Will Rolex Air King Discontinued? – When did They Stop Making it?

James Anderson
By James Anderson 8 Min Read
8 Min Read

Hey there! Have you been wondering about the future of the Rolex Air King, especially the model 116900? You’re not alone! Each year, watch enthusiasts eagerly await news from Rolex about their latest models. And this year, the Air King has been at the center of a whirlwind of guesses and eager anticipation.

So, here’s the scoop: The Rolex Air King 116900, which made its grand debut at Baselworld in 2016, has officially been discontinued after a five-year run. Yes, you read that right – this particular model is not going to be produced anymore. But hold on, this doesn’t mean the end of the Air King series as a whole. Rolex has a surprise up its sleeve – they’ve introduced a new version, the reference 126900.

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Rolex Air King Model’s Updation

Have you ever noticed how the 2016 Rolex Air King’s dial had a bit of an issue? It lacked luminescent markers at 12, 3, 6, and 9, which made the white gold numbers kind of blend into the black Explorer-style dial. This made it a bit tricky to read the time at a quick glance.

Good news, though! The 2022 version has stepped up its game. It now features a Chromalight display, which means those crucial hour markers glow in the dark. This change is not just about looks; it significantly enhances the dial’s readability. Plus, they added a “0” before the “5,” which really helps in reading the time more clearly.

Design and Durability Tweaks

Let’s talk design. The 2016 model was slightly different in shape compared to its predecessors. It had more curved lugs and a domed bezel, which gave it a unique look. Also, Rolex swapped out the acrylic crystal for synthetic sapphire, making it more durable.

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Fast forward to 2022, and we see some cool new features. There’s a non-functional bezel and, for the first time, crown guards. These tweaks don’t just add to the look but also make the watch sturdier. And, as you’d expect from Rolex, the 2022 model includes an advanced movement with the new caliber 3230, an upgrade from the 2016’s caliber 3131.

Rolex Air King: Then (2016) and Now (2022)

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. The Air King first made its appearance in 1945 as a tribute to the British Royal Air Force pilots of WWII. It started off with a small case and a simple dial, much like the Rolex Oyster.

Fast forward to 1957, and Rolex gave the Air-King a makeover to align with their other Sports designs. There was a brief pause in 2014, but the Air-King made a comeback in 2016 with the Ref. 116900.

And now, in 2022, Rolex has outdone itself with the Oyster Perpetual Air-King Ref. 126900. At first glance, it might look like a nod to the past, but take a closer look, and you’ll see it’s a whole new ball game. The 2022 model borrows its body shape from the famous GMT-Master II, a departure from the 2016’s Milgauss-style design.

What about the bracelet? It’s been revamped too. The lugs are wider to fit the broader bracelet, and the center links have been widened, giving it a more professional look. And for the first time, there’s an Oyster safety clasp, adding that extra bit of security.

Air King 116900 Discontinued

Let’s face it, the discontinuation of the Air-King 116900 didn’t really catch anyone off guard. It was more of a ‘when’ than an ‘if’ situation. One big reason for this was its reliance on the older-generation caliber 3130. Rolex has been on a mission to update all its watches with newer-generation calibers, and for the Air-King, this meant moving to the no-date caliber 3230. The caliber 3130 had a good run, but it was time for a much-needed upgrade.

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The Interesting Backstory Behind the Decision

But wait, there’s more to this story. The Air-King 116900 had an intriguing link with the Bloodhound SSC project. Back in 2006, Rolex partnered with this project, which aimed to create a car that could hit 1,000 mph on land. The instruments Rolex designed for this supercar were the inspiration behind the Air-King’s dials.

However, by 2018, the Bloodhound SSC ran into financial troubles and underwent a rebranding. Rolex stepped back from the project, and their instruments were no longer part of the car. The project, unfortunately, didn’t meet its goals, and Rolex, which always strives to be synonymous with success, decided it was time to move on from the Air-King 116900.

Rolex Air King 126900: A New Beginning

A Fresh Face at Watches & Wonders

Enter the Rolex Air-King 126900. Unveiled at Watches & Wonders in Geneva on March 30, 2022, this model is Rolex’s way of turning the page. The 126900 is powered by the latest-generation Caliber 3230, staying true to Rolex’s commitment to innovation and advancement.

Design Upgrades for a Modern Era

What sets the Air-King 126900 apart? Its most noticeable upgrade is the addition of crown guards, giving the watch a sportier and more contemporary look. This design change not only enhances the aesthetic but also aligns perfectly with the Air-King’s adventurous spirit.


As we wrap up our discussion, let’s remember the essence of the Air-King. Fundamentally, it’s a pilot’s watch, but it’s also so much more. The 2022 Oyster Perpetual Air-King carries this legacy forward with its unique blend of tradition and innovation.

The latest Air-King is a fascinating watch to keep an eye on. Its dial, with an aesthetic influenced by the Bloodhound SSC supersonic vehicle, pays homage to speed and daring. The color combinations echo the historic Air King watches, creating a perfect bridge between the past and the present.

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With the discontinuation of the 2016 Air-King last year, Rolex has turned its full attention to the new Air-King. This isn’t just about replacing an old model with a new one; it’s about evolving a legend. The Air-King continues to soar, capturing both the spirit of aviation and the relentless pursuit of excellence that Rolex embodies.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Rolex Air King being discontinued?

As of now, there has been no official announcement from Rolex regarding the discontinuation of the Rolex Air King. However, there have been rumors circulating about the brand possibly discontinuing the model.

2. When did Rolex stop making Air King?

The previous generation Rolex Air-King ceased production in 2014. The line was then relaunched in 2016 with a new model featuring a larger case size and updated dial design.

3. Why would Rolex discontinue the Air King?

There are many factors that may contribute to Rolex discontinuing a specific model, but there is no evidence to suggest that they are planning on ceasing production of the Air King anytime soon.

4. Is the Air King a popular Rolex model?

The Rolex Air King has been a mainstay in the brand's lineup for nearly a century, with several iterations being released throughout the years. While it is not as popular as some of the other models in the Rolex lineup, it is still a beloved and respected timepiece among enthusiasts.

5. Will current Air-King owners be affected if Rolex decides to stop making it?

If Rolex were to discontinue the Air King, current owners would still have access to servicing and repairs for their timepieces from authorized Rolex service centers.

6. Should I buy an Air King now in case it gets discontinued?

If you are a fan of the Rolex Air King and have been considering purchasing one, it is always a good idea to buy a watch because you love it and not because of speculation about its production future.

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Introducing James Anderson, a tech enthusiast and seasoned writer who has made a name for himself in the tech blogging world. With a deep understanding of tech, Android, Windows, internet, social media, gadgets, and reviews, James has honed his skills in crafting informative and engaging articles. His passion for technology shines through his work, as he expertly dissects complex topics and offers valuable insights to his readers. With a writing style that is both approachable and knowledgeable, James has garnered a loyal following who rely on his expertise to stay up-to-date with the latest tech trends and make informed decisions.
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