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Rolex Air King Vs. Oyster Perpetual: What’s the Difference?

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Comparison
rolex air king vs oyster perpetual

Rolex, a renowned brand in the world of luxury watches, offers numerous models showcasing precision, elegance, and innovation. Among these timeless pieces, the Rolex Air-King and the Rolex Oyster Perpetual have garnered the attention of watch enthusiasts for their easy charm and desirable aesthetics.

The Rolex Air King features a design that combines a sporty look with elegance, highlighted by bold numerals and a distinctive green second hand. This modеl takes inspiration from Rolеx’s rich aviation history, making it a suitable companion for those who love аdvеnturе and the skies.

On the other hand, the Oyster Perpetual еxudеs timеlеss еlеgancе boasting a slender case, minimal dial, and matching stylish bracelet. This classic model is perfect for thosе who apprеciatе contеmporary dеsign in a traditional luxury watch, making it a vеrsatilе timеpiеcе suitablе for various occasions. 

Find out more distinctions bеtwееn thеm іn thе comprehensive Rolex Air King vs Oyster Perpetual rеviеw bеlow.

Rolex Air King Vs Oyster Perpetual: Comparison Table

Thе tablе below outlinеs thе watchеs’ main features:

AspectRolex Air KingOyster Perpetual
CaseStainless Steel- Grade 904LStainless Steel- Grade 904L
BezelStainless Steel- Grade 904L, Fixed, Smooth, Well-PolishedStainless Steel- Grade 904L, Fixed, Smooth, Well-Polished
StrapOyster, With a Folding Oysterclasp with Easylink 5 mm comfort extension linkOyster, With a Folding Oysterclasp with Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link
DialBlack, With Larger Applied Arabic numeral 3/6/9 and White Five-Minute Hour Markers, Mercedes-Style Hands and Green Rolex Font And Seconds Hand And Yellow Crown LogoBlack, Coral Red, Turquoise, Green, Yellow, With Chromalight Lume-Filled Hands And Index Hour Markers
MovementAutomatic Caliber 3131 Movement With 48-Hour Power Reserve (ref. 116900) and the Automatic Caliber 3230 Movement With 70-Hour Power Reserve (contemporary Air King ref. 126900)The Latest Automatic Caliber 3230 Movement (36mm and 41mm) and the Automatic Caliber 2232 Movement With 55-Hour Power Reserve (28mm, 31mm, 34mm)
Price PointCheaper On The Private Sales Market, Having A Price Tag Of Between S$4,083 and S$11,303More Expensive On The Private Sales Market, Going For Between S$2,165 and S$13,376

Both watches have cases, smooth bezels, and Oystersteel bracelets crafted from Oystersteel. The differences come in Oyster Perpetual’s case size and dial options, the watches’ movements, and their prices.

The Rolex Air King is more affordable on the private sales market than the Oyster Perpetual by approximately S$2,000.

Let’s explore the above and many other of their aspects in detail:

Heritage and Brand

rolex air king watch

Rolex Air King

The Rolex Air King was introduced in 1945, designed for British Royal Air Force aviators who fought in World War II and is now known for its precision and durability. It was part of the ‘Air’ themed timepieces, along with the Air Tiger, Air Lion, and Air Giant.

While the other three parts of the series disappeared, the Air King established itself as a brand in 1958. It has released several memorable iterations since:

  • The refs. 4925 and 4499
  • Ref. 6652
  • Ref. 5500 (the longest in production so far)
  • Ref. 5700
  • Ref. 5504
  • Ref. 14000
  • Ref. 14010
  • Ref. 114200
  • Ref. 114234
  • Ref. 116900
  • Ref. 126900

All of them had a 34mm stainless steel case (except the ref. 5504, which had a 35mm body) and enjoyed various improvements ovеr thе yеars, such as use of precious metals, dial variations, nеw movеmеnts, and toughеr crystals.

They were produced until the collection was discontinued temporarily in 2014.

Rolex re-introduced the collection in 2016- this time with the tougher, no-nonsense ref. 116900 entry-level watch. It was followed by the new Rolex Air King ref. 126900 in 2022- the latest Air King so far. They both have a larger, sturdier, and sportier 40mm case.

However, there are several notable differences in their designs: Rolex decided to balance the Air King ref. 126900’s dial layout by adding a zero before 5 so all minute markers display double digits. Also, the 3,6 and 9 Arabic numerals on the new model have Chromalight lume and it now features a bracelet with a folding oysterlock safety clasp with Easylink comfort extension link.

The Air King has established itself as a quality Rolex timepiece for those who’d like to break monotony. The watch’s unique dial design has earned it the recognition as one of Rolex’s most unique watches, next to the Sky-Dweller and now-discontinued Cellini.

rolex oyster perpetual

Oyster Perpetual

Meanwhile, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual was introduced as a collection in 1950. It combines the waterproof Oyster case with an automatic Perpetual movement and is now considered the quintessential Rolex watch with the most affordable price tag.

Some of its earlier models were flashy, flaunting golden and Rolesor materials, fluted bezels, plus Jubilee bracelets. 

However, Rolex decided to make the OP a minimal, time-only watch in 2014. Timepieces from that time onwards have a simple design consisting of Oystersteel cases, smooth bezels, three-link Oyster bracelets, and screw-down crowns.

Rolex’s decision to establish the Oyster Perpetual as a collection proved excellent, as the watch offers Rolex fans luxury at a more affordable price tag. It has also carved a name for itself among other Rolex watches over the years, securing a place around the wrist of famous Rolex watch collectors like Mark Wahlberg and Roger Federer.

Let’s learn some more about the Oyster Perpetual’s origins.

Its name has an interesting background, with the first half (Oyster) testifying of its waterproof case and 100m water resistance capability. 

The idea of it cropped up when Rolex’s founder, Hans Wilsdorf, tried opening an oyster at a dinner party in 1926. The oyster’s difficult-to-open feature that protected its insides from water served as inspiration fuel for one of the most respected watch case designs today. 

The second half of the name comes from the self-winding ‘perpetual’ rotor movement that was introduced in 1931. It is powered by the natural movement of the wearer’s wrist, which provides energy that makes the gears turn.

Rolex has employed the Oyster Perpetual design to all its current watches, enabling them to offer a higher water resistance rating and be water resistant. They pull this off while providing accurate time thanks to their perpetual movements. 

Design and Aesthetics

rolex air-king

Thе Air-King showcasеs a sporty, bold appеarancе characterized by several design cues:

  • Smooth bеzеl: Its simplicity aligns with the watch’s laid-back nature. On the other hand, its polished finish gives a sense of balance and aesthetic appeal- putting it in the same league as other Oyster Perpetual watches. 
  • Clеan black 3-6-9 dial: It has appliеd White Gold numеrals, 5-minute hour markers, and green and yеllow dеtails. Plus, it’s inspired by the Bloodhound LSR dashboard and gives the timepiece a nice, sporty appearance. The iconic 5-minute hour markers also serve to distinguish it from the Explorer Oystersteel 40- specifically the ref. 224270 black dial.
  • Mеrcеdеs handsеt: A common addition to most Rolex sports watches like the Rolex Submariner, Explorer, Deepsea, Yacht-Master, and GMT-Master. It’s believed to have earned its name from the famous German automotive company of the same name.
  • Oyster bracelet: It boasts a three-link design and is also primarily common in Rolex professional pieces. It’s robust and provides a comfortable grip around the wrist.
rolex oyster perpetual watch

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual isn’t any different, but its design and aesthetics are less to match its entry-level position in the Rolex lineup:

  • Time-Only Dial: Its dial has no complications, just three hands (two of which are lume-filled) and lume-filled index hour markers against a background with a sunburst finish.
  • Oyster bracelet: It makes sense since the Oyster bracelet is less dramatic than its counterparts.
  • Smooth bezel: It complements the case and bracelet to complete the watch’s simple yet elegant design. Its polished nature exudes well-calculated elegance while keeping things humble.

Materials (case, bezel, strap)

The cases of the Air King and Oyster Perpetual are made from Rolex’s signature Oystersteel, a 904L stainless steel alloy that offers excellent resistance to corrosion. Oystersteel is used for their bezels as well.

Current Air King models have 40mm case sizes. Meanwhile, the latest Oyster Perpetual watches come in more case options:

  • 28mm
  • 31mm
  • 34mm
  • 36mm
  • 41mm

Both timepieces also have smooth, well-polished bezels that stand out for their slight elevation and attention-grabbing qualities. Their polished surfaces work with the watch’s brushed backgrounds to give a much-needed contrast.

They also have Oyster bracelets made of the same Oystersteel, ensuring durability and comfort. These bracelets have a Folding Oysterclasp with an Easylink 5mm comfort extension link- providing the wrist has expansion space even when it swells a little more on hotter days.

Movement and Precision

The Rolex Air King ref. 116900 is powered by the Caliber 3131 self-winding mechanical movement, designed and manufactured by Rolex. It offers a power reserve of approximately 48 hours and has been certified as a Superlative Chronometer. 

Meanwhile, the latest Air King ref. 126900 has the new-generation Caliber 3230 movement with 31 jewels, a 70-hour power reserve, and a 28,800vph frequency.

On the other hand, the Oyster Perpetual is brought to life by several movements depending on the watch size. 

Smaller 28,31 and 34 pieces are powered by the Caliber 2232 movement with 31 jewels, a 55-hour power reserve, and a 28,800vph frequency. The larger 36mm and 41mm watches have a self-winding, new-generation Caliber 3230 movement.

In tеrms of accuracy, both watchеs arе Supеrlativе Chronomеtеrs. This means thеy’vе undеrgonе rigorous tеsting to mееt thе strict standards sеt by thе Swiss Official Chronomеtеr Tеsting Institutе (COSC) and Rolеx’s in-housе critеria. As a rеsult, thеsе timеpiеcеs boast an accuracy of -2/+2 sеconds pеr day, еnsuring rеmarkablе timekeeping pеrformancе.

Price Range

The Rolex Air King and Oyster Perpetual are considered entry-level Rolex watches. However, the Air King has a slightly higher range of approximately S$8,687, while the Oyster Perpetual has a starting price of roughly S$6,682. These prices can be higher depending on the model and condition. 

However, the Oyster Perpetual has the upper hand in the private sales market. According to WatchCharts, the Oyster Perpetual range is between S$2,165 and S$13,376. On the other hand, the site reveals the Air King has a price of between S$4,083 and S$11,303 on the same platform. Again, these prices can be higher depending on the watches’ condition, demand, and model.

Which timepiece should you buy? Here are several factors you should consider:

  • Your style: The Oyster Perpetual has more dial options and a more slender case and bracelet, making it a good choice if you prefer versatility and elegance. Meanwhile, the Air King is an ideal choice if you’re more casual but want some luxury.
  • Your budget: Both watches are affordable, but the Oyster Perpetual is a better pick if you’re looking to get more for less. On the other hand, the Air King is an excellent option if you’ve got a higher budget.
  • Your lifestyle: Do you move around often? Are you more reserved? The Oyster Perpetual is a better option if you want something less bulky. Its overall design makes its wrist presence less noticeable. Meanwhile, the Air King is a perfect fit if you don’t mind class with bulk. Its case and sturdy bracelet offer considerable wrist presence.

Investment Potential

While the Rolex Air King and Oyster Perpetual hold their value well over time (typically Rolex), the Air King has a slightly higher investment potential due to its polarizing dial and historical significance.

Tip: Consider buying your watches on the pre-owned or secondary markets more. This is smart because they’re past the depreciation stage, and you can reap considerable profit if you sell them in mint condition.

The key is researching and monitoring how they’re faring in the market.

5 Best Air King Watches

Here are some of the best Air King timepieces to buy:

1. Rolex Air King 126900

Rolex Air-King 40 126900

Market Price

  • Retail Price: S$9,956
  • Pre-Owned Price: S$12,400

The Rolex Air King ref. 126900 is a luxury everyday watch. It’s the latest in the Air King series- having been introduced in 2022. The new Air King features a 40mm stainless steel case, a distinctive black dial with green and yellow accents, and a matching Oyster bracelet. It’s powered by a self-winding mechanical movement with a 70-hour power reserve.

2. Rolex Air King 14000

Rolex Air-King ref. 14000

Market Price

  • Retail Price: S$3,341
  • Pre-Owned Price: S$5,521

Produced from 1989 to 2006, the Rolex Air King ref. 14000 is a discontinued pilot watch. Rolex introduced this fine watch to replace the longest-running ref. 5500 Air King, maintaining the classic 34mm stainless steel case with simple styling and a matching Oyster bracelet. 

Its popularity saw it boasting an array of dial color options, including salmon, blue, white, and black with stick indexes, Roman numerals, and 3/6/9 numerals.

3. Rolex Air-King 5500

Rolex Air-King 40 ref. 5500

Market Price

  • Retail Price: S$3,207
  • Pre-Owned Price: S$4,331

Rolex Air King ref. 5500 is one of the most iconic and longest-running models. It boasts a clean and understated design with its stainless steel 34mm diameter, various dial options, and a matching Oyster bracelet. 

4. Rolex Air King 114234

Rolex Air-King 114234

Market Price

  • Retail Price: S$9,221
  • Pre-Owned Price: S$7,174

The Rolex Air King ref. 114234 marked the final iteration before the collection’s temporary discontinuation in 2014. It comes with bold dial colors, a 34mm stainless steel case, and a matching Oyster bracelet, giving it a contemporary look. 

Color variations for its dials include silver, white, black, and blue displays with printed Roman numerals and “doorstop” style indexes.

5. Rolex Air King Ref. 116900 

rolex oyster perpetual air king 116900

Market Price

  • Retail Price: S$9,555
  • Pre-Owned Price: S$9,945

The Rolex Air-King ref. 116900 is a distinguished model within Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual collection. It was the Air-King’s first offering in 2016 after its temporary discontinuation and features a 40mm 904L stainless steel case, a striking dial design, and a high-quality self-winding movement. 

It’s built to last a lifetime as one of Rolex’s entry-level watches alongside the Oyster Perpetual and Explorer.

5 Best Oyster Perpetual Watches

The following are some of the best Oyster Perpetual watches for Rolex buyers:

rolex oyster perpetual 124300-0008

1. Oyster Perpetual 41 m124300-0008

Market Price

  • Retail Price: S$8,553
  • Pre-Owned Price: S$29,900

Looking to add some joy and fun to your day? The Rolex Oyster Perpetual ref. m124300-0008’s got you covered. It’s a luxury men’s watch with a sleek 41mm Oystersteel case, a turquoise dial with a celebration motif, and a matching Oyster bracelet.

Oyster Perpetual 36 126000-0003

2. Oyster Perpetual 36 m126000-0003

Market Price

  • Retail Price: S$8,152
  • Pre-Owned Price: S$10,200

A versatile size for both men and women, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 ref. m126000-0003 features a smooth bezel, a 36mm Oystersteel case, and a beautiful bright blue dial with lume-filled hands and hour markers. It’s comfortable on the wrist thanks to its supple Oystersteel Oyster bracelet.

rolex oyster perpetual 124200-0002

3. Oyster Perpetual 34 m124200-0002

Market Price

  • Retail Price: S$7,751
  • Pre-Owned Price: S$9,300

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34 ref. m124200-0002 is a luxury women’s watch. It has a slightly smaller 34mm Oystersteel case, a black dial with luminous hands and index hour markers, and a matching Oystersteel Oyster bracelet- offering a timeless and elegant design suitable for any occasion.

rolex oyster perpetual 277200-0004

4. Oyster Perpetual 31 m277200-0004

Market Price

  • Retail Price: S$7,551
  • Pre-Owned Price: S$9,800

A favorite among those with slender wrists, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 31 ref. m277200-0004 is a luxury women’s watch that maintains Rolex’s classic design and exceptional craftsmanship. It has a 31mm Oystersteel case, a smooth bezel, and an exciting pink dial that aligns with the modern lady’s taste.

rolex oyster perpetual 276200-0003

5. Oyster Perpetual 28 m276200-0003

Market Price

  • Retail Price: S$7,417
  • Pre-Owned Price: S$8,700

The smallest in the Oyster Perpetual lineup, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 28 ref. m276200-0003 is a luxury ladies’ watch perfect for those who prefer an understated and elegant piece. It’s suitable for casual and formal wear with its sleek design, 28mm Oystersteel case, contrasting bright blue dial, and smooth Oystersteel bezel.

Final Word

The choice between the Rolex Air King and the Rolex Oyster Perpetual will depend on personal preferences in design, size, and features. Both watches showcase the exceptional quality and craftsmanship that Rolex is known for, with subtle differences that cater to individual tastes and needs.

Key Takeaways

  • The Air King and Oyster Perpetual are entry-level watches that retain value well with time. However, the Air King has a better investment potential between the two.
  • The Oyster Perpetual’s main design elements are its time-only dial in various colors and smooth bezel. On the other hand, the Air King’s primary design cues are its Mercedes hands and clean, black 3-6-9 dial.
  • The Air-King is more sporty, whereas the Oyster Perpetual leans towards a clean and classic look. Both feature the signature Rolex Oyster case and bracelet, ensuring durability and water resistance.

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