The design history of the modern Rolex Air King is difficult to understand. How did a simple 34mm view of time intended for World War II pilots develop into the inspiration for a dashboard inspired by a supersonic car trying to destroy the land speed record? If the watch is part of a whole new line of models (perhaps speed?), then it doesn’t seem too far off the mark. ), that wouldn’t seem to be too far off the mark, but still designating it as a blowout is an interesting choice, to say the least. Regardless of this watch’s strange journey, I have actually found the Air King Ref. 126900 to be one of the best modern Rolexes on the market.
Unlike most models in the Rolex catalogue, the Air King is not the result of incremental evolutionary changes over the years. If you look at a submarine from 50 years ago, it doesn’t look that far removed from today’s submarines, and you can say the same for most branded models. Not with the Gas King. If you’re out on your own then older airs, especially airs like the Ref. 14000, looks more like a modern oyster permanent than a modern air.
The Air-king’s dial has luminescent markers applied at three, six and nine and five-minute intervals, which, despite its inland origins, actually makes the watch look very typey. If I didn’t know that it was inspired by Rolex’s partnership with the Bloodhound SSC project and its instruments, it would be easy to dismiss the Air-King as a flieger-inspired watch. Weather is definitely a pilot’s watch.
Apart from my opinion on the history of the Air-King, I think it is an amazing expression. Oddly enough, it has the same “professional” case as the GMT-Master II (including the Crown Guard), but without any kind of functional bezel, which may actually be a first for the brand. It’s really just a time-only watch, but the parade of numbers on the sleek black dial along with the green indication of seconds and the Rolex moniker make the Air-King Pop a cut above most of the models in its professional line (excluding, of course, the factory-set Ice Out piece and the model that showcases Rolex’s new hippie obsession with colours and emoticons.
The more popular Rolex models like the Explorer and the World Diver are cool, but they’re the dozen or so characters I inhabit, and probably where you live too. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I consider myself an Aunique individual, so if I had to choose any modern Rolex, I’d naturally be drawn to something like the Air-King. I think it’s cool to wear the most unintentionally weird watches from the world’s favourite watch brand.
If you’d like more details on my week spent in this observation, check out the accompanying video to this article, where I proudly stroll around my neighbourhood, modelling on my wrist and just having a grand old time Californian sunshine this time of year for everyone in the south.