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The Everest Journal

by Michael DiMartini April 08, 2022 4 min read

This year Rolex shocked the world at Watches & Wonders. They came out with a left-handed GMT-Master II with a green and black bi-color bezel (please do not nickname it the Sprite!!) However, that watch did not catch my eye and seemed a little out of left field - see what I did there?

For me, the watch that stole the show is the newly released Air-King. A watch that has had an almost visceral response from collectors since 2016, when Rolex re-released it with the infamous dial that was based on gauges from the Bloodhound SCC Project that Rolex had sponsored, that sadly failed.

The Video about is provided by Rolex to the press via their YouTube channel

I think a brief history of the Rolex Air-King is needed to better understand the watch itself. As legend has it, British Royal air pilots wore Rolex watches instead of their British issued combat watches. Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex had heard of this and decided to create a line of watches to honor these pilots. One watch in this collection was the Air-King and has stood the test of time. This particular model has come and gone from Rolex’s offerings from time to time, but with this latest release I feel that the watch has now become a signature model that will stay indefinitely.

Moving into the current day model, I am really moved by this watch. I know you are going to say I am a fan boy through and through and that I feel Rolex can do no wrong. Say what you must, but this Rolex is not your standard model. It brings the two families together, the Professional collection (Submariner, GMT Master, Explorer, etc.) and the Classic collection (Datejust, President, Oyster Perpetual, etc.) unlike any other Rolex. First, the bezel is this beautiful polished piece that sits atop the slab-like case of what dimensionally seems to be the GMT Master II case. The watch has both the elements of a sporty timepiece and a classic swiss steel watch. The case width has not changed, and continues to be 40 mm wide. The most obvious change is that the watch now has crown guards.

Image above from Wornandwound.com's coverage of Watches and Wonders

The previous generation shared the same case as the current Milgauss. The watch was anti-magnetic, due to the movement being encased in an iron shell that would prevent magnetic forces from affecting the movement. However, this did cause the watch to be quite thick and frankly wasn’t needed on the Air-king. I have yet to have the watch on my wrist, but I have spoken to others that have had the pleasure and the new thinner version makes a huge difference on wearability. The overall feel of the new Rolex Air-King was that it was dramatically better. 

The real discussion topic with the Air-king is the dial and hands. There are mountains of forum posts, blog posts, Instagram comments and internet prose about the dial of the previous generation. Many hated it, frankly the keyboard warriors tore this watch a proverbial new one. The mix of different styles, numbering, fonts and colors were at times a bit much and one had to get used to it if the watch ever found its way to your wrist. However, this new dial somehow took the off putting design of the previous generation and refined it. A few minor edits somehow really improved the way your eye looks at this watch. One particular edit that seems inconsequential at first, but does so much is changing the 5 minute mark to 05. Adding this basic symmetry to the dial makes the watch overall seem more organized. Also, adding lume to the center of the “3”, “6”, and “9” numbered indices adds a more clean whiteness to the dial that was missing with the previous generation. Overall, Rolex really did what they do best here, refine something to greatness. 

Rolex Air-King

The image above is provided by Rolex SA for the press

To go over another change that seems to make this watch a much improved refresh is the clasp. The clasp has been updated to the version similar also to the GMT Master, but is fully brushed instead of having a polished center link. I see this as again a simple change, but one that adds a bit of additional nicety. The addition of a flip locking mechanism gives the watch a bit more of a sporty vibe.

Overall the modifications to the Rolex Air-King were both needed and give this watch its own life now. Instead of it being a strange dialed Milgauss it is a true separate design that gives a sporty feel to such a historical timepiece. Hans Wilsdorf would be proud of his legacy at work.

If you happen to get this watch, or really any Rolex - take a look at our latest product, the watch wallet. It allows you to travel with three timepieces with ease.

The image above is provided by Rolex SA for the press

Michael DiMartini
Michael DiMartini

Michael is the creator of the Everest strap system.


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