|Year of production (circa)||
Rolex Air-King Ref. 5500
If you like it clean and minimalist, this is your Rolex.
The Air-King comes with all the history you could desire. This particular example is a Ref. 5500, no date and fitted with a silver dial. They do not come much cleaner than that. The Oyster bracelet only accentuates the minimalist design further. This is one of those watches that will never go in or out of fashion. It is just very, very good. It will serve you in any situation, looking effortlessly sharp.
The handset has been replaced at some point during its life. The new hands are original Rolex and nicely matching in patina though.
Availability: In stock
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Rolex is well known for its watches aimed at specific professionals. As such, it is no wonder that the house has a long history in specialist pilot’s watches. From the 1930’s onwards, several variations of the Oyster Perpetual bubble-back were made with names like Air-Lion, Air-Giant and Air-Tiger. These were commonly bought by RAF pilots during WWII, as an upgrade to their issued watches.
In 1945, a single pilot’s line was launched to replace all of these predecessors: The Rolex Air-King.
Interestingly, the Air-King does not feature too many true aviation features. The archetypal pilot’s watch is big, with a matte black dial and white numerals and preferably a soft iron cage to protect from magnetism. The older Air-Kings have none of that. It is, however, a beautiful and versatile line of watches that is worth considering.
The most popular vintage Air-King is undoubtedly the Ref. 5500. A dual-reference that was also assigned to an Explorer model. To complicate things further, the Ref. 5500 was identical to the Ref. 1002 Oyster Perpetual, except for the dial. The Ref. 5500 was introduced in 1957 and lasted a whopping 37 years, making it the longest-running Rolex reference ever.
Rolex discontinued the Air-King in 2014, only to bring it back in 2016 with the Ref. 116900. A bit of an odd duck in the collection, with its busy dial with yellow and green details. It is, however, a fan favorite in the modern lineup, together with the equally quirky Milgauss.
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