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Old 3 April 2018, 08:20 PM   #1
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Air-king 116900 review (rolex has likes to have fun too)

In November of 2017 I traded with my AD for a new Air-King 40 mm, reference 116900. As everyone knows by now, the Air-King is the Milgauss in all but dial, polished links and name.


I spend much of my work day with a MacBook. And I almost never leave the home or the office without my laptop. Enter the magnetism consideration.

I know there are different opinions on the magnetism issue, but I have observed two Rolexes with performance issues as a result of magnetism. So, for my everyday watch, I wanted a stainless-steel Rolex with good anti-mag properties. I also wanted a watch without polished bracelet links. Last but not least, I prefer a time only watch. Air-King was my obvious choice.


Exactly the same as a Milgauss. Yes, I could have gotten an Omega with a true anti-magnetic movement. But I wanted a Rolex. And there is something to be said for the old school faraday approach to building an antimagnetic watch. I will probably never see it. But I know it's there.


The Air-King sports the same movement as the Milgauss, the tried and true 3131. Ok, it is not the latest and greatest cutting-edge movement Rolex offers. But it is a robust movement that, at least for me, has consistently scored the +/-2 seconds Rolex benchmark.


For me, size does matter. The Air-King's 40 mm width hits my sweet spot. And the 13 mm thick case gives the Air-King an overbuilt feel which I like.


For a stainless reference, this is one heavy watch. Due to the double case, it weighs in at 152 grams. Despite its weight, the Air-King it balances well on the wrist and is very comfortable to wear.


I personally prefer a larger crown. And it goes well with the thick case.


Not much to say here folks. Songs have been written about the solid link Oyster Bracelet. Or they should have been. Great bracelet. And the Easylink 5mm quick extension is a charm.


Of course, the folding Oyster clasp is a work of art. But unlike the Milguass, the crown on the Air-King clasp is stamped, not welded. Not sure how I feel about this. I am pretty sure it is a downgrade in Rolex's eyes. But it does tend to leave less scratches on my MacBook.

If there is one thing I miss on the Air-King, it's the fact that there is no safety clasp. Not a big negative, but it would be nice to have.


Ok. Now we get to the controversy. Question: "How do you know you're a WIS?" Answer: "When you have strong, yes I mean strong feelings about the Air-King Dial." If you admitted this preoccupation in public, most of the world would think you needed therapy. But thankfully those on this forum understand why this is such a debated topic. It's a break with tradition. Right?

Briefly put: the black dial has a unique combination of enlarged white numeric minute indices at 5-minute intervals, larger white gold hour markers at 3, 6, and 9 and a white inverted triangle at the 12:00 positon. Add a yellow Rolex crown and a green second hand, and you have people fighting in the streets over whether Rolex has lost its's mind or is brilliant.

When I first saw pictures of this watch on the web, I said "What the heck?" And I just did not get it. I said, no way. Not on my watch. However....

The picture vs. the on the wrist phenomenon. I get the traditionalists. But my personal opinion is that much of the ado about the dial comes from people who formed opinions after looking at blown up pictures on the web. And in the main, not by those who have tried the watch on and pulled it out of their face. At least that was the case for me.

One day, I was at a local AD. And I got my courage up enough to try on the Air-King. Sure, I was a little frightened. But the AD said he had my back and the security officer promised to call an ambulance if I fainted. So I said decided to be brave and give it a go.

And voila, when I put the Air-King on my wrist and moved it out of my face, it looked like a different watch. The green second hand? The yellow crown? How can you even tell that at 3 feet away? How can you see that unless you are right on top of it? In my opinion you may notice, but it does not look jarring. Instead, it just adds a dab of color.

The one-month difference. Ok, I will confess, even after putting the Air-King on my wrist and taking it out of my face, the juxtaposition of white minute markers and gold 3, 5, and 9 hour indices still struck me as a little quirky. But I really liked the watch, so I decided to give it a go. And I have to tell you, after a month it no longer looked off-kilter. It looked right. Maybe I just got used to quirky. Maybe I came to appreciate it more. Who knows? All I can say is that after a month, the dial really grew on me. And if Rolex now offered a replacement dial without the white gold 3,6 and 9, I would say no. I like it the way it is.


This part of the dial is worthy of separate mention because it actually is "traditional." According to the Rolex website "It bears the name Air-King in the same lettering that was designed specially for the model in the 1950s." To me, the script has a bit of deco flair. And it goes well with the yellow crown and the green seconds hand.


Hands and 12:00 position. That's it. If you want full lume plots on all indices, this watch is not for you. Personally, if I am in the mood for decent lume, I wear my Sub C. But usually, I really don't miss it.


I have always loved this style on the Sub and the Explorer. Classic Rolex.


I will admit that measuring a wrist is somewhat of a challenge for me. Where on the wrist do you put the tape? How tight do you pull the tape? How in the world do you do a decent job with one hand? So, all I can say is this. If you can wear the current Explorer I or Sub C with no complaints, the Air-King will fit your wrist just fine.


No problems here. And because of its heft, it stays where you put it.


I wear my Air-King with everything from suits to beat up jeans. It looks like what it is: a no-nonsense well-made stainless tool watch.


I have seen many reviews and comments opining that the Air-King is only appropriate for the younger crowd. Could not disagree more. I passed the half century mark many years ago and love it.


Here is where the Air-King shines. As of the date of this post, Rolex lists Air-King's MSRP at $6,200 on its US site. The Milgauss is listed at $8,200. Except for the dial, the Air-King is the same watch for $2,000 less.


In my opinion the Air-King is a House of Rolex nod to its tool watch heritage. And a Rolex nod to its history of producing a relatively affordable stainless-steel watch. Like it or love it, there can be no dispute that the Air-King is no nonsense stainless steel antimagnetic tool watch, in a modern size and at a value price point.


As I said in the title, Rolex likes to have fun too. How do I know? Because I own proof positive. Think about it. How else can you explain a yellow crown, a green second hand and a dial which many call quirky, but all must admit is a break with tradition? I would submit - you can't. Unless, it is because the folks at Rolex like to have fun as much as the rest of us.

And I have to say it is just plain fun to wear this watch. The heft feels great. The case is tough as a tank. And the dial makes me smile. Let me repeat, the Air-King is just plain fun to wear. And for me that is what this hobby is all about.

So, if you want a well-made stainless steel antimagnetic Rolex tool watch at a value price point, AND YOU WANT TO HAVE SOME WRIST FUN, I recommend the Air-King, reference 116900.
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The King of Cool.

Last edited by mountainjogger; 3 April 2018 at 09:32 PM.. Reason: Typo
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Old 3 April 2018, 09:29 PM   #2
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Nice review, thank you!
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Old 6 April 2018, 04:21 AM   #3
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Old 6 April 2018, 11:46 AM   #4
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Congrats on selecting a perfect watch for yourself. Wear it in good health!

Rolex 116200 36 DJ BKAO
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Old 4 May 2018, 03:25 AM   #5
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Very nice review! I also bought a AK for many of the reasons you state above. The green and yellow accents really were key factors in my decision.
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Old 4 May 2018, 03:34 AM   #6
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nice review, i enjoyed it!
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Old 4 May 2018, 08:46 AM   #7
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The King of Cool.
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Old 4 May 2018, 11:32 AM   #8
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Great review. I appreciate you sharing your experience. It gives me a better appreciation for the current reference. The pics are great. Thank you for posting.

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Old 4 May 2018, 11:43 AM   #9
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Nice write up
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Old 4 May 2018, 09:07 PM   #10
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thank you!
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Old 5 May 2018, 01:44 PM   #11
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Great review on an awesome piece. I was screptical, but in the metal it really sings. I’d love to own one. Thanks for the words and the pics!
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Old 6 May 2018, 04:11 AM   #12
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Fantastic review! I ummed and arred between the airking an older black dialled non gv the end the millys face swung it for me and she was the one i took home,but it was a close run thing. Beautiful watch the airking!
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Old 6 May 2018, 05:44 PM   #13
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I like this review. I also went to my AD and tried this, it's a huge 40mm because of the thick case. But when the dealer told me they also have a subc with date, I just went ahead and got the sub. Everything you describe is what I felt when I tried it on.....but I just can't pass on a sub.
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Old 29 May 2018, 01:52 AM   #14
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Loving my AK. It has become my daily wearer since day one and everytime l look at it it makes me smile..

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Old 29 May 2018, 04:34 AM   #15
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Fantastic write-up. I was on the fence as to whether I really liked the watch and I believe your review pushed me over the fence. I do like it. A lot.
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Old 9 June 2018, 03:41 AM   #16
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Excellent review

I love mine
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Old 30 June 2018, 05:50 PM   #17
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Great write up that reflects everything I think about the watch.
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116900 , air-king

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