfy everyone.

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