Serving the purpose of the entry-level Rolex, the ref. 5500 Air-King was offered from 1957 to the late 1980s. In a 34mm case, the reference was sized under the sport models of the era, the smallest of which being the ref. 1016 Explorer at 36mm, and aimed to serve as an everyday, reliable, and understated Rolex. Most notable to collectors today are the corporate-dialed watches found in this reference, including Winn-Dixie Air-Kings and, of course, the Dominos Air-King, like the one we have here.
Selling over four billion dollars worth of pizza and other Italian, or arguably Italian-American, cuisine per year, Domino’s Pizza is one of the most recognizable fast-food chains in the world. It all started with a single location in Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1960. In those early years, when there were only three locations, founder Tom Monaghan intended to add a dot to his Domino’s logo for every store he opened. By 1983 Domino’s had opened its 1000th store. Luckily, Monaghan opted to keep the logo to three dots, otherwise, our Air-King here would sport quite the dotted dial in what we imagine would be a difficult watch to read the time on.
The massive growth of Domino’s Pizza has always been due to a franchise model. In his 1986 autobiography entitled Pizza Tiger, Monaghan recalls one of his franchisees lusting over the founder’s personal Bulova with the company logo printed on the dial. “Turn in a twenty-thousand-dollar sales week” and it’s yours Monaghan said to the admirer. From there, the gift for high sales figures incentive program was born at Domino’s Pizza. From that one Bulova to some Seikos and settling in with Rolex Air-Kings by 1977, watches were always a part of the incentive program. At the start, $20k of sales in a week was the benchmark with $10k earning you the consolation prize of an Hermès tie but soon the stakes were upped to $25k a week for four weeks in a row. Domino’s Pizza was growing, sales were going up, and Rolex ain’t cheap.
The Domino’s Pizza Air-King we have here is in stunningly honest and original condition, dating to 1987, and features the somewhat less-seen straight Domino’s logo rather than tilted. The branding design changed a few times during the Domino’s Air-King run from the straight logo to the tilted as well as a standard dial with a Domino’s logo bracelet charm. Collectors find particularly the dial-stamped versions to be just the right mix of ironic, nostalgic, and charming.
THE FINE PRINT
Reference: 5500 / 1002 inside caseback
Case No: 9554624
Material: Stainless steel
Dimensions: 34mm diameter; 11.5mm thickness
Lume: Yes, tritium
Caliber: Rolex, self-winding, caliber 1520
Bracelet/Strap: Rolex, stainless steel, solid-link Oyster ref. 78350 bracelet with 557 end links(Approximate max wrist size 7.75in / 197mm)
Lug Width: 19mm