Will Rolex Air King discontinued in 2023? There has been a great deal of speculation about Rolex’s new releases, as there is every year. The Air King is among the most discussed, speculated, and anticipated models. There was much expectation that Rolex would discontinue the Air-King reference 116900, and now it has become official.
The Rolex Air-King 116900 is no longer available! The Air-King 116900 was introduced at Baselworld in 2016 and is now discontinued five years later. However, Rolex still needs to discontinue the Air-King model altogether. Instead, they substituted the new reference 126900.
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Rolex Air King model’s updation
The dial of the 2016 Air King was criticized for lacking luminescent hour markers for 12, 3, 6, and 9. Instead, they were made of white gold. As a result, the numbers frequently appeared to be lost on the black Explorer-style dial introduced in this version.
The dial has been updated for the 2022 iteration with a Chromalight display and luminescent hour markers at 12, 3, 6, and 9. The number “0,” positioned before “5”, adds to the overall clarity of the dial. The upgrade improves the new dial’s unity and readability.
The 2016 Air King was slightly different in shape from previous models. It has more curved lugs and a domed bezel. Furthermore, the acrylic crystal was modified with synthetic sapphire for increased durability. On the other hand, the new one features a non-functioning bezel and crown guards for the first time! These new additions strengthen the watch even more. Furthermore, as is typical of Rolex, the 2022 version has an advanced movement due to the new caliber 3230. Calibration 3131 fueled the 2016 iteration.
Rolex Air-King: 2016 vs. 2022
The Air King has returned! The timepiece was first introduced in 1945 to honor British Royal Air Force pilots who participated in the Second World War. With a small case and a simple dial, the initial idea was very similar to that of the Rolex Oyster.
Rolex updated the Air-King in 1957 with a new case and dial design that matched the other Rolex Sports designs. Rolex discontinued the Air-King in 2014 but reappeared in 2016 as the Rolex Air-King Ref. 116900.
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In March of this year, the Maison released yet another iteration of the Air-King, which is the Oyster Perpetual Air-King Ref. 126900. At first glance, the 2022 watch may appear to be a reimagining of previous models. We can notice that a lot has changed by taking a closer look. For one thing, the body is shaped like the renowned GMT-Master II, unlike the Milgauss-style case design of the 2016 version.
Second, portions of the oyster bracelet have shifted. It allows for wider lugs to adapt to the broader bracelet. The bracelet is more expertly inspired than ever, with widened center links. Also, it is with an Oyster safety clasp for the first time.
Air King 116900 discontinued
Nobody was surprised when the Air-King 116900 was discontinued. It was even more expected. One of the causes is that the watch is driven by an older-generation caliber 3130. Rolex is
working actively to transition to new-generation calibers for all of its watches. This would be the no-date caliber 3230 for this model. The caliber 3130 had been in production for a very long time and desperately needed an upgrade. And, in the end, that’s precisely what happened.
Furthermore, there is an exciting backstory as to why Rolex may have felt that discontinuing the model was necessary. The Air-King 116900 was created in collaboration with the Bloodhound SSC task, for which Rolex produced cockpit instruments in 2006. This project aimed to develop a car reaching 1,000 mph on land. The instruments created by Rolex for the car were utilized as inspiration when creating the dials of the Air-King.
The Bloodhound SSC project faced financial difficulties in 2018. It was later rebranded, but Rolex was no longer involved. The Rolex instruments were thus excluded from the vehicle. In some ways, the project was a failure, and with Rolex’s slogan, “a crown for every Rolex,” the firm prefers to be associated with success rather than failure.
Rolex was no longer a part of the project that inspired the Air-King. Hence, it was time for Rolex to withdraw the Air King 116900 and consider replacing it with something new.
Rolex Air King 126900 after discontinuation
Rolex unveiled the much-anticipated Air-King 126900 at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 30, 2022. The Rolex Air-King 126900 is in typical Rolex fashion, replacing the earlier production 116900. It was, indeed, as expected and charged by the latest-generation Caliber 3230.
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Apart from the new dial, the most noticeable upgrade and change to the Air-King is that Rolex has added crown guards to its design. This results in a sportier appearance and a plan that better aligns with the Air-King.
In the end, the Air-King is a pilot’s watch. The 2022 Oyster Perpetual Air-King has its distinctions and similarities. It is one to watch, with a dial influenced by the Bloodhound SSC supersonic vehicle and color combinations of historic Air King watches. The Air-King 2016 was discontinued last year, focusing entirely on the new Air-King.