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The Return Of The King


How a single Rolex dial flew back with style

It is always good to start at the very beginning and origins of a watch and the Rolex Air-King is no exception. It has the honor of being one of oldest Rolex models. In 1958, it flew into the watch collection and touched down with a 34mm case, which was actually a good size gent’s watch for its day.


It competed against other aviation themed watches of the time, but as you would expect from Rolex, the resilience of its name means it still turns heads today, some 62 years later.

This early model is now very desirable. Any vintage watch collector like myself, would be proud to wear a watch with such heritage.

In 1933, Oyster watches accompanied the Houston Expedition as it made the first-ever flight over Mount Everest at an altitude exceeding 10,000 metres (33,000 feet) in extreme weather conditions.

Aviation travel was very early stages then  and Rolex didn’t waste any time marketing their superb Oyster with epic flights like this one. This confirms that Rolex for many decades are first class at positioning their name at key events in history. It is proof of the quality, reputation and service that still cements their success today.

Above are a couple of examples of the Rolex Air-King before the new cockpit-style dial, model 116900 arrived in 2016. The date model is from 1980s and you will note that a polished bezel is used as indeed the latest Air-King offers. The polished smooth Oystersteel bezel looks entirely suited to the overall look of this timepiece.

There were actually two years between the discontinuation of the previous model and the new Air-King, and I must admit, at first I thought “how could Rolex call time on such an iconic model?”. But in typical Rolex discreetness, the famous name flew right back with a whole new look. That new makeover was well worth that wait. With any watch, it is often at first glance all about the dial. The image below confirms they have got it exactly right! Rolex have stayed very true to the name of ‘Air-King’.

The dial has been designed thoughtfully with plenty of detail and cleverly arranged without it looking cluttered.

The black dial reveals large hour indices situated at the3,6 and 9 markers. Keeping loyal to the name, they have a legible minute scale for navigational time readings, after all it is an Air-King! Another nice touch is the consideration of using the same lettering of the name from the 1950s. Rolex lovers will also enjoy the well-placed use of the Rolex signature colour, green, on the dial. It appears on both the name Rolex, and the sweep second hand. Again, it is understated.

Of course, if you were expecting a date aperture to be introduced, you will notice the absence of one here. The dial is unspoiled and maintains the clean aesthetic look. The dial is simply perfect as it is and gives true homage to Rolex and their aviation history. With a beautiful outer appearance you can guarantee that the inside of the Air-King is very high quality too. Like every Rolex timepiece it certainly is. When one looks at the Air-King movement below, technically it ticks a lot of boxes.

MOVEMENT
Mechanical self-winding with a magnetic shield to protect the movement.

CALIBRE

3131 manufacturer Rolex

PRECISION
Officially certified Chronometer (COSC)+2/-2 seconds a day after casing.

Next we can read how Rolex explain all about the origin of the phrase:
“Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified”

Historically, a watch could be designated as a chronometer by its own manufacturer to attest of its high precision, a process which obviously carried a risk of fraudulent abuse. To guarantee the quality of its chronometers, Rolex made the choice to have them officially certified. To mark this difference, in the late 1930s, the brand changed the inscription on its dials from “Chronometer” to “Officially Certified Chronometer”. In 1951, official certification became obligatory. Rolex decided to differentiate itself by obtaining certificates avec mention (certificates of superior performance). According to the old rules, movements whose precision proved superior in the tests received a certificate with the citation “particularly good results”. By the late 1950s, Rolex launched a new generation of movements which were up to three times more precise than the criteria for obtaining a mention.

FUNCTIONS
Centre hour, minute and seconds hands. Stop-seconds for precise time setting.
ESCAPEMENT
The escapement as described by Rolex:
“In a mechanical watch, the escapement is the guardian of time. Comprising a hairspring and a balance wheel, this regulating organ determines the precision of the watch by the regularity of its oscillations”.

Rolex patented their own Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring. This is why Rolex can provide the highest chronometer rating for each of their models.

WINDING
Bi-directional self-winding via perpetual rotor
POWER RESERVE
Approximately 48 hours.
MODEL CASE
40mm Oystersteel
ARCHITECTURE
Oystersteel middle case.
BEZEL

Smooth/polished

WINDING CROWN
Screw down Twinlock winding crown.

 

CRYSTAL
Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass
WATER RESISTANCE
Waterproof to 100meters/330 feet. The Oyster case requires a specialised tool to remove the case back. The name ‘Oyster’ is a clever name given by Rolex. It signifies that as a natural closed oyster is water tight (hermetically sealed) so too is every Oyster watch case.
BRACELET
Oyster; flat and three piece links
BRACELET MATERIAL
Oystersteel

CLASP
Folding Oysterclasp with Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link.
DIAL

Black, Highly legible Chromalight display with long-lasting blue luminescence.
The story isn’t over once you’ve purchased a Rolex, it is just beginning!

Each Rolex comes with it a worldwide five-year guarantee and ten year recommended service interval.

To know more about the Rolex Air-King contact us on 01243 782135. Our passionate and knowledgeable staff look forward to helping you choose a Rolex that will last a lifetime.

Gary Royston Cole