Pre-Owned Picks — 4 Rolex Air-Kings With Co-Branded Watch Dials
The Rolex Air-King came about as a response to the popularity of larger cases with legible dials. Air-service men and women, especially in the RAF, would often opt for 33mm Rolex Oyster watches. Don’t get me wrong — 33mm watches are practically diminutive these days, but back in the ‘40s, this diameter was considered oversized. Therefore, the continuation of this diameter became inevitable.
From 1957 to 1990, the Rolex Air-King reference 5500 was in continual production. The Air-King may not have had chronometer certification — but the cost-effectiveness certified it as the entry point into the Coronet. During this time, it was typical for Rolex to partner with firms to gift Air-Kings to employees. Unheard of by Rolex now, but this co-branding came directly from the factory with the external company logos for a particular milestone. Also unheard of these days, is a large corporation valuing its employees…
My selection consists of Rolex Air-Kings with these dual-stamping company insignias. Either the reference 5500 or later reference 14000 pictured above from 1996. Not only are the logos a fun, colorful throwback, but I also like how they pair with the youthful “Air-King” typeface.
All watches are pre-owned and picked from Chrono24. Every week we pick a few pre-owned watches from Chrono24, the largest market place for wristwatches in the world — watches that we love ourselves, or think they will be interesting to you. So, to be clear, we picked the watches, Chrono24 only send us the images without their watermark and in a proper resolution.
1981 Rolex Air-King Reference 5500 “Winn-Dixie”
First up is the Rolex Air-King ref. 5500 with the Winn-Dixie logo just above the 6 o’clock index. Winn-Dixie is a chain of supermarkets hailing from the sunshine state of Florida but also operate throughout the Deep South. It’s no surprise that Rolex would partner with a similarly gargantuan corporation within its segment like Winn-Dixie. And as you’ll see, this is not the only Winn-Dixie dial Air-King on this list.
I feel sorry for the “boots on the ground” employees working the aisles…
This particular example celebrates an employee marking ten years of providing protective maintenance. Indeed a back-office position, but interestingly, many of the celebratory Rolex pieces find their way to non-customer-facing roles and middle/upper management. I feel slightly sorry for the “boots on the ground” employees working the aisles in the early ‘80s. These workers equally busted their humps — all without the prospect of a shiny Rolex Air-King from many years of service.
The example I came across on Chrono24 comes from Italy with the original box but no papers. The 34mm steel case and three-link bracelet makes the watch highly wearable and frames the eye-catching logo perfectly.
1980 Rolex Air-King Reference 5500 “Pool Intairdril Oil Company”
Without straying too far, my next watch is the same reference 5500 Air-King. More than that, it comes from the same seller. Where this differs is the “P” and globe logo belong to the Pool Intairdril Oil Company. Yes, I have never heard of it either. Any readers, feel free to comment on this article if you have more information on this company’s history. I researched it but found little of note.
Regardless, the dial is much more subdued than my previous pick. It is also ambiguous enough, that if your first or last name begins with P and you happen to be a global traveler, the logo could apply to you. Another difference is the jubilee steel bracelet but still with the 34mm case.
1990s Rolex Air-King Reference 14000 “Domino’s”
Now we come to the first of the reference 14000s in my list. The Air-King Domino’s is possibly my pick of the bunch. Not only is Domino’s a globally recognizable brand, but the logo has remained pretty much unchanged since the late ‘90s when the co-branding with the Air-King was conceived. The distinguishing pop of blue and red is synonymous with takeaway pizza boxes. You could assume that this low-brow dining experience would be jarring with a luxury Rolex timepiece.
Selling pizza may be a simple task.
However, I find the juxtaposition fascinating and certainly would make me hungry when checking the time. The Domino’s dial Air-Kings found their way to store and branch managers achieving and exceeding sales targets. Selling pizza may be a simple task. But managing a team to perform consistently and deliver quality service ensures the same customers come back for more and spread the word. For this, management receives a lovely Rolex Air-King in a steel 34mm and the caliber 3000 movement update with sapphire crystal.
This example is the only Domino’s Rolex Air-King listing I could find one Chrono24, at the time of writing. No box or papers accompany the watch. But still, you get such an epic and rare Rolex for a shade over €5k.
1998 Rolex Air-King Reference 14000 “Winn-Dixie”
I made a promise earlier that there would be more than one “Winn-Dixie” Air-King. This time, we see this logo in the later reference 14000 Air-King. Not only that, but the dial is a fantastic copper-grey ombré gradient. The black and red logo complements this dial color nicely without dominating the visual space. The emblem itself marks ten years of being a safe driver. My assumption is this is for incident-free, cross-state truck drivers delivering produce to the supermarkets.
Employees did not see the value in keeping the box.
The watch comes from 1998, which is not exactly a distant memory for most. Although, I do have suspicions that the bracelet supplied with the watch is not authentic to the Air-King model. I am just basing this on the gap from the tip of the lugs to the end-links. The Italian seller, not the same one as before, also offers the watch without box and papers. My guess is the employees receiving the commemorative pieces did not necessarily see the value in keeping the box. As with the previous watch, the 34mm steel case houses the caliber 3000 and is topped by a sapphire crystal.
We may never see this level of co-branding from Rolex again, so why not reward yourself with one of these relics from a bygone era?