High Flyer: Rolex’s Illustrious History within the Skies

English aviator Charles Douglas Barnard

Think divers’ watches, and one’s thoughts invariably turns to the Rolex Submariner; suppose chronographs for racers, and pictures of the enduring Cosmograph Daytona comes unbidden. Yet, from as early because the 1950s, Rolex has additionally been growing timepieces to serve a wide selection of different professionals together with pilots. In phrases of popular culture, Rolex’s aviation watches haven’t loved the identical widespread fame as its brethren. However, the producer has an illustrious historical past within the skies. For occasion, throughout WWII, it was a provider to the Royal Air Force and contributed to the English Top Guns’ eventual victory within the Battle of Britain.

First Oyster Perpetuel, 1931

In the mid-1920s, early RAF aviators had been issued with 30mm Rolex Speedkings, however its diminutive proportions made legibility a difficulty for pilots already coping with the numerous devices and counters within the cockpits. When a number of the veteran pilots began investing in Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches for higher readability, Hans Wilsdorf (founding father of Rolex) ultimately began to create fashions just like the Air Lion and Air Giant, that are the progenitors of the Air-King.

“The peculiar qualities of this Rolex watch render it eminently suitable for flying purposes, and I propose to use it on all my long-distance flights in the future.” – Aviator Charles Douglas Barnard on his Rolex Oyster

As we transitioned right into a post-industrial civilisation, spectacular progress in plane efficiency continued to increase our capability to overcome the skies, resulting in ever-increasing long-distance information. Among the early pioneers was British pilot Charles Douglas Barnard, who set numerous flight information together with his trusty Rolex Oyster. He as soon as commented, “The peculiar qualities of this Rolex watch render it eminently suitable for flying purposes, and I propose to use it on all my long-distance flights in the future.”

In 1933, Rolex Oyster watches accompanied the Houston Expedition because it made the first-ever flight over Mount Everest at an altitude exceeding 10,000m (33,000ft) in excessive climate situations. In 1934, Owen Cathcart-Jones and Ken Waller made a return voyage from London to Melbourne in file time with a twin-engine De Havilland Comet with a Rolex Oyster as their on-board chronometer.

With over 70 years of just about steady manufacturing (save 2014 to 2016) and out there in 31mm, 34mm, and 35mm case sizes, the Rolex Air-King was initially launched in 1945 with the Ref. 4925. In phrases of proportions, the Air-King fashions from the 1940s by way of to the early 2000s had been smaller, making the 2007 Ref. 114200 the smallest males’s mannequin one may personal. Today, the Air-King sits 40mm extensive, leaving the remaining sub-40mm class of Rolex timepieces to the Explorer I and Oyster Perpetual.

The newest era of the Air-King makes use of the identical case because the Milgauss. Therefore, it has the identical vaunted resistance to magnetic fields, bringing the mannequin firmly consistent with its re-positioning as a correct pilot’s watch. The new Air-King makes use of an up to date Calibre 3131, which can also be fitted within the Milgauss, that options Rolex’s anti-magnetic Parachrom hairspring.






While the Air-King is the final remaining member of Rolex’s Air sequence, different watches from the model had additionally been utilized by RAF pilots, together with a chrome steel Rolex Oyster 3525 Chronograph by the famed POW escapee Flight Lieutenant Jack Williams, however we digress.

Conceived as a “working man’s watch” (primarily for army males), the Air-King as soon as served as an entry-level Rolex Oyster mannequin. Since Baselworld 2015, that place has been held by the Oyster Perpetual, which has additionally taken the Air-King’s outdated reference quantity. That stated, regardless of its new worth place because the second-least-expensive mannequin, every Air-King Ref. 116900 is licensed as a Superlative Chronometer like all Rolex watches.

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