Air-King: Entry-Level Rolex
The Air-King is a pilot's watch and one of Rolex's most affordable models. Made of stainless steel, its design is sporty, elegant, and functional. Steady but slowly rising prices make the Air-King a respectable choice for collectors and investors.
Rolex's Entry-Level Pilot's Watch
You can recognize Rolex Air-King models by their Oyster case, green seconds hand, and Arabic numerals from 5 to 55. The pilot's watch is simplistic in its design and functions, doing away with even a date display. The minimalistic aesthetic is rounded off with Arabic numerals and green accents, which lends the watch a sporty flair.
The stainless steel case is 40 mm across, and thanks to its screw-down case back and Twinlock crown, offers water resistance to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft). A three-piece link Oyster bracelet with a satin-brushed finish holds the watch securely on the wrist and underscores its role as a sporty tool watch. Lastly, the Easylink extension system lets you adjust the bracelet length – perfect for warm days.
Rolex has produced many iterations of the Air-King since its initial release in 1945. Some of the most famous references include the 14000, 14000M, 14010, 14010M, and 5500. In fact, Rolex produced the ref. 5500 for over three decades, which is why the pre-owned market has many vintage timepieces with this reference.
After languishing in the shadows for a long time, the Air-King has significantly gained in popularity in recent years. This is well-reflected in prices on the open market, with Air-King models increasing in value by 8% to 65% between May 2021 and May 2023.
5 Reasons to Buy a Rolex Air-King
- Affordable entry into the world of Rolex
- Sporty and elegant design: ideal for daily life
- Certified precision: recent models with a maximum daily deviation of +/- 2 seconds
- Collector's item and investment piece
- Great value retention with the potential to appreciate
Prices at a Glance: Rolex Air-King
|Reference number||Price (approx.)||Caliber, diameter|
|126900||10,000 USD||3230, 40 mm|
|116900||9,500 USD||3131, 40 mm|
|14010M||8,200 USD||3130, 34 mm|
|114200||7,100 USD||3130, 34 mm|
|14000M||7,300 USD||3130, 34 mm|
|14000||5,300 USD||3000, 34 mm|
|5500||5,000 USD||1520 or 1530, 34 mm|
|14010||5,100 USD||3000, 34 mm|
|5700||5,100 USD||1520, 35 mm|
How much does a Rolex Air-King cost?
You can buy the current Air-King (ref. 126900) from 2022 on Chrono24 for about 10,000 USD in mint condition. The earlier reference 116900 from 2016 costs slightly less at about 9,500 USD new. These two models are among the most affordable Rolex sports watches.
If you're looking for a Rolex model for 5,000 USD and under, you should check out older Air-King references. At 34 mm across, these timepieces are much smaller, but make up for it with all the charm of bygone decades. Not only that, but they are also ideal women's watches. More recent models include reference numbers 14010 and 14000, which change hands for around the 5,000 USD mark. The ref. 14010 has an engine-turned bezel, while the bezel on the 14000 is polished.
Vintage watches with the reference number 5500 sell for around 5,000 USD pre-owned, but you may be able to find a well-maintained piece for slightly less. Rolex introduced the ref. 5500 in 1957, and kept it in production for over 30 years.
Prices for Ref. 114200
The Rolex Air-King ref. 114200 is one of the more recent models. However, Rolex now refers to this timepiece as the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34. Watches produced between 2007 and 2016 feature the "Air-King" inscription on their dials. You can buy one of these timepieces in mint condition today for around 7,100 USD.
The Rolex Air-King With a Date Display
You can find the Rolex Air-King Date with a date display under the reference numbers 5700 and 5701. Plan to spend about 5,100 USD for one of these pre-owned timepieces with a distinctive Cyclops lens. At 35 mm, the Air-King Date is one millimeter larger than the editions without a date.
A Variety of Designs: Dials and Bezels
The Air-King has featured a diverse range of dials and bezels throughout its 70-year history. With bar indices, Arabic numerals, Roman numerals, rhodium-plated surfaces, and orange accents, Air-King models have a wide variety of looks to offer. The dial is available in different colors such as light pink, blue, red, or green.
However, the basic design of the watch has remained consistent. Its stainless steel case is the same shape as almost all other Rolex models. The differences are in the details. The top surfaces of the case and the bracelet are satin-brushed, while the sides are polished. The case of a vintage Air-King has a standard size of 34 mm, which is relatively small by modern standards. However, the Air-King didn't always come in an Oyster case. In the 1950s, Rolex used the Explorer case for the Air-King, resulting in a 1-mm increase in size. Thanks to the screw-down Twinlock crown, the final watch is water-resistant to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft).
You have three options for the bezel: polished, fluted, or engine-turned. Models with the reference number 114234 have a decorative ring made of white gold. Newer models feature a sapphire crystal, giving the wearer a clear view of the dial, while vintage ref. 5500 timepieces come with acrylic glass.
The History of the Rolex Air-King
Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf developed this timepiece in honor of pilots from the British Royal Air Force. The RAF had used Rolex watches before the start of the Second World War. Their 34-mm cases were larger and more reliable than the standard models used by the Air Force. Towards the end of the 1930s, Wilsdorf developed a line of watches with the names "Air-Lion," "Air-Tiger," "Air-Giant," and "Air-King." After the end of the war, Rolex only continued producing the Air-King and made it available to the public.