A modern Rolex with a major defect, the curious case of the Air-King 116900 with double nines A modern Rolex with a major defect, the curious case of the Air-King 116900 with double nines

A modern Rolex with a major defect, the curious case of the Air-King 116900 with double nines

Andrew McUtchen

It’s a modern-day escape from Alcatraz, where the escapee is a defect on a watch that makes it to market, and Alcatraz is the Rolex manufacture. That, I suspect, is flattering Alcatraz.

Rolex Air-King with double nine defect 116900
Rolex Air-King with double nine defect
Rolex Air-King 116900
A Rolex Air-King the way it should look

Because, the fact that a modern Rolex with a defect you can actually see even exists is unthinkable to the point of immediately being suspected as a hoax.

But here it is. Not only does a ‘double nine’ Rolex Air-King 116900 — with a nine where the ‘3’ numeral should be — allegedly exist in the wild, it’s been captured by Watchfinder & Co., who used the occasion to do a proper exposition on just how extraordinary that fact is.

Rolex Air-King with double nine defect 116900

To summarise the excellent post by Watchfinder & Co., here are three key reasons the ‘double 9’ Rolex Air-King 116900 is practically a miracle:

  1. Rolex now has fully verticalised production. Unlike in other eras, when accidents would happen, “from mild nuisances like deviation in fonts and design, to full-on critical failures like extreme paint discolouration and cracking lacquer”, a third-party supplier cannot be blamed.
  2. Rolex’s QA processes may even exceed “NASA’s JPL”: “From the iris scanner-protected automated stock system, its 60,000 storage compartments patrolled and operated just by robots; to the controlled environment zones where the watches are assembled, clean rooms free of dust and humidity … and, of course, the quality control testing using COMEX-designed pressurised tanks and high-resolution imaging machines that scan every watch for even the smallest flaw — Rolex has got quality covered.”
  3. In addition to evading machines, the error evaded people, too: “The person assembling the dial didn’t notice it, the person assembling the case didn’t notice it, the person quality checking the watch didn’t notice it — and you can kind of see why. It blends in rather well.” Rumour has it that both the seller and the buyer also didn’t notice it; the error was reportedly pointed out by a friend.

Rolex Air-King with double nine defect 116900