Crafted by the founder of Rolex, Mr. Hans Wilford, the Air-King launched as a tribute to World War II pilots and pioneers of the aviation industry! For this reason, the Rolex Air-King remains a symbol of World War II.
Ever since its inception, the brand Rolex captured its place amongst the highest echelons of the watchmaking industry. To own a Rolex is to reflect pride, privilege, and luxury. Over the years many celebrities, artists, and athletes have taken a Rolex from the dark depths of the ocean to beyond the clouds/skies. This is a testament to the brand’s reputation and innovation, which also reflects its price. To own an Air-King might set you back by at least six thousand US Dollars. However, there are many alternatives and homage brands that offer similar or alternative timepieces at a fraction of the cost.
During Rolex’s initial years, the founder designed and developed their first-ever waterproof watches, known as the Oyster. The collections that followed heavily drew upon the successful design of the Oyster, as seen across all their collections today. The Air-King, especially, is Rolex’s astronautical heritage adapted from the Oyster. This makes the Air-King predate all the other collections like the Explorer, Submariner, Day-Date, etc.
The Air-King we know today comes with a 40 mm case diameter, Osytersteel case, Oysterclasp, and solid Oyster bracelet. The striking black face of the dial is unique to the current Air-King. The word Rolex engraved in green along with the second’s hand. Moreover, the design of the watch keeps in mind the navigational time reading needs of the adventurous soul. The timepiece comes equipped with 3131 calibre with a self-winding movement and a Superlative Chronometer from the Swiss testing institute that only certifies ultimate precision.
Although the first Air-King came out only in 1945, the Oyster in itself flew over Mount Everest in the 1930s, a period that goes down in history as the golden age for aviation. The Oyster, now perpetuated as the Air-King, continues to set new flight records. While the Air-King didn’t have a sharp rise to fame, its accuracy, ability to withstand extreme conditions, and superior quality make the timepiece a perfect companion for pilots to soar skies.
The rest of the journey is history. Yet, the new edition Air-King reflects Rolex’s promise to push the boundaries of innovation while staying in line with the quality crafted many decades ago.
Best Affordable Rolex Air King Alternatives
Here is a list of alternatives in different price ranges.
Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80
Founded in 1853, Tissot today is synonymous with success. Over a century’s leadership, vision and craftsmanship enabled the brand to garner a loyal fan base. Moreover, their relatively affordable rates are an appeal to watch lovers. At first glance, the Tissot Le Locle Powermatic 80 looks much like a Rolex, yet this timepiece is available at just a fraction of the Air-King’s price.
Equipped with a 40 mm case, the automatic self-winding movement and the black dial with silver bracelet strap make the Le Locle Powermatic 80 a worthy alternative for the Air-King. Much like the Rolex counterpart, the design on the face of the watch showcases the word Tissot below the 12 o’clock and the Le Locle Powermatic engraved above the 6 o’clock. Tissot offers up to 2 years warranty on this timepiece and is also water-resistant up to 100 ft. Moreover, you get a timepiece worthy of Tissot’s quality with a date complication that is absent in the Air-King.
Born in Tokyo in 1881, Seiko’s vision remains to produce exquisite timepieces. If you are looking for an alternative to Rolex Air-King’s previous editions, then Seiko SARB035 is an ideal option. Much like the previous Air-King, adapted from the Rolex Oyster, the SARB035 comes with a white dial. Much like the Air-King, the face of the dial illuminates in darkness for clear reading.
Designed with a 38 mm dial, this Seiko timepiece also comes with a power reserve of 50 hours. Additionally, they are water-resistant up to 330 ft. The design on the face of the dial resembles the Air-King with its similarly placed engravings and stainless steel strap. Built with Japanese automatic movement, the SARB035 can be your Rolex alternative at a modest price.
Timex Easy Reader
Founded in 1854, Timex set out to create affordable watches. Over a century now, the brand remains true to its promise. Headquarters located in the Netherlands, Timex is widely popular all around the world, especially in Asia. For this article, we look at the Timex Easy Reader.
Much like the Air-King, this edition of Timex comes in a Black dial and stainless steel bracelet. The face of the daily showcases the same engraving placement as the Air-King. However, you can also choose a white dial with a gold bracelet. Probably the cheapest watch on this list, Timex provides a Quartz movement with a 38 mm case diameter. The timepieces are resistant up to 100 ft in water and also equipped with Indiglo light up to read in complete darkness. The timepiece comes with an additional date slot that is absent in the Rolex.
Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer
A luxury alternative for those who don’t mind the Rolex price tag but are looking for a different brand, Omega has something to offer.
Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer shares the same look like the Rolex Air-King but has much more to offer. First, for the similarities, this Omega showcases its engravings in the same way as the Air-King. However, when we speak of the dial, the blue is a refreshing change to a black or white dial. Equipped with Omega 8902 Calibre and self-winding movement with co-axial escapement, the timepiece also has a chronometer certification by METAS. Additionally, the face of the dial showcases a date and an annual calendar complication, a feature that is absent in the Air-King. Omega offers up to 5 years of warranty for this edition.
Currently, produced in 41 mm case diameter, the timepiece is water-resistant up to 330 ft and comes with an anti-magnetic field to withstand extreme temperature, pressure, and magnetic waves. All these features attribute to its luxury pricing in the same vein as the Air-King.
Swiss luxury watch company set up in 1832 maintains its name for accurate timepieces even today. Over the years, Longines collaborated with Formula One, French Open, Commonwealth Games, etc, that secured a seat with the upper echelons of the watchmaking industry. While Longines are not cheap or completely affordable, the Spirit collection makes to the list here for its similarities to the Rolex Air-King.
Styled with 40 mm dial, the Spirit L38114539 is more on par with the Air-King. Firstly, the timepiece also comes with a Chronometer certification from COSC, a certification of accuracy for Swiss watches. Secondly, the design similarities between Air-King and Longines Spirit is striking. In the same vein as the Air-King, the Longines Spirit showcases a black dial with engravings on the face and self-winding automatic winding with L888.4 caliber.
Additionally, the timepiece comes with a power reserve of 64 hours with monocrystalline silicon balance-spring. All these features make Longines a suitable alternative to the Air-King if you are willing to spend a little more on the brand value and quality.
Alpha watches launched in 1993. Since its inception, the brand ensures affordable, yet, versatile watch collections. This makes the brand a good alternative for most luxury watch brands, for Alpha always has something to offer.
The Alpha Explorer matte black dial, along with its engravings may look a lot like the Air-King. However, the limited features of the timepieces make them super affordable. Designed with 21 jewels automatic movement, the timepiece is resistant up to 150 ft and the hardened mineral glass prevents any scratches.
With a solid stainless steel oyster style bracelet and transparent back case to see the components of the watch, the Alpha Explorer is for you if you are looking at alternatives to the Air-King purely on styling.
Sinn 856 S Pilot Watch
This timepiece is a slight departure from the exact looks of the Rolex Air-King. However, this Sinn 856 S is a strong contender as an alternative. Designed specifically for pilots, Sinn has gone above and beyond with its homegrown technologies to ensure accuracy, precision, and ability to withstand extreme conditions. This puts the timepiece on par with the Rolex.
In the same lines of the Air-King, the Sinn 856 S comes with a black dial with TEGIMENT technology to protect the watch from any scratches. Sinn also developed the Magnetic Field Protection Technology for lasting precision and minimizing magnetic interference in the sky. Above all, Air-Dehumidifying Technology prevents sudden fogging when moving between drastic temperatures. All these features showcase Sinn’s efforts to maintain its highest standards.
Although Sinn watches are not cheap, they are not as expensive as Rolex. With these features and more, you can get your hands on a Sinn for almost one fourth the price of the Air-King.
Bernhardt Binnacle Anchor III
Boasting of withstanding even the strongest of hurricanes, the Bernhardt Binnacle Anchor III is another inexpensive alternative to the Rolex Air-King. While the founders designed this timepiece keeping in mind the needs of life on the high sea, the design and the styling of the watch can easily be mistaken for a Rolex Air-King.
Equipped with a 40 mm case dial, the Anchor III comes with Miyota 8215 automatic movement. Much like the Air-King, the face of the watch displays engravings of Bernhardt below the 12 o’clock and Binnacle Anchor III above the 6 o’clock. Priced at just 25% of the Rolex’s cost, this timepiece can easily suit your needs for daily wear. Moreover, the timepiece is water-resistant up to 600 ft.
Lorier Falcon Series II
This ruggedly elegant timepiece is a perfect look-alike substitute for the Air-King. Lorier designed the Falcon Series II as a tribute to mid-century explorers. As a result, they come in 316L marine grade stainless steel and is resistant up to 330 ft in water. The dome plexiglass crystal protects from any scratches.
The Miyota 90S5 self-winding movement and Swiss superluminova are Lorier’s Rolex like features. Above all, if you notice the face of the dial, it looks as close to the Air-King with its minutes and hour hand, the design and styling, and the engravings of the brand.
If you are looking for an alternative to the Air-King purely in terms of looks and cheap cost, then the Flacon Series II will live up to its name.
Sandoz Pilot 81421-55
Established in 1870 in Le Locle, Switzerland, the brand split into four companies, placed all around the world. Each company produces its products but all under the name of Sandoz. For this article, we look at Sandoz Pilot 81421-55, made in Switzerland.
Sandoz proudly claims that this Pilot collection gave them the name as pioneers of wristwatches. The features, carefully designed and assembled, suit the needs of pilots in this modern world. With a 42 mm case diameter, this collection is resistant up to 330 ft in water. Much like the Air-King, the Sandoz Pilot collection features a black dial with similar engravings. However, they also come with an additional date complication.
If you are looking for an inexpensive alternative to the Air-King in the leather strap that also focuses on aviation needs, Sandoz can be a worthy opponent. For, this timepiece is a classic mix of swiss traditions with the aesthetics of traditional aviation.