The Forgotten Rolex Air King


If you are thinking about collecting vintage watches, the Rolex Air King is a great place to start. Here’s what you need to know about the iconic watch.

Your friends may not know much about luxury watches, but they know the name Rolex. More than any other watch in the world, Rolex has become one of the watches of choice for everything from company promotions to retirement and wedding anniversary celebrations. There is a timeless beauty and craftsmanship to every Rolex, which is why the brand has endured for over one hundred years.

The Rolex Air King

If the desire to collect luxury vintage watches just won’t leave you alone, then a Rolex is a great watch to begin to fuel your curiosity.

But which vintage Rolex watch, after all, there are some very iconic models?

Here is my suggestion. Learning the ins and outs of vintage watch collecting is much like any other learned skill. It takes some time and practice.

A great option to begin your journey would be the vintage Rolex Air King with a rich history.

Rolex Air King History

The earliest Air King watches are from 1945 and were meant as a tribute to the British Royal Air Force pilots. The founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf created a line of Oyster watches after finding out pilots used these watches for critical mission timekeeping during World War II. The aeronautical heritage of the original Rolex Oyster and the epic story of aviation gave way to the name Air-King.

A tribute to aviation and the Pioneers of Flight, the first Air-King was built as a pilot’s watch for use in the harshest environments. Early model Air King watches were designed for optimal navigational time readings.

With a simple stainless steel oyster case and smooth bezel, the Air-King was born.

Is this the most underrated Rolex?

In the vintage market of watch collecting the Rolex Air-King dial with a white gold hour marker represents solid value for the money. The list below is all 34mm dials. Note: Rolex bowed to market changes by introducing a 40mm dial in 2016.

Rolex produced the Air-King watch beginning in 1945 as a salute to British Royal Air Force pilots. The Rolex Air-King has a long and distinguished model pedigree extending up to our present day.

vintage rolex air king
1945 Model 4925 Cal 10.5’ (manual wound)

Other great Air King models to consider –

· 1945 Model 4365 Cal 10.5’ (manual wound)

· 1946 Model 4499 Cal 10.5’ (manual wound)

· 1953 Model 6552 Cal 1030 (self-winding)

· 1957 Model 5500 Cal 1520/1530

The 1957 Rolex Air King 5500 locked in the design that became the trademark look that earned Rolex its place with watch collectors. This model was unchanged for 31 years and can readily be found among vintage watch collectors worldwide.

rolex air king
1989 Model 14000 Cal 3000

Modern vintage Air King models –

· 1989 Model 14010 Cal 3000 (Engine Turned Bezel)

· 2000 Model 14000M Cal 3130

· 2000 Model 14010M Cal 3130 (*Engine Turned Bezel)

· 2007 Model 114200 Cal 3130 (Smooth Bezel, COSC)       

The 14010 model includes a bezel that’s a larger look on the wrist as opposed to other models. With the luxury watch market changing over to a larger wrist presence, the 14010 has been experiencing a rise in prices.

Modern Air King Models

I have not referenced the Air King models after 2007, as these are too new to be collectible. However, in the private owner market, a Rolex Air King in pristine condition often sells for more than its original retail price. Another testament to the respect and brand staying power that Rolex watches have commanded for decades.

Some popular new Air Kings feature a distinctive black dial, Arabic numerals, and an oyster steel case. A prominent minute scale is also desirable for optimal navigational readings.

rolex air king
The modern-day Rolex Air King

The latest Rolex collection of Air King models feature the Oysterlock folding clasp to prevent accidental opening. The exclusive Rolex Easylink comfort extension link is an ingenious system that allows the wearer to increase the bracelet length by up to 5 mm.

Is there a secret to finding the best vintage Rolex Air King deals? Yes and no, let me explain.

Rolex Air Kings are plentiful, so how can they be collectible and how is it possible they could appreciate handsomely over time? (vintage watch collectors of any brand ask the same question).

The Collectible Air King

There are several requirements for an Air King to increase in value. Here are some things to consider before purchasing that very special Air King.

· Has Rolex increased its retail pricing for the Air-King over time?

· Any external events that have affected model production? 

· Did Rolex introduced a new model of any series at a substantially higher price? (rising tide principal).

· Current availability for your Air King model year? 

Why Is The Rolex Air-King An Unsung Hero?

Buying Vintage Air Kings

Finally, the time-honored rules of any physical collectible, it’s all about the condition. If you are serious about your goal to become a vintage watch collector, then you want to purchase vintage Rolex watches that are original and as unworn as possible.

· What is the level of wear? Nicks, scratches, case polishing, etc.

· Are all parts original such as hands and bezel?

· What about factory accessories that came with the watch?  

For example;, the presentation box, authenticity certificate, the cardholder, and user manual. People usually lose these accessories over time, so a vintage Rolex Air King including these matched accessories is a home run with the bases loaded! It’s not uncommon for the value to increase by 20% – 30% or even more.

OK, let’s fast forward a few years after you purchased the perfect Rolex Air King and you’ve decided it’s time to harvest whatever profit the market will give you?

Is it time to set up a post on Craig’s List or eBay?

Selling Your Air King

If you do, you will shoot your profit in the foot. Choosing how and where to sell your sweet Rolex will mean all the difference, along with pocketing the most cash.

1) Do your research to determine what your watch is selling for in the current collector’s market

2) Stay on top of the vintage watch collector forums and find out where members are selling to make the most bang for the buck.

3) Check out online sites like Rolex Forums or WatchUSeek, or a classified ad site like Chrono24. Here are time-savings tips – WatchRecon aggregates posts from different forums so you can use it as a quick scan to keep abreast of what is going on in the vintage watch collecting world.