This Rolex has undergone a thorough inspection of water resistance, accuracy, functionality and condition to determine the level of reconditioning required to meet our strict standards. It has also been referenced against technical documents and manufacturer records where available to ensure authenticity and a clean history.

Rolex Air-King 116900 case

Of course, the Air-King isn’t an awkward 12-year-old with questionable taste in fashion. It’s a Rolex, which means it’s nothing less than immaculately put together. It boasts Rolex’s Superlative Chronometer certification—undergoing 15 days of rigorous testing to ensure exceptional precision—and is water resistant down to 300 meters. The 40mm steel case is robust and good-looking, and the watch comes on the eternally sophisticated Oyster bracelet. So far, so usual.

But that’s where the new Air-King veers off course from Rolex’s usually staid, polished perfection. The Air-King’s popularity has always been down to its simplicity and robustness. It was a no frills timepiece originally created in honour of the RAF pilots of the Battle of Britain, the almost-legendary heroes of the sky who required a watch of similar hardiness. The 2016 edition still has that—but Rolex has added an extra touch of personality to the watch which, as with any drastic change to a Rolex staple, has left some raising a curious brow and others apoplectic with rage.This is why I find the new Air-King so endearing. Originally inspired by the derring-do of wartime pilots, and now influenced by the pioneers of land speed, it’s a watch with risk-taking built into its very DNA. It needs to catch your attention, do things a little differently, and remind us of Rolex’s uncanny ability to venture far from its own comfort zone—because this isn’t the first time the brand has broken the mould. Take, for example, the Daytona ‘Paul Newman’ dial—though unpopular in its own time because of its atypical dial, it’s now one of those once-in-a-lifetime timepieces.

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