Introducing the new Rolex Air-King Ref. 126900
Now with crown guard and illuminated applied numerals.
For the past few days, we've been watching Rolex teasers trying to figure out the "skywards" theme. Well, now we know what it's all about: an update to the brand's most esoteric steel sports watch, the Air-King. Today, Crown unveils a model that looks exactly the same as it has for the past six years. On closer inspection, however, key differences abound.
It features the same 40mm stainless steel case as before, with a satin-brushed Oyster bracelet and EasyLink Oyster clasp. It has the same black dial with yellow and green logos and wordmarks, and the same aviation-inspired numerals. It even has the same three, six and nine applied numeral settings as the Rolex Explorer. So this begs the question, what has changed?
Two words: Crown Guard. This thing has them, giving it a more sporty feel, like watches like the Submariner and the GMT-Master II. However, this watch does not have a functional bezel. That means this watch has a smooth polished bezel and crown guard. wilderness.
The next difference is in those applied numbers. They're now filled with luminous Chromalight material (like Rolex did when it updated the 39mm Explorer model a few years ago), making the watch more legible than previous versions. Fans of the Air-King will also notice that the number 5 is now 05, another simple distinction between this model and its predecessor.
Rolex has also equipped the watch with its in-house calibre 3230, first released in 2020. It is equipped with the brand's patented Chronergy escapement and a 70-hour power reserve.
Aside from Marlon Brando's GMT-Master II (which was a watch that lacked a bezel), I can't think of a single model in the Rolex brand's history with a strap guard and a non-functional bezel. It sounds like a tiny detail, but it's pretty obvious when you look at the watch. You can compare it to a 39mm Explorer or even a 40mm Milgauss over the past six years or so in terms of overall look and case design. These models are always able to span clothing and sports.
The addition of a crown guard elevates this watch to all-round status as a Rolex sports watch. But there is more to be excited about. I never liked the applied platinum, unscaled Arabic numerals that Rolex used in the last iteration of the Air-King. It certainly adds a "fancy" vibe to this supposedly instrumental and charming watch. The shiny numerals that disappear on the black dial don't do anything either.
By adding lume to these numbers, they instantly become more practical because you can read them in the dark. I have to give it to Rolex - they made a conscious decision to turn this model line into a full usable sports watch, which is the Rolex way.
Now, if you didn't like the overall design of the modern Air-King before, this probably won't do you any favors. But I kind of think this might just be the sleeper version of the Rolex line. All attention will be on the destro GMT-Master II. So maybe, just maybe, these will be available? One can dream.
Base Brand: Rolex Model: Air-King Number: 126900
Diameter: 40 mm thickness: Case Material: Stainless Steel Dial Color: Black Index: Applications Lumens: yes Water resistance: 100 meters Strap/Bracelet: Bracelet
sports Movement: 3230 Functions: hours, minutes, seconds Power reserve: 70 hours on chain: automatic Frequency: 4Hz Gems: 31 Observatory Certification: Yes