On the brink of when Baselworld was supposed to occur, rumors are flying around the watch world about what to expect of Rolex in 2020. As the coronavirus surges around the world affecting all markets, we wonder how this will affect Rolex and the watch world (but that’s for another read). The New York reveal is still scheduled to occur, but it will most likely be a much smaller event if it occurs at all. We’re still exploring what to expect, and one thought is - will we see the Rolex Air-King anymore, or will Rolex cancel production on that model?
Rolex has embodied evolution, not revolution. Its product releases are pretty reliable (and oftentimes predictable). But, there are rare instances where Rolex does something to break its tradition. For example, the latest generation of the Air-King - the 116900. Shop Everest Bands for this model here.
With its original debut in 2016, the naysayers flocked to the field because of the lack of similarities to previous Air-Kings. But once it hit the people’s wrists, the voiced opinions began to change.
The Air-King has always been popular for its simplicity and robustness - created in honor of the RAF pilots of the Battle of Britain. With the 116900, many eyebrows were raised at the drastic change - including its new association.
Sporting five lines of text on the dial, it also features the Rolex logo and text in two different colors for the first time. This creates a much more complicated dial and contrasts with its predecessor. The dial strikes a more resounding resemblance to the Bloodhound SSC instrument panel.
In 2014, Rolex announced it was supporting the Bloodhound supersonic car’s attempt to hit 1000mph. After many years of maintaining a relationship between speed and timekeeping, Rolex provided Andy Green - the driver - with an incredible legible reference for the speedometer and chronograph. Green notes the instruments: “will not only give me a visual reference of the speed, both in acceleration and most importantly on braking, but also help during the precise turnaround the car will have to go through in a limited time.”
The Bloodhound Supersonic jet car’s first test was a success. We can only assume the Air-King (released just two years later) was a tribute to this success as the Air-King’s dial strikes a strong resemblance to the two analogue dashboard instruments. The distinctive dial represents a willingness to step outside the box and break boundaries. With its original roots in wartime pilots and now influenced by pioneers of land speed, it’s a watch with risk-taking built-in. This may be why Rolex took such drastic risks with the Air-King line.
With such opposite and strong opinions of the watch, there are rumors flying that the Air-King will be discontinued. Additionally, it could be said that with the drastic changes and unique but record breaking association we have observed with this model, the 1169900 will close out an era on the Air-King. We will just have to wait and see.