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New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King was gone – did you notice that? We are sure many of you did, at the least, when we covered its replacement, the 2015 Oyster Perpetual at BaselWorld last year… But worry not, if you missed its brief absence, as the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King is back for Baselworld 2016, and in a few interesting ways. While it may not have the sex appeal or luxury cache as pieces like the new Rolex Daytona or Rolex Datejust 41, it’s actually been more of a surprise for a few of us, as it is not exactly something we would have expected to see from Rolex.

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

To begin with, Rolex traditionally changes and updates only when they feel it’s truly necessary – and the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King is no exception to that commendable rule. One complaint that was arguably more frequently levied against the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King was that the 34mm wide case version it was offered in were just “not large enough” for contemporary trends. Well, instead of just releasing an “upsized” model, Rolex dropped the old model, and two years later released a fresh new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King that addressed that issue and brings one of the more entry level models in the Rolex line-up back with a much welcomed 40mm-wide case.

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Citing the watch’s return to its aviation roots, Rolex wants this new larger dial to be read loud and clear. The first impression we got from the new 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King was that it has gotten so much bolder in its design that the previous version looked scaled down and extremely conservative. This new model fits a lot more between the Rolex Explorer I and the Rolex Milgauss.

The new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King is re-debuted with just one version with a black dial. While at 40mm-wide, its case design is virtually the same as the Rolex Milgauss, its dial sports basically the same polished 3-6-9 indices as the Rolex Explorer I before Rolex updated it for this year. It is an interesting mixture, that is for sure.

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Though, what is a truly unusual design decision to come from Rolex is the one that resulted in a mix of hour and minute markers on the same scale. Rolex is rightfully proud of its amazing history of tried and proven tool watch designs that have made it to the deepest and highest spots on our planet. The new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King with this dial design is one that appears to be a bit of a misfit in that range of tool watches.


It would be difficult to deny that reading only hour or only double-digit minute markers (or just simply baton indices) on a dial is considerably easier than seeing single-digit hours at some places, and minute markings at others. While I am sure it is something that one could get used to pretty quickly, as a concept, it looks and reads somewhat confusing at first – even if the new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King’s time-only functionality and overall good legibility otherwise leave little room for confusion.

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The movement inside the new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King is the 3131 in-house caliber which operates at 28,800 vph (4Hz) and has a power reserve of 48 hours. As with all Rolex watches, the new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King is tested by COSC and then by Rolex with their in-house certification tests, aka the Rolex Superlative Chronometer certification. This latter new test means that the new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King will be tested to run between -2/+2 seconds per day. Considering the entry-level (for Rolex, that is) price point of it, you can expect to get a properly reliable and accurate mechanical watch.

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

New 2016 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Watch Hands-On Hands-On

As an entry level Rolex, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King Ref. 116900 is likely to be a welcome addition to the stable for those who just couldn’t get into a smaller 34mm case. The unique hour and minute markers could take a little getting used to, but that’s really not the biggest deal. Again, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King comes in one black dial variety on the classic Oyster bracelet and has a price of 5,900 Swiss francs including tax.



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  • Wisco

    A mashup of the now old Explorer 1 and Rolex AD outdoor signage. But oddly, I like it.

  • SuperStrapper

    It looks like a crummy knockoff of a Rolex.

    At the very least they needed to put 7 years of Rolex R&D into a handset that isn’t as stale as any week old bread. It hard to even consider them iconic considering how many times they have been borrowed/stolen/plagiarised/homaged/whatever.

  • The Observer

    I love Rolex watches, but that thing is just hideous.

  • JPonce

    That Rolex branding looks like it came straight out of a tennis court.

  • ProJ

    So basically it’s a Rolex Oyster Perpetual with.. umm.. an interesting dial layout.

    Air-King? Seriously?

  • henry

    Looks like a Rolex promotional watch.

  • bill stevens

    I still can’t get into that Rolex engraving on the rehaut.

    • GatorWatch

      I was in this camp too but on the wrist it’s not a factor at all

  • HectorAsuipe


  • VladR10

    I’m trying to understand the difference between the 3131 caliber and the 3130. I thought they both have the pramagnetic blue hairspring, but the 3131 would be the version made for the milgauss. Seeing the air-king ticking a 3131 makes me question this. Their website mentions, regarding the 3131 in the new air-king, that it has a amagntic escape wheel made with uv-liga etching, a claim that I havn’t seen made about other calibers from their lineup. Could it be the same as in the milgauss, because of the amagnetic escape wheel? Any thoughts about this, guys? Maybe Adam could help us clarify this

    • vmarks

      Vlad, the milgauss has the soft iron inner case so that it can be more anti-magnetic. Because of that extra thickness encompassing the movement, the canon pinion has to be higher, so they use different hour/minute wheels to get the additional height. That’s probably the difference in movement numbers.

      • VladR10

        exactly, but if the same movement number is an indication for using the exact same movement, the milgauss and this new air-king should have the exact same movement, otherwise they could have labeled it 3130. so I googled a bit and found out that the difference goes beyond the canon pin: the 3131 in the milgauss has an amagnetic escape wheel, as does the 3131 in this new air-king. It was clear the 3131 had to be different in some way from de 3130 because of the numbering, but the reason it made me wonder as to what exactly the difference is, was the fact that I didn’t expect to see the milgauss movement in the airking

  • word-merchant

    This watch is the like the loan car you get when your real car is being serviced.

    • vmarks

      Have you ever seen the quartz Hublot that Hublot loans you when you’re getting your Big Bang serviced? THAT’S the loan car.

  • IanE

    Awful colour scheme; unbearable hour/minute display. What have the management been putting up their noses?

  • Simon

    I like it. It wouldn’t be my first Rolex but it’s got a certain quirkieness to it. The matching green seconds hand and logo paired with ‘Air King’ font gives it a kind of tropical vibe.

  • Roberto Rizzo Valvo

    Probably one of the first reviews of this watch so thank you for that. As VladR10 mentioned, I am still confused by the caliber that is being used, I was thinking of getting a Milgauss but I have paused now, would you care to explain the differences between the calibers used on the Milgauss and this Air King David?
    I can see that a lot of people dislike it but I have to say the colour scheme looks nice (black, green and yellow). I do to agree that it does scream ”I am unmistakable a Rolex look at my colors” but I still like it.

    • VladR10

      I googled a bit to see what i can find out about the 3131 in the milgauss. the same differences from the 3130 are mentioned for the 3131 in both the milgauss and the new airking: the escape wheel is amagnetic. I can’t be sure if this is it, but maybe somebody could fill us in

  • Wait, this costs MORE than the new explorer with the fat hands??

    • sakibahsan

      I am just as stupefied as you. I actually thought the price was a typo.


    no this is a definite no for me, the air king font, the air king name alone would bug me let alone the mix of hour markers and minutes which make a mess of the dial. so save your pennies and get a proper rolex at that point would be my advice since 6K is basically the cost of a very gently used explorer.

  • GatorWatch

    I guess we know where all the polished 3, 6, and 9s from the old explorers went! I would have preferred the same lumed numerals on this one but overall like the look quite a bit.

    • Theusernameyouspecifiedisalrea

      3s and 6s. 9 is just a flipped six 😉 or vice versa…

  • Spangles

    I’d take an Oyster Perpetual 39mm over this every day of the week.

  • AJoe

    A brushed milgauss with questionable dial design and colors choice… Such a sad fate for the ‘Air-King’ dinasty

  • JimBob

    I don’t mind the look, except it looks like a Shenzhen frankenwatch. Some kind of unholy Rolex Breitling fusion. At least there’s no dive bezel.

  • John William Salevurakis

    A dial designed by committee.

  • ZBT71

    I don’t mind the mix of single and double digit numbers. However that bright yellow crown over the green Rolex and the green second hand kills the whole thing for me.

  • Stefan Vorkoetter

    This is what they should have built:

    • henry

      Not bad. Me likes.

    • Sevenmack

      Looks as dull as every other Rolex. No thanks.

    • Seb


    • JayK

      Indeed, this looks a lot better.

    • Patrick M

      Man, you nailed what would have been an awesome- simple, classy design, in keeping with the spirit of the Air King. If they had made that in a 38mm size, I would find it irresistible and would have to get it. This would also be different than any of the other models. Instead they came out with this hideous, gaudy, incoherent monstrosity they now call the Air King.

  • Sevenmack

    Love the pop of green on the dial. Perhaps te first non-Cellini Prince Rolex I would ever consider buying. All the folks hating this watch should get out of their staid traditionalism and applaud Rolex for doing something new and exciting (for Rolex).

  • Stu Gots

    First impression….I like it. Maybe a bit too much going on with the dial. Looking forward to trying one on this summer.

  • WatchHulk

    Hulk like green second hand! Hulk find dial cluttered and ill-conceived! Hulk SMASH!!!

  • Mr. Small Wrist

    Agreed, dial is a little busy with too many disparate elements. It’s still beautiful, but I’ll have to see it in person to see how I feel about it. And of course( being small-wristed), I prefer the original 34mm case or the 36mm Datejust case.

  • doom loki

    -got the time?
    -sure, ten to two, i mean two to ten, i mean fifty to ten…
    -dude, you should buy a rolex

  • JayK

    Just can’t help but feel this is one hella ugly watch. I think they did a superb job with the Oyster Perpetuals, but this? I find the ‘Air King’ writing childish, the non-major numerals distracting, and the green colour, polarising. If the non-major numerals were regular indices, (or just a lot smaller), the childish font either changed or made a lot smaller, and the green colour replaced with silver as normal, I’d probably consider this over the regular Oyster Perpetual.

  • francois karm

    Real watch for pilots, cabin crew and all people who work in aviation where the unit is the minute ( start, slot, descent, timing, timetable, delays…)
    CHECKIN 0745, brief at 53. takeoff at 12, descent at 56, landing at 22….etc….etc….

    angle exept the 0, 90, 180, 270 degree are difficult to read and for a crew, 47 is not 58….
    this is why the use of minutes is so clever and classic since 80 years in aviation.
    53 is three marks after the 50 ….
    we don’t need the 90 degree as we recognize them quickly ( pilot all test their abilities to read angles).
    soft iron double case is very usefull when you spend 1800 hours in airplane with cumulative electrical and magnetic fields.
    white gold hours ( 3,6,9) are mirror and not visible at first glance wich make this watch a real precision minut watch….and we are use to double scale like altimeter….
    brush bracelet is perfect for gzlley and cockpit.
    green second make it impossible to mistake with minute hand.
    lum is enough as we have plenty of light everywhere in todays plane ( not like undersea watch).
    AIR KING IS THE BEST AVIATION WATCH done since years, thanks ROLEX.

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