Rolex Datejust - M126333_0019

While this year’s crop of Rolex novelties  revealed at Watches & Wonders in Geneva recently held some decidedly surprising new timepiece announcements, the stalwart Air-King pilot watch received a more subtle update. That doesn’t make it any less intriguing.

The unexpected release of the Rolex GMT-Master II (read more about that here), created a show-stopping moment at the Geneva show this year. But Rolex’s product approach is one of measured evolution across their offerings. In the latest version of the Rolex Air-King, some deft alterations fly this timepiece higher and even more into the target-center of a market-defining aviation watch.

In the world of aviation watches, you typically have a Type A dial, which is large, legible and relatively simple for the wrist of the person holding the yolk of the aircraft, and a Type B dial, which includes additional indicators for a flight navigator. As minutes count for more than hours for a navigator perfectly executing a flight plan, the Air-King’s use of minute markers in the traditional hour-marker positions on the dial have always pegged it as a navigator’s timepiece.

Compared to some other members of the Rolex world, the Air-King has tended to fly a little under the radar for Rolex enthusiasts. But there has always been something about the model’s elegant streamlined “Air-King” logo at 6 o’clock (really the only Rolex model with its own model-logo designation) and its technical-appeal blend of hour and minute markers on the outer dial that is utterly fascinating. For 2022, the revision only amps up that fascination.

Flight of Fancy

Inspired by the golden age of aviation in the 1930s, the Air-King was reimagined in 2016 with a distinctive black dial. That signature dial now sports optimized Chromalight for better, stronger and longer night time legibility. And, in a subtle but apt redux, Rolex has turned the “5” minute marker in the one o’clock position into an “05” marker. This slight change not only doubles-down on the timepiece’s pilot-appeal technicality, but also provides one of those transitional design moments that collectors appreciate. The cardinal hours of 3, 6, 9 o’clock carry large traditional Arabic hours, while 12 o’clock high is indicated with a bold cockpit-ready arrow. Bring the Rolex-green second hand on board, along with the green Rolex crown logo, and your flight plans are green-for-go.

The 40mm Oystersteel case also adds new crown guards to the overall package, another design cue that defines a new generation for the Air-King. Of course, for the handsome durability aviators crave, the new Air-King is presented on a solid-link Oyster bracelet and Oysterlock safety clasp.

An automatic Caliber 3230, developed in 2020, features a patented, anti-magnetic nickel-phosphorous Chronergy escapement with a blue Parachrom hairspring. The Chronergy escapement combines high-energy efficiency with superb dependability to deliver a 70-hour power reserve for the Air-King. In addition, the blue Parachrom hairspring is up to ten times more precise than traditional hairsprings and sports a Rolex overcoil that ensures proper timing in any position, even a barrel-roll.

Air-King is presented on a solid-link Oyster bracelet and Oysterlock safety clasp

Style is in the Air

The first Air-King was introduced in 1958, albeit without the outer dial minute markers. At that time, pioneering British aviator Charles Douglas Barnard said: “The peculiar qualities of the Rolex watch render it eminently suitable for flying purposes, and I propose to use it on all my long-distance flights in the future.”

Well, by all reports he did, and, even if your typical flying position is a row or two behind the cockpit, you should look to the Rolex Air-King as your perfect flying companion, as well.

Please visit a Ben Bridge Jeweler location near you to take the Air-King for a test flight, as well as explore the full line of precision-made Rolex timepieces. We’ll meet you at the gate!