Amongst all the Rolex sports models, the Air-King is arguably the most polarizing timepiece with niche followership. However, for 2022, the Swiss watchmaking giant has revised the three-hand pilot’s watch to give it a much wider appeal it always somehow lacked. It’s very rare for Rolex to introduce such significant updates to a collection. Although you might not able to recognize all the changes received by the 2022 Air-King at the first glance, believe me when I say that all the subtle updates add up to significantly transform the sports model into a more likable timepiece. Here are five things you should know about the new Rolex Air-King ref. 126900 which will soon go on sale with a price tag of $7000.
1. Revised case design
The most noticeable change received by the new Air-King comes in the form of a revised case design. While the stainless steel case still measures 40mm like the predecessor, Rolex has updated the styling significantly to give it a far more athletic stance. The reshaped Oystersteel case gets broader lugs and sharp polished vertical case sides to make it look more muscular than before. However, the more prominent visual update is the crown guards similar to the ones found on the modern Submariner or GMT-Master II.
2. A proper pilot’s watch that’s more unique than you think
Thanks to the updated Oystersteel case of the new Rolex Air-King, it now feels like a proper pilot’s watch. This is further helped by a more substantial fluted crown design that beautifully blends with the new guards. The addition of crown guards not only gives the Air-King a sportier feel but also makes it a very unique timepiece in the history of Rolex. It’s the only Rolex to feature crown guards and a non-functional bezel.
3. The black dial has also been revisited
Look closely and you’ll see that the dial on the new Air-King features subtle updates over its predecessor. Although it’s still in black with the logo and wordmarks in green and yellow, Rolex has given it functional updates to rectify the issues of the outgoing model. The applied numerals are now filled with luminescent Chromalight material. The Air-King fans will also notice the numeral 5 has been replaced with 05.
4. Updated beating heart with Rolex’s latest movement technology
Housed inside the case is Rolex’s in-house 3230 automatic movement, bringing the Air-King up to speed with other updated models by the Swiss watchmaker. First released in 2020, the movement features Rolex’s patented Chronergy escapement and offers an improved 70 hours of power reserve.
5. An upgraded bracelet
Rounding out the changes in an updated bracelet added by Rolex to the Air-King to match the changes made to its case design. The upgraded Oyster bracelet comes with widened center links and an Oysterlock safety clasp. While the new bracelet might not be the most prominent change, it does go well with the rest of the upgrades that cumulatively help in transforming the character of the sports watch.