Rolex Air King
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Rolex Air King

Rolex. If you ask any person on the street to name a watch brand, that's probably the first name that would spring to mind. It holds connotations of success--if you own one, you've arrived. 

There's weight in the name: two syllables, hard consonants, easy to remember. When Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf conceived of the name in the 1900s, he had one requirement: that it be easy to pronounce by people around the world, no matter their language. He claimed that it came to him while riding a horse-drawn bus through the streets of London, and never revealed just what it was supposed to mean (if it was ever supposed to mean anything at all).

Some say it sounds like the noise of a watch being wound; others, that it comes from the phrase "hoROLogical EXcellence." 

Whatever its origin, the watches that the brand has produced over its more than a century of existence are as easily recognizable as the name is easy to remember. Surprisingly, the brand hasn't introduced that many entirely new models in the past two or so decades. Instead, The Crown concentrates on the tried and true, tweaking or improving existing models.

Because with Rolex, it's not about innovation, it's about refinement. 

So when Rolex announced at the 2016 Baselworld Fair that the Air King model--produced from the 1930s and discontinued in 2014--was going to be reissued, it created something of a furor on watch fora and social media. Opinions were polarized, but the one question that seemed to ring out was--why? Still, it got people talking, and it thrust earlier examples of the model back into horological collective consciousness. 

Since the 1930s, the Air King was the entry level Rolex--simpler and more modestly-priced compared to the sports or dress models--and was often passed over because of that fact. Built upon the slim but sturdy 34mm Oyster Case foundation, the Air King is one of the more spartan Rolex designs, with simple stick markers, baton hands, and no date. And while recent trends have deemed the Air King a bit on the small side, modern manufactures are beginning to re-focus on slimmer, simpler cases, making this svelte, classy design totally en vogue.

The Air King Reference 5500 (produced from 1957 to 1994) is a tremendously desirable timepiece by any standard, combining a self-winding Calibre 1520 in-house movement with Rolex's signature Oyster Case. Many dial colors were used during that period, from silver to the black (featured here), which is perhaps the most visually-arresting of them all.

The dial of this particular Air King has gained a fine patina over time, and on an Oyster bracelet, it makes it an ideal candidate for both the new Rolex enthusiast or the confident collector searching for a sleek addition to his/her cache.

Details

SKU: AS01881

Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 34mm (excluding crown). Rolex Air King Reference 5500. Rolex Caliber 1520 Self-Winding Movement. c. 1978

Overall Condition: Stainless steel Oyster case is in very good condition, with minimal signs of use and wear. Black dial is in excellent condition with fine even patina to the luminescent elements. Rolex crown. Rolex case back shows some signs of wear but is in otherwise good condition.

Includes one 19mm Rolex Oyster bracelet. Bracelet has some signs of use and wear but is in otherwise good condition. Also includes two 19mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle.

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