Comparing the Old Rolex Air-King to the New Rolex Air-King

Comparing the Old Rolex Air-King to the New Rolex Air-King

A few months ago Rolex released a whole new Rolex Air-King at the 2022 Watches and Wonders show. To be frank, it was somewhat overshadowed by the new Rolex GMT Master II left hand version. Finally, we were able to put our hands on this new model, and boy are we frankly blown away with what Rolex has done with this sometimes overlooked Rolex model. Let’s lift off with this historic Rolex.

When the watch first came out, we wrote a piece about the watch HERE. We actually ask the question “Is this the best new release from Rolex in 2022?” The overwhelming answer was yes, but at the time of that article we had only seen pictures and not yet held one. As you know, getting hands-on time with a watch really can change your opinion about it. Wearability, size, function, and quality truly cannot be felt when you do not have the watch on your wrist. Pictures do not give a watch much justice.

Rolex Air-king bracelet

New Rolex Air-King Bracelet

With the new Air-king, the idea that pictures don’t do a watch justice has become abundantly clear. For one, the new use of the Oysterlock folding clasp instead of the Oysterclasp, makes a huge difference right off the bat. The bracelet overall has been dramatically improved. The lug width has been increased to 21.0mm from 20.0mm and the clasp width increased to 17.80 mm from 18.75 mm. The watch case is 40 mm wide and the increase of the lug width and buckle make the watch significantly more stable and comfortable on your wrist from the previous version. On to the case and crown.

Rolex Air-king crown

New Rolex Air-King Crown

Right off the bat, you see the new Air-King has crown guards, but they are more dainty compared to the GMT Master and the Submariner. The crown on the older Air-King is definitely thinner. It was hard to get the dimensions but comparing the two I would say the crown is about 30% wider on the newer iteration of Air-King. Function wise, they both feel identical. 

Rolex air-king new vs old

New Rolex Air-King Case

First thing one will notice is that the case thickness went from 13.20 mm to 11.72 mm making it a significantly thinner and more wearable watch. When I first saw the watch online, during Watches and Wonders I thought the case seemed like it was derived from the GMT Master II. I still feel pretty confident that the team at Rolex used that watch as a baseline for changes to be made, but the Air-King is its own case design. I knew both had a 40.00 mm wide case, but pictures can be deceiving so I grabbed my BLNR to get super accurate dimensions. The lug to lug is 47.25 mm on the new Air-King and 47.85 mm on the GMT Master and the lug width is 20.00 mm on the GMT Master compared to the 21.00 mm on the Air-King. The GMT’s thickness is around 12.13 mm, so both watches feel super similar on the wrist. I would come to say that the Air-King is a more refined sports watch, which seems as if Rolex combined the best parts of the old Air-King and the new GMT Master to create this really amazing watch. Overall, the watch feels incredible on the wrist, I may even go as far to say that it is the most comfortable Rolex I have ever worn. That is a big statement, but I really feel that Rolex is always continuing to perfect each model and this new case design may be their best to date. It would really be amazing to see Rolex develop a Milgauss with this case design.

rolex air-king dial

Dial of the new Rolex Air-King

The dial also saw some changes. The previous generation’s dail did not have the same symmetry as the new one does. For example, Rolex added a “0” in front of the 5 at the five second mark. They also added lume to the “3”, “6”, and “9” numbered indices. These two minor changes really make the dial feel more organized and cleaner. With watch design, one edit can make a watch go from nope to hope…to get the call. The dial changes really make that happen in this watch. 

New Air-King Movement

Again, all new. The older model uses the 3130, while the new watch utilizes 3230 movement. The new movement is anti-magnetic, has a 70-hour power reserve, and overall a huge leap forward in technology over the 3130. However, I would say many watchmakers love the 3130 movement from Rolex. I have heard many speak of its accuracy, perfect design and longevity of life before service. The 3230 has only been in use for about two years now, so we are all hoping that years from now the watch community feels the same way about this new caliber. Since this is a Rolex, I am confident in saying that you won't be disappointed with the new movement whatsoever.

Rolex caliber 3230

Is the New Air-King Still Anti-Magnetic?

The short answer is yes. Rolex removed the anti-magnetic iron shield, however kept anti magnetic properties by utilizing the new 3230 movement. This is probably a big reason why the case was slimmed down significantly and why the fit is more comfortable. Die-hard Air-King aficionados may be surprised to learn this fact, but essentially the watch has just been updated with newer anti-magnetic properties.


In conclusion, the new Rolex Air-King is new from crown to clasp. The changes made were leaps and bounds in the right direction. I feel somewhat sad, since this beauty was seriously overshadowed by the GMT-Master II left hand version this spring. I am not sure if the GMT Master II Left hand will have the lasting appeal as the new Air-King will. If the call comes in, do not hesitate to buy in my humble opinion, the best new Rolex to come out of the crown in 2022.

Hero image and picture of movement are from Rolex press website the rest of the images were taken by our team.

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