Rolex Air-King

Air King Before After 2 copyAir King Before After copy

The Rolex Air-King is one of the longest running models in the company’s history. The story of the watch begins during WWII, when Rolex produced its SpeedKing model for British RAF pilots. When the war drew to a close, Rolex chose to honor the pilots by creating a new watch line inspired by the SpeedKing that was so popular with servicemen. The new watches were dubbed the Air-Lion, Air-Giant, Air-Tiger, and the only model to stand the test of time, the Air-King.

For a long time the Air-King remained one of Rolex’s flagship models, celebrated for its simplicity and beauty. Because of this, the Air-King enjoyed an almost 70 year run, and was finally retired in 2014. Recently, we  acquired 1950’s era Air-King in the store, and performed a full restoration.A historical treat to work on, we lovingly took decades of hard wear and scratching off the case, band, and crystal, revealing the timeless beauty of the watch, and sent it out the door ready for 60 more years.  A true classic!

For more information, check out our watch restoration, repair and refinishing services page!


History of the Waterproof Watch

hermetic watch

An early “hermetic” design waterproof watch, with separate exterior case.

Watches and other forms of personal timekeeping machines date all the way back to the “clock watches” of the 16th century, however wristwatches only made a mainstream appearance in the 1940’s.

One of the main obstacles facing wristwatches was they were more vulnerable to the elements; shocks and impacts, dust, moisture, and temperature. A pocketwatch, by contrast, is safely housed in the wearer’s waistcoat. In addition “bracelet watches” were considered an object of women’s fashion, and were slow to cross over gender lines in the conservative social climate of the Victorian era.RolexOysterandMercedesGleitzes_zps0637f67b

Ad for 1927 Rolex Oyster, which accompanied distance swimmer Mercedes Gleitzer across the English Channel.

This  changed with the development of sporting watches. The need for waterproof, easily readable timepieces fostered the development of the dive watch, which addressed the issues of environmental vulnerability. The first solution to this problem was to literally place the pocketwatch in a case (much like our smartphones today). These “hermetic” watches watches were bulky and problematic, so the next step was to integrate the waterproofing into the actual case of the watch. The main problem spot was the crown, which led to the development of the screw down crown, notable among which was a patent by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf 1926 patent for a double threaded locking screw-down crown, which became the hallmark of the Rolex oyster series. While these worked well for swimming depth, the credit for the first watch capable of serious dives goes to the 1932 Omega Marine, which oddly enough reverted back to the external case design.


The 1932 Omega Marine, the first true diving watch.

However Rolex would ultimately retake its diving crown in 1960, with the famous “Deep Sea Special” which accompanied diver Jaques Piccard strapped to the outside of his diving vessel as he descended into the Marianas Trench. The watch spent 20 minutes at the deepest spot in the ocean, at a depth of 32,797ft (a pressure equivalent to roughly 10 SUV’s), and came up ticking. While most of us hardly ever go deeper than a few feet with our watches, the Deep Sea Special finally cemented the primacy of wristwatches among timekeeping accessories.ROLEX Deep Sea Special 04

the Rolex Deep Sea Special, the first watch to dive to the bottom of the Marianas trench, the domed crystal distributes the extreme pressure exerted on it. 

Oceanside Jewelers offers a full line of watch repair services, (including water resistance testing), check out our watch repair page!