The Rolex Air King 116 900 is not a strange watch, it is a strange Rolex.
When it was unveiled, at the 2016 Basel Fair, it generated some strong comments: " The dial is too messy " was one of the comments we could most often read.
It is not every day you can see a Rolex reference which doesn't look like another one. The GMT MASTER has its own personality, so is the Submariner, the Sea Dweller, at the exception of the Deep Sea Dweller James Cameron, the Daytona and so on.
No, there was the Air King before 2016, and now, there is the Air King since 2016. It is a totally different watch.
In fact, we could say that the new Air King is a blend of three watches / Instruments:
- The Explorer, with its white gold applied 3 / 6 / 9 hours markers. ( Credit picture: Unknown ):
- The Milgauss, for its case, its soft iron dust cover, and the movement, the Cal 3131 and its blue parachrom spiral. Yes, yes, you read well, the Air King is, like the Milgauss, an anti magnetic watch... And a chronometer, as well, with an accuracy of -2 / +2 seconds per day, and, to be complete, a power reserve of 48 hours. Without forgetting a bit of its madness!
- The Bloodhood Rocket Car Chronograph and Speedometer, with their yellow and green touches and the white minutes markers, made in 2014, with some obvious elements of style / design, not to say madness, borrowed by the new Air King.
After the first moments of surprise, you have the confirmation that you face something really special, not a cheap Milgauss, but a real anti magnetic watch, and if you go farther in the reflexion, the new Air King makes sense...
Indeed, the Air King is an evocation of:
- A pilot instrument,
- Working in hostile magnetic forces.
And then, you think about some pilot watches of the past, housed during the 2d world war, which have been revisited by some brands such as Glashutte Original with the Senator Navigator and its typical minute indices ( 5, 10, 15, 20 and so on ).
The Laco ( Credit picture unknown ).
The B. UHR Family picture, IWC, Lange, Stowa and Laco ( Credit picture: Horobox )
The much more recent ( 2009 ) Glashutte Senator Navigator:
If we wanted to differentiate the raison d'être of the Milgauss and the Air King, I would say that the Milgauss is the anti magnetic watch for people working on the ground, while the Air King is dedicated to those who are on the air. Differently said, Scientists versus Pilots...
There is an important detail I would like to mention, here... The bracelet. On the Milgauss, the bracelet has its center link polished, while it is all brushed on the Air King. For a tool watch, a polished center link is not very à propos. Good point for the Air King, then.
Would I change something else on that watch? Yes, just one. I would opt for luminous 5 minutes indices. Indeed, as it is, the only luminous parts of this Air King are the hands, and the triangle at 12 o' clock... In the night, it lacks legibility, which is not very consistent with the spirit of this time keeper.
These are all the reasons which made me fall in love with the Air King, and at first sight. And a love which lasts, after 4 months of ownership.
Here, my very first hours in Valencia ( Spain ), with the Air King on the wrist:
This is a very special Rolex, such as the Green Milgauss can be, or the Yacht Master, or much older, the Explorer II Ref 1655 with its " Freccione ".
The former Air King played the card of discretion and sobriety.
Indeed, have a look at these former models:
The original, Ref 4499, from the 40's ( Credit picture Alex Pig ).
The Ref 5500 " super precision", with its Explorer dial ( Credit picture Ten Past Ten ) :
Or a later version, with its applied indices and glossy black dial ( Credit picture Amsterdam Watch ):
Or this superb 5500, with its linen dial from the early 70's:
Or the more recent Reference 14000, from the 2000's ( Credit picture Jacek ):
The design was " wise ", the case was small ( 34 mm ).
This new one is exuberant, young, fresh and mad looking, but, still, inspired, as we saw, and inspiring. Despite its strong and non-consensual look, I predict it will become a future Classic.
It is a true member of the " Professional line", along with the Explorers, the Submariner, GMT MASTER, Daytona and Milgauss.
I would even say that it is a bit in the vein of the Tudor Black Bay. A strong looking watch, revisiting and re inventing the past in a modern way.
Now the question is to know if this new Air King won't be considered as the most serious competitor of the Milgauss and will not kill it...
Looking forward to reading your comments and thoughts,