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The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King 126900 (Specs & Price)

Two weeks in the past, throughout Watches and Wonders, Rolex launched its new assortment for 2022… One thing you hardly have missed, I imagined. As traditional, the Crown cut up its launches between two highlights (the Air-King and the Lefty GMT-Grasp II) and a few evolutions on current fashions. All in all, typical Rolex strategy to do issues, with a fairly conservative evolution of the gathering fairly than one thing solely new. This yr, nonetheless, I personally discovered the Crown to be a bit extra inventive than traditional – comparatively talking, after all. A Destro GMT on one aspect and a revamp of essentially the most controversial mannequin on the opposite. Right this moment, we’ll be wanting carefully on the new Rolex Air-King 126900, a watch that continues to be form of an exception inside the assortment, a watch that retains its general look, however a watch that has modified greater than you would possibly suppose at first. 

The Air-King through the years

Much more than the Explorer, the Rolex Air-King tends to be ignored and fewer thought of than fashions such because the Submariner, the GMT-Grasp or the Datejust. One of many model’s most long-lasting collections, the Air-King was launched in 1945 and supposed as an entry-level mannequin, following a number of “Air” watches produced by Rolex throughout WWII for pilots. Measuring 34mm in diameter, it was fairly giant again within the days – therefore the “King” within the identify – but additionally was a reasonably easy time-only watch.

A Rolex Air-King 4925 – picture by Sotheby’s

A number of early references shall be made – 4925, 4499 or 6652 – however it’s principally the following reference 5500, a watch launched in 1957 and produced for greater than 30 years, that may give the watch its recognition. A 34mm Oyster case, an computerized calibre 1520 or 1530, a traditional look with a clear dial, baton markers and no-nonsense design… The Rolex Air-King 5500 is usually thought of the little brother to the marginally bigger and much more instrumental Explorer 1016. Over the whole course of its lengthy profession, the Air-King 5500 has recognized a number of evolutions however general remained the identical easy, worth proposition Rolex Oyster watch. Subsequent to the time-only mannequin, Rolex launched in 1958 a date mannequin below the reference 5700.

A Rolex Air-King 5500 – picture by AnalogShift

On the finish of the Nineteen Eighties, Rolex up to date the Air-King with a brand new case, a brand new motion and principally a brand new dial design. The reference 14000 certainly got here for some variations with 3-6-9 utilized markers (a bit just like the Explorer, however not luminous) and stick markers between them. Different dials, extra traditional with solely baton markers, had been obtainable. Updates concern the arrival of the Calibre 3000 and sapphire crystals. However the 34mm diameter remained. The reference 14010 added an engine-turned bezel, for a extra luxurious look. In 2000, these watches will obtain a mechanical replace, with the calibre 3130.

A Rolex Air-King 14000 – Picture by Steiner

In 2007, Rolex once more up to date the Air-King with the references 114200 (easy bezel) and 114210 (engine-turned bezel). And whereas the bottom motion remained the 3130, it was now chronometer-certified. This 34mm entry-level assortment shall be discontinued in 2014. And what got here subsequent shall be fairly a shock. For an in depth historical past of the Air-King, check out this text by rescapement.com right here.

A Rolex Air-King 114200 – Picture by Steiner

The Oddity, the Air-King 116900

After a two-year interval with out an Air-King within the assortment, Rolex shocked the lots with one among its most daring fashions so far… And fairly a drastic change in comparison with the earlier watches. Gone was the entry-level concept. Gone was the discreet look. Gone was the 34mm case. The 2016 Rolex Air-King 116900 was far bigger, flashy, and designed like nothing else the model had ever produced. And right here comes what definitely is essentially the most controversial watch Rolex has ever launched.

The 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King 116900

The intention was clear; to make a watch that lives as much as its identify, thus a pilot’s watch. However the odd, polarizing dial of the 116900 didn’t come out of the blue. It was really modelled after the sprint devices discovered contained in the Bloodhound Tremendous Sonic Automobile, with which Rolex partnered. Effectively, the automotive didn’t break data, and Rolex left the mission after some time. However the design of the dial stayed and made the now-40mm Air-King fairly a particular watch within the model’s portfolio.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King ref. 116900 40mm - Baselworld 2016The 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King 116900

The 116900 is loosely based mostly on the Milgauss, with the identical 40mm case, the identical motion (calibre 3131) and the identical blue paramagnetic Parachrom hairspring – as a result of pilots want antimagnetic watches. The dial not solely incorporates a shiny black base with utilized 3-6-9 numerals and an enormous triangle at 12 o’clock, but additionally Mercedes fingers, a inexperienced lollipop seconds hand, a yellow Coronet emblem and enormous Arabic numerals each 5 minutes. Actually, this couldn’t be extra polarizing…

The brand new Air-King 126900

By some means, wanting on the present Rolex assortment, we had the sensation that the Air-King was due an replace. It was one of many final watches with a 31xx motion, and because the model had nothing to do anymore with Bloodhound SSC, the entire idea was probably not related anymore. And, in all equity, this watch was probably not a hit commercially talking and had been seen by many as an oddity… The Ugly Duckling of Rolex in order for you… We thus imagined the watch to be revamped, in a drastically totally different method.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King 126900

And sure, we had been incorrect. Rolex sticks to the unique idea of 2016 and as soon as once more makes a polarizing watch. But additionally updates just about each single component, making this Air-King 126900 a watch with a well-recognized look, however however a completely new mannequin the place not a single half is retained. Certain, we’re speaking Rolex-like evolution, and plenty of will inform that it’s mainly the identical watch. However in line with Rolex requirements, and taking a look at it within the element, many issues have been up to date or upgraded.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King 126900

Let’s begin with the case. Whereas the 40mm diameter is retained, the case of the brand new Air-King 126900 has been solely revised by way of shapes and proportions. Shapes first, as each side of the case is now sharp and angular, with out domed or rounded surfaces anymore. That is significantly seen on the casebands, which at the moment are straight and flat. Second, Rolex has modified proportions, with a thinner bezel, attributable to a bigger dial opening (about 0.8mm). The surfaces are nonetheless brushed on flat areas, and polished on the bezel and sides. These two elements mixed profit the modernity and slenderness of the watch, which feels visually lighter, extra up to date and extra refined on the similar time. Additionally, despite the fact that the case remains to be 100m water resistant, I had the feeling that the Air-King 126900 was barely thinner than earlier than – one thing to be confirmed later once we actually have the time to measure the watch on the workplace.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King 126900

There are different evolutions to be famous, such because the bigger lug width – one thing we’ve seen in current introductions, such because the Submariner or the Explorer II, which additionally means a bracelet that’s about 0.5mm bigger, and lugs which can be thinner too. Once more, a superb level for the watch’s slenderness. The Air-King remains to be outfitted with a twin-lock crown and a screwed caseback, however the flat sapphire crystal lastly has an anti-reflective coating. The obvious change is the presence of a crown guard module, which is a primary for a Rolex Air-King. It’d seem to be a element, however this fairly drastically adjustments the case feeling on the wrist, and provides to the tool-ish feeling of this pilot’s watch. Personally, I prefer it and I consider it brings fairly a brand new and distinctive character to the 126900.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King 126900

The identical type of evolutions could be seen on the dial of the Rolex Air-King 126900. At first, it seems like some minor adjustments to the earlier 116900 era, however really many parts have been up to date. First, and whereas the bottom stays black shiny lacquer, the dial is bigger than earlier than – and realizing what number of markers and indices there are on this dial, it isn’t a foul concept. This advantages the general legibility and readability of the show. Second, all parts have been re-dimensioned or redesigned. The utilized white gold 3-6-9 markers are nonetheless paying homage to the Explorer, and similar to this watch, they’re now stuffed with Chromalight luminous materials. The identical goes for the triangle at 12 o’clock, despite the fact that this component was already luminous within the 116900.

Then, in the event you look carefully on the 5-minute markers, they’ve been reshaped too, and the font is now pretty thinner, whereas the minute monitor on the periphery of the dial is bolder than prior to now era. And all of it feels extra coherent. For the sake of visible symmetry, the marker at 1 o’clock isn’t exhibiting “5” anymore however is now printed “05” making the dial extra balanced, thus echoing the 55 on the opposite aspect of the triangular marker. Altogether, the dial feels crisper and higher designed, despite the fact that it nonetheless is a few type of oddity and appears like nothing else within the model’s assortment. It’s nonetheless very a lot polarizing and daring, however simply higher outlined than earlier than.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King 126900

Persevering with with the dial, you’ll discover that the fingers have been redimensioned too, specifically the Mercedes hour hand that’s longer and barely thinner on this 126900. What hasn’t modified is the audacious mixture of colors and fonts, with a yellow Coronet, a inexperienced Rolex emblem with white “Oyster Perpetual” point out, the vintage-looking Air-King emblem and white Chronometer indication, in addition to the inexperienced lollipop seconds hand. However let’s be sincere, that is this audacity that may make the fashionable Air-King enticing to some watch lovers, as a lot as a good portion of the gathering neighborhood doesn’t prefer it. Truthful sufficient, the Air-King is proudly totally different.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King 126900

For the event of the introduction of the brand new reference 126900, the Rolex Air-King additionally revised its bracelet. As stated, it’s now bigger than earlier than between the lugs. It’s nonetheless product of Oystersteel, brushed on flat surfaces and polished on the perimeters. The development and luxury are… typical of Rolex. What’s new is the presence now of the Oysterlock folding security clasp with Easylink consolation extension hyperlink – which permits the bracelet to increase by about 5mm, significantly helpful in summer season. On the wrist, the Air-King 126900 wears like most 40mm Rolex watches, that means that it has presence but additionally is comfy and properly balanced.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King 126900

The principle, but invisible evolution with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King 126900 is contained in the case, because the Calibre 3131 is changed by the fashionable calibre 3230, which is present in most time-only watches of the Crown (Explorer 36mm, Submariner No Date, Oyster Perpetual). As such, it’s a Superlative Chronometer, with -2/+2 accuracy and it options the Chronergy escapement, a brand new geometry that, mixed with a brand new barrel and a extra environment friendly gear prepare, permits for an prolonged energy reserve of 70 hours. The motion nonetheless runs at 4Hz and options an amagnetic nickel-phosphorus pallet fork and escape wheel, in addition to the blue paramagnetic Parachrom hairspring.

Ideas

Objectively, the brand new Air-King 126900 is a greater product than earlier than. The case feels extra in step with the current fashions and is sharper, extra nice to put on, and sleeker. The identical could be stated in regards to the dial, which is solely a lot better outlined, extra balanced, extra legible and extra contrasted. There are additionally a number of enhancements concerning the bracelet/clasp, the motion and even the AR coating on the crystal. So sure, for about the identical value as earlier than (+200 euros to be exact), you merely get extra.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King 126900

Now, in a extra subjective method, I need to say that, despite the fact that many issues have advanced, I’m fairly positive it gained’t be sufficient to vary the thoughts of those that didn’t just like the earlier era. The Air-King was and nonetheless is a daring, totally different and polarizing watch. However despite the fact that it had its detractors, it additionally had its partisans and people will definitely be very happy by the up to date mannequin. Lastly, for individuals who favored me had been by some means attracted by the dial however discovered the watch unattractive on some points of the case, I need to say that the redefined proportions, the sharper and extra angular strains, the brand new crown guard, the bigger and higher outlined dial are all arguments to make me change place in the direction of the weirdest of Rolex watches. Oddly enticing it was, and it’s now merely cool, turning into a “watch to think about.”

Availability & Worth

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King 126900 is now obtainable (below ready lists, after all) from retailers and has already changed the earlier era in shops. It’s priced at EUR 6,950 or CHF 7,000. For extra particulars, please go to www.rolex.com.

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