2016 Rolex Air-King

11:33 AM

With a legacy that dates back almost a century to the golden age of aviation, the Air-King model was re-introduced by Rolex at Baselworld 2016 with a few updates. The case was sized up to 40 millimeters in diameter and the dial now features a prominent minutes scale and large arabic numerals at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock. This uncomplicated wristwatch combines classical design with new aesthetic elements to create a legible display that takes advantage of the larger dial.

2016 Rolex Air-King Model (photo: Rolex/Samuel Scrimshaw)

Technical Details

The 2016 Rolex Air-King (Reference # 116900) is powered by a perpetual calibre 3131 self-winding mechanical movement manufactured in-house by the watchmaker. This movement features a power reserve of 48 hours and is also used in the Milgauss model. Inside the movement the blue Parachrom hairspring and paramagnetic nickel-phosphorus escape wheel work with 31 rubies and four gold Microstella nuts to keep this watch precise up to -2/+2 seconds per day. The Oyster case is made from Rolex's 904L stainless steel alloy and is sealed with a Twinlock winding crown, giving the timepiece a depth rating of 100 meters. Its Oysterclasp is equipped with an Easylink comfort extension that extends the Oyster bracelet by 5 millimeters.


One of the classic design features is the font used for the Air-King model name printed on the black dial, the same lettering used on models dating back to the 1950s. New design elements include the minutes scale printed in white between the large arabic hour markers in 18 ct white gold. The Rolex logo is printed just below 12 o'clock in yellow and green, a first for the watchmaker. The seconds hand also features a green color, the hallmark color of the watchmaker. The triangular marker at 12 o'clock and the hands are filled with Chromalight luminescence for visibility at night.


While the larger size of this model configuration makes the display more visible in daylight, the lack of luminescence on the hour markers makes it more difficult to tell the time in the dark. The green and yellow logo may be a new feature introduced on this model, but it is debatable as to whether it adds to detracts from the aesthetic of the watch. At just 1 millimeter larger than the Explorer, this model offers similar functionality, however the luminescence added to the Explorer's arabic numerals in the 2016 model makes it easier to read in the darkness.


The appeal of the 2016 Air-King comes from the model's ties to the world of aviation. Generations of pilots have trusted Rolex watches to keep accurate time in the skies. While the watchmaker offers other pilot's watches, like the GMT and Sky-Dweller, the Air-King came first and therefor has the benefit of its legacy to keep it relevant today, even without the complications that make the other pilot's watches more appealing in practicality. For more information on this model, visit rolex.com.


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