Why I Bought It: Rolex Air-King Bloodhound Ref. 116900

Let me start by saying that I’ve never worshipped at the “Green ‘n’ Gold” Rolex altar. When it comes to the subject of Rolex and its celebrated, if often wildly polarizing timepieces, I’m neither fanboy nor hater.  I’m as unwaveringly neutral as the country from which the brand hails.

I detest the huge secondary market premiums, snooty authorized dealers, and multi-generational waiting lists that have become a necessary — and, unfortunately, widely accepted — evil. (Full disclosure: I once wrote a satirical piece about a not-too-distant future where Rolex boutiques offer to cryogenically freeze their clients while waiting for that new stainless steel, ceramic Daytona to become available.)

Likewise, I equally frown upon YouTube pundits who seem to pay the bills almost exclusively by posting videos explaining why their watch of the week — usually some Kickstarter micro-brand — is “Better than a ROLEX!” (Gotta make damn sure to include that word “ROLEX” in the title if you expect to get any clicks!)  There’s one talking head (hands) in particular who’d have you believe the $100 Timex he’s chosen to review “DESTROYS Rolex” … and did ya know Timex is actually older than Rolex??? (Take THAT, Mr. Wilsdorf!)

Let me offer a bit of free legal advice.  If you ever find yourself seeking to cop an insanity plea after being charged with feeding your roommate’s bulleted riddled corpse through a woodchipper (the very same roommate who stubbornly refused to lift the toilet seat before going #1), give the “Rolex Defense” a shot. Simply look the judge squarely in the eye and tell him that your $100 recycled plastic Timex “DESTROYS” his 40 mm platinum, glacier dial Day-Date.  That’ll get ya carted off to the looney bin quicker than Charlie Manson claiming to be the newly reincarnated 14th Dalai Lama.

But just why, you might ask, did I buy a Rolex? Let me see if I can break it down for you …

Rolex Air-King “Bloodhound” (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

Rolex Air-King “Bloodhound” Ref. 116900

The Air-King reference 116900 has always been my favorite stainless steel 40 mm Rolex.  There … I said it! Is it a sports watch? A tool watch?  No one seems to know. With its fakakte hypersonic land vehicle dashboard instrument-inspired dial featuring Arabic numerals counting down from 5 – 55 (in fabulous speedometer font), further confused by the slap-dash addition of large, white gold appliques at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, it also boasts the only known example of the Rolex coronet and logo appearing in vivid yellow and green.

Rolex Air-King “Bloodhound” (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

My favorite touch of all: the tiny, stylized “Air-King” logo which strikes me as more befitting a 1950s kitchen appliance than a pricey Swiss luxury watch.

Despite what might strike some as a rather eclectic jumble of disparate elements, the Air-King’s dial is refreshingly legible. Even with my faltering, middle-aged vision, it’s one of the few watches in my collection that doesn’t require donning a pair of reading glasses to check the time.

The Air-King is bold. Brash. It doesn’t apologize for its strangeness — Nay! It owns it … revels in it! The “Red-Headed Stepchild” of all Rolex stainless steel offerings, it’s a watch that almost dares you to love it … and I do!!! It’s a timepiece that truly speaks to the rebel – the iconoclast — I’ve always fancied myself to be. A Rolex that posits the age-old question, “Why be everyone’s cup of tea, if you can be someone’s shot of tequila?”

Rolex Air-King “Bloodhound” caseband and crown (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

Take a closer look at its case. Not the blocky, “Super Case” of the marque’s more popular Subs and GMTs – but a graceful, almost sensuous sculpt of fluid curves (think Daytona and Date-Just). As tactilely pleasing to the touch as it is to the eye (sadly, the current Air-King’s case has shed those appealing curves).

The additional thickness necessary to accommodate the soft iron cage originally used to thwart the movement-discombobulating gremlins created by magnetic fields gives the piece a heft and wrist presence as impressive (if not more so) than any of its 40 mm siblings – and without ever succumbing to the dreaded “Cheeseburger Effect” many other watches of similar heft often fall victim to (thanks again to those gracefully sculpted lines).

Rolex Air-King “Bloodhound” (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

The satin-like brushing on the iconic Oyster bracelet is best-in-class (and price point) and features Rolex’s (Why doesn’t every brand feature it?) “Easy Link” adjust, making the Air-King wonderfully comfortable on the wrist (at times, I forget I’m even wearing it). But let’s talk technical turkey.

Bleu, Bleu, Parachrom Bleu!

As the haters insist, Rolex doesn’t produce technically impressive watches. I beg to differ. Since Rolex doesn’t choose to dabble in Haute Horlogerie, it’s easy to overlook the fact that they’ve been one of the most innovative (and influential) watchmakers of the past 100 years.

True, it took them almost that long to develop their own in-house chronograph movement – but it’s one helluva chronograph movement! In terms of accuracy, shock resistance, anti-magnetism, power reserve and sheer reliability, the Caliber 3131 is a worthy contender to any of its rivals.

Rolex Air-King “Bloodhound” (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

Let’s talk magnetism for a moment.  As a writer who finds himself virtually married to his laptop, the effect of magnetism on my mechanical wristwatch is a very real concern. While the Air-King uses the same movement and soft iron cage as the trailblazing, non-magnetic Milgauss, it’s Rolex’s proprietary Parachrom Bleu hairspring that renders it virtually impervious to magnetic fields.

Forged from a new patented alloy — the result of several years research on the part of Rolex’s own physicists and engineers – Parachrom Bleu was introduced in 2000.  Not only non-magnetic, but highly resistant to heat and wear and up to 10 times more accurate than a traditional hairspring.

But wait … what about silicon?  I’m glad you asked.

Never one to rest on its laurels, in 2014 Rolex introduced yet another breakthrough in the science and manufacture of hairsprings: Syloxi. A metaloid created from a silicon and silicon composite mix, Rolex’s Syloxi hairspring boasts all the same benefits of Parachrom Bleu with increased temperature resistance and a revolutionary design allowing it to better compensate for the effects of gravity.

Not only technically impressive watchmaking but serious science and engineering as well.

Price and Purchase

With the Air-King rumored to be on the endangered list along with its technically identically cousin, the Milgauss, collectors and flippers alike rushed to purchase what they believed to be a soon-to-be discontinued reference. Buyers who initially turned up their nose at the Bloodhound, passing on an opportunity to own one at retail, now faced the prospect of waiting lists or secondary market premiums.

Rolex Air-King “Bloodhound” in case (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

For a brief time, a no-date Sub was easier to score at some boutiques. Topping out north of $14K at the market peak, Air-King prices began to tumble after the announcement that the model would see a new “improved” reference for 2022. With prices returning to what I felt was a reasonable level, I decided it was time to finally pull the trigger.

In a cutthroat pre-owned Rolex market, only one question remained: Where to buy?  For me, the answer was simple: Tim Mosso and his crew over at the WatchBox.  A Senior Client Advisor hooked me up with a like-new 2019 Air-King with all the bells and whistles: box, papers, tags, hangers – even the much-coveted plastic bezel guard.  The price was right, including a 2-year company warranty. And they even threw in free overnight delivery!


As the saying goes, haters are always gonna hate. If you’ve already written off Rolex as an overpriced, overrated brand for Instagram flexers and neophyte watch enthusiasts with more money than taste – a brand you’ve long since outgrown (even without having owned one), so be it. It’s not my mission to change neither hearts nor minds – merely to humbly share one collector’s journey through the wonderous, at times inscrutable, world of horology.

Rolex Air-King “Bloodhound” (photo courtesy Quentin R. Bufogle)

While I’ve heard more than a couple “experts” proclaim the Air-King Reference 116900 a future classic – one that collectors will someday pay handsomely for — I really don’t care. For me, it’s all about the present. The Air-King has become my inseparable companion.  My go-to, daily wearer (It even has the bezel swirl and clasp scuff to prove it). To each his own.  Make mine a Bloodhound.

Quick facts: Rolex Air-King “Bloodhound”
Reference: 116900
Case: 40 x 13.2 mm 49 mm lug-to-lug. Rolex 904L Oystersteel brushed & polished. Screw down crown.
Movement: Caliber 3131,  automatic winding, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, soft iron cage, Parachrom bleu overcoil, COSC & Superlative Chronometer. 31 jewels, power reserve 48 hours
Crystal: Sapphire
Bracelet: Oyster,  brushed, Easylink 5 mm adjustment
Water-resistant: 100 m
Original retail price: $6,100

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Why I Bought It: Collector Quentin R. Bufogle And His 2006 Omega De Ville Chronoscope Chronograph

Why I Bought It: The Zenith Chronomaster Tribute To Charles Vermot

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16 replies
  1. Tam O’ Banter
    Tam O’ Banter says:

    I’m genuinely glad that you found and bought a watch you like. I can deal with the later version that used lumed 3,6 & 9. It certainly has character. But I strongly believe that if this had been released under the Tudor brand it would have been excoriated as a mess.

    • Quentin R. Bufogle
      Quentin R. Bufogle says:

      The 116900 was and is excoriated by many. Whether or not a Tudor logo would’ve made matters any better or worse is debatable. As I’ve said, “To each his own.”

  2. Tony P
    Tony P says:

    Never heard of this reference being called the “Bloodhound”. Where does that come from? Or is this just Quentin’s little private joke?

    By the way, I have one of these Air-Kings and I love it. Incredibly, I was able to purchase it not only at retail price, but with a 5% discount. Possibly the only time such a thing has happened anywhere in the space-time manifold.

    • Quentin R. Bufogle
      Quentin R. Bufogle says:

      The 116900 derives its nickname from the supersonic “Bloodhound” land vehicle. Rolex developed the instruments for the vehicle’s dashboard, inspiring the design of the 116900’s controversial dial.

  3. William Orr
    William Orr says:

    I own one as well, and it’s my favorite watch! Wear it up wear it down wear it anywhere and all around town! Best Rolex I own!

    • Quentin R.
      Quentin R. says:

      While I’d love to take credit for coining the term, the 116900’s nickname is part of the nomenclature and used quite often (and with great affection) by collectors & enthusiasts alike …

      • Grady Philpott
        Grady Philpott says:

        Great article! I just picked up a 116900 on Friday, August 18, and I’m very pleased with this watch. It’s been on my mind since it was released in 2016 and I’m very happy that I found one locally and at a good price. I’m getting tired of all the nicknames, but I like “Bloodhound” quite a lot. 😀

  4. Steven
    Steven says:

    I own this model air king and I love it! The green logo the yellow crown the green second hand, nice to see rolex being fun!

  5. James c
    James c says:

    Have this one. It was the colours that sold it to me. Found them strangely mesmerising and very unlike anything else they have. The milgauss guts sealed the deal!

  6. Quentin R. Bufogle
    Quentin R. Bufogle says:

    Right on, James. A Rolex for the rest of us. Experiencing serious seperation anxiety at the moment. My Bloodhound is currently in for a tune-up at the Rolex Spa in Lititz, PA.


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