Rolex Air King

Rolex Air King

Why We Love It

When it comes to "budget" Rolex, there are few watches more attractive than an Air King.

The proportions are perfect, the movement robust and the styling timeless.

It’s not hard to make the argument that the Air King is the one of the most versatile models in the Rolex collection, as all it takes is a strap change to transform one from a black-tie accoutrement to a BBQ grill timer. Yet because of the Air King's wide appeal, so many of them got worn - and worn hard; The Air King was the everyman's go-to.  

This particular example dates to circa 1978 and features a strong Oyster case with 'holey' lugs, an excellent silver sunburst Tritium dial with a matching handset, and a stainless steel Oyster bracelet with a signed blade clasp - everything you need and nothing you dont!

These timepieces are incredibly versatile for everyday use, and can easily be dressed-up for formal occasions or dressed-down and worn as a sporty everyday companion.

The Story

Launched in 1945, the Air King was one in a series of watches released to honor the RAF pilots who defended the island against the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. After the war, spirits were riding high in “their finest hour,” and the fighter pilots were the heroes to whom everyone in England looked for inspiration. As an ardent lover of his adopted land, swept up in patriotic fervor, Wilsdorf’s company released models with names like Air-Lion, Air-Tiger, and Air-Giant.

Wilsdorf meant the Air-King to be worn by pilots, and many companies like Pan Am did indeed choose the Air King as a presentation watch for retiring pilots.

The Air-King went through many different variations throughout the model’s long run. The example that we offer here is a Reference 5500, which was first launched in 1957 and ran for 37 years. Compared to the earlier Air-Kings, which used Hunter movements, the Reference 5500 was the first to be equipped with the Calibre 1520 movement.

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. 


SKU: AS05181

Stainless steel case is approximately 34mm (excluding the crown). Automatic-winding movement by Rolex. Rolex Reference 5500. Circa 1978.

Overall Condition: The case is in very good condition overall with no signs of over-polishing and showing normal wear consistent with age and use. Luminous sunburst silver dial is in excellent condition with evenly patinated Tritium indices and matching handset. Signed crown.

Includes stainless steel folded-link Oyster bracelet with with signed blade clasp (7835-19/357).

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Analog/Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.


We back each Analog/Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.


All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states. We are happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.

International Buyers

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