With a few deft tweaks, Rolex has given an overlooked model new life. The 2022 Air-King ref. 126900 breaks from tradition by combining several stalwart features of the brand in a novel way.
Keep in mind, it's not every year the Rolex refreshes a collection with changes this significant. The Air-King has always been polarizing, and this new model will likely remain so. But with a sportier case and all-around upgrades, the Air-King should have a significantly broader appeal than its predecessor.
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At first glance, the Air-King carries over the key design traits of the outgoing model. But there's one big difference: crown guards, which protect the crown from bumps and provide a much more sporty and robust character.
This is the brand's Oyster Case design you know and love from sport watches like the Submariner and other watches in its "Professional" line. Switching over to the new case might sound like a small change...but for Rolex, it's major.
Crown guards paired to a smooth, non-functioning bezel — this combination doesn't exist elsewhere in the brand's current or historical catalog.
The crown guards give the watch some much-needed character and, combined with the dial design, lend it a much sportier feel.
As part of an all-around upgrade, the Oyster bracelet also got a redesign with widened center links and an Oysterlock safety clasp.
Along with the 3230 movement, these are the types of upgrades you can expect in new models in general. Together, they're features that add up to make Rolex watches so beloved.
Previous iterations of the Air-King were rightly criticized for lacking lumed elements on their dials, which the new model rectifies to make it supremely legible and functional.
Another detail is that the five-minute marker now features a zero, helping it feel more balanced with the rest of the two-digit numerals around the dial. Rolex nerds will approve.
New Rolex models get the latest tech, and the 3230 automatic movement brings the Air-King right up to speed with the brand's most current models. As expected, it features chronometer certification and 70 hours of power reserve.
Just like the outgoing model, the new Air-King is still one of the most affordable watches you can get from Rolex. At $7,400, it's the entry point for 40mm steel sport watches from Rolex — and with its new upgrades, it doesn't feel like a compromise.
Movement: 3230 automatic
Water Resistance: 100m
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