The Rolex Oyster
The Rolex Oyster was first introduced in 1926. Beginning as the first waterproof and dust-proof wristwatch designed specifically for professional use. The watch famously crossed the English Channel in 1927, around the neck of English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, surviving the 10-hour long swim undamaged. A front-page newspaper advertisement followed, testifying “ten hours of submersion under the most trying conditions” failing to adversely affect its perfect timekeeping, whilst pioneering the modern concept of sports celebrity marketing. In 1931, Rolex patented the world's first self-winding mechanism with a perpetual rotor, today at the heart of every modern automatic watch.
The innovation which led to the creation of the “Oyster” case was a screw-down, moisture-proof winding crown, patented by Swiss inventors Perregaux and Perret in 1925. The “Oyster” name is often associated with a particular style bracelet accompanying many Rolex Oyster watches.
The Air-King was, for many years, Rolex‘s entry-level, time-only watch, originally created in honour of RAF pilots after World War II. The Rolex Air-King was part of an obscure group of “Air” watches made by the brand throughout the 1940s, including the Air-Lion, Air-Tiger, and Air-Giant.
Outlasting this collection, the reference 5500 Air-King was eventually introduced in 1957, serving as one of the core pieces of Rolex’s simple (yet robust) time-only collection. Based on its popularity, Rolex later added the Air-King-Date in 1958 (as the reference 5700), equipping Rolex’s 1535 calibre for the date function.
With evidence suggesting that the 5700 was produced in far fewer numbers than the non-date 5500, it is an elusive example from Rolex’s historic entry-level catalogue. Indeed, whereas “Date” or “Air King” indications often adorn the dial of 34mm Rolex Oyster wristwatches, the two in combination are seldom seen. Understated in both appearance and size, the Rolex Air-King-Date 5700 offers a practical, versatile alternative to Rolex’s other highly-purposeful wristwatches.
The dial of this Rolex Air-King-Date is well preserved, with a matte black finish, applied baton index markers and the classic 'ROLEX’ and ‘OYSTER PERPETUAL’ - ‘AIR-KING-DATE’ references on it. Like the fully preserved hour markers, the tritium lume on the hands has aged to a creamy yellow patina, matching the indexes perfectly. The hour and minute hands show light signs of corrosion, consistent with age.
The steel Oyster case fully retains its original shape, with minimal signs of polishing. The brushed finish on the lugs is clearly visible, while the polished sides are in very good condition. Thoughtfully kept on the watch, the original acrylic crystal displays a few superficial marks consistent with wear over the years. The watch also comes fully-equipped with its period-correct folded Oyster bracelet (stamped 7835 19), matching clasp (stamped 7835) and matching end-links (stamped 357). The bracelet is preserved in excellent condition, with minimal stretch throughout.
Inside the watch is housed Rolex’s calibre 1535 automatic movement. The mechanism features 26 jewels, beating at a rate of 18,000 A/h, with a power-reserve of 44 hours. Introduced in 1957, the calibre 1535 was used exclusively in the Air-King-Date 5700 and Explorer Date 5701.
This Air-King-Date 5700 is accompanied by an impressive array of paperwork, tracing the lifetime of the watch. It comes with its original Rolex box, outerbox and sales receipt from 1975 (from Watches of Switzerland in Cambridge). The watch also comes with a Rolex service Guarantee from 1986 and service paperwork from Rolex retailer John D. Eaton from 1998 (when the movement was serviced and the bracelet repaired).
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