In a teaser before Watches & Wonders 2022, Rolex published a partial image of a watch with a smooth, fixed bezel and crown guards – a combination of features found in no current model at the time.
It was the all-new Air King ref. 126900 that gained a redesigned case and dial as well as a new bracelet and an upgraded movement. In other words, an entirely different watch, yet one that has the same spirit as its predecessor.
Conceptually, the Air-King is very novel for Rolex (just like the left-handed GMT-Master II) since it is the first Rolex to combine both a smooth bezel and crown guards. But it is still typically Rolex in its substantive upgrades meant to improve practicality and wearability. For instance, removing the soft iron inner cage means the case is flatter and sits better on the wrist.
The new reference is powered by the cal. 3230 equipped by Rolex’s proprietary blue Parachrom hairspring. This increases magnetism resistance while helping boost power reserve to about 70 hours, an upgrade from the 48 hours of the cal. 3131 found in the outgoing model.
Overall, the revamp of the Air-King is more practical than aesthetic since the look largely remains intact, although the watch does feel a bit more sculpted and refined. Having had the opportunity to experience the actual watch, it looks and feels excellent on the wrist.
All of the design tweaks to the Air-King serve to make it more sporty.
The highlight is certainly the crown guards matched with a new case profile. Rather than the rounded, convex flanks of an Oyster case, the case has flat and vertical sides that are reminiscent of the brand’s other modern-day sports models like the Explorer II.
And the bracelet is also sportier in style with wider links and an Oysterlock safety clasp, both of which were absent in the prior reference.
The dial has also been reworked, with “5” replaced by “05”, giving the dial better balance and symmetry since all minute numerals are now two digits.
The Arabic numerals for the quarters are solid gold appliqués filled with Chromalight, providing greater legibility in the dark as they were not “lumed” in the previous model.
Key facts and price
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King
Diameter: 40 mm
Water resistance: 100 m
Movement: Cal. 3230
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours
Strap: Oystersteel bracelet
Availability: At Rolex retailers
For more, visit rolex.com.
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