Rolex Air-King: Higher Level
The new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King brings an all new look to the professional category.
While we have dutifully covered some of the key releases from Rolex for 2022, we must spend a little more time on the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King reference 126900. Yes, we remember our pledge to get into the platinum fluted bezels, but first, the Air-King. This is one of a few models where change was expected — some pundits suggested it would be discontinued, which was probably too cynical in hindsight. Nevertheless, there was consensus that the Air-King was due for an update. As we noted in our Watches and Wonders Geneva opening video, all of us can feel warm and fuzzy inside for getting this one right. Good for us. I mean, even the specific changes were not unexpected.
- READ MORE: Watches and Wonders 2022 Day 2 Highlights
Having said all that, the Air-King arrives amidst a barrage of flak, and of course sighs of relief from those who like the model. To get to grips with the new Air-King, it helps to understand the last version of this watch. The history does not matter that much as the new Air-King is entirely contemporary (as opposed to the Explorer redux last year). In any case, our 2016 story covers all the important background. In looking at both watches, you will see the ‘5’ has become ‘05’ and we fully expect the Internet to go nuts. A minor point though it might be, this is probably a good fix. Not incidental here is the introduction of calibre 3230, with Chronergy escapement and approximately 70 hours of power reserve. On the dial, the applied numerals (3, 6, 9) are now Chromalight treated.
- READ MORE: Watches & Wonders 2022: Day 2 Round-Up
The case has also been beefed up to match the other Professional models, but the size remains 40mm. Crown guards have been introduced for extra protection and Professional-level specifications. While Rolex does not list the thickness, it did allow us to compare the new and old models side-by-side and there seems to be a marginal difference here. This is probably due to the new reference 126900 not having an inner iron case, and to the more angular shape. Again I stress here that all this is marginal and in no way even matches the 2016 update for this model, which brought the case size to 40mm. There is an interesting update to the bracelet, with wider centre links that we imagine will be standard for all Oyster bracelets, and we are seeking confirmation on that.
And so, this Air-King reference 126900 is the only Rolex model with crown guards and a smooth bezel. We have no doubt that it will soon be the first model with this combination of features.
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