Rolex has its habits… Baselworld always means an array of small novelties (different dials, different colors or different materials on existing watches) and one big novelty. And this year, the big one is a new, sportier, larger, bolder take on one not-so-hot watch, the Yacht-Master. Meet the new Rolex Yacht-Master 42, with increased size, black ceramic bezel, new movement, Oysterflex rubber strap and in white gold.
History Of The Rolex Yacht-master
The Yacht-Master stands in a category all its own. Unlike the rest of the sports collection, the Yacht-Master is one of the few not to be a proper instrument watch. Still, as most Rolex sports watches, it was designed with one purpose in mind: nautical adventures and regattas (at least for the Yacht-Master II). While Rolex already had various watches related to the sea (Submariner and Sea-Dweller), the Yacht-Master wasn’t intended to be as tool-ish as its sisters. Still, it shares lots of features and design cues with the Submariner. It could be seen as the nautical watch to wear on deck, and not below the sea-level.
The first generation of Rolex Yacht-Master was introduced in 1992. This wasn’t the first time, however, the name Yacht-Master was mentioned at Rolex. In the late 1960s, the brand developed a nautical-inspired Daytona, with a regatta counter, also named Yacht-Master – a chronograph that remained at the prototype stage and was never commercialized.
The first model was the reference 16628, a Yellow Gold model with a white dial and and black hour indexes. The design of this watch feels quite familiar, so it’s easy to speculate about the inspiration and the positioning of this Yacht-Master in the collection. Some stories (and keep in mind that there’s nothing official here) say that Rolex, during the 1980’s, experimented with tons of different options to revamp the iconic Submariner. But the decision was to keep the Sub alive and introduce a new model, the Yacht-Master, which had to be slightly different from a Sub of course, so as not to cannibalize it.
The distinction was simple: steel case water-resistant to 300m, black bezel, black dial and tool-ish characteristics for the Submariner. Gold case water-resistant to 100m, bright dial, solid gold bezel and luxurious characteristics (mainly due to more rounded shapes) for the Yacht-Master. For the rest, both watches were rather close: the same 3135 movement, the same dial layout, the same hands, the same 60-minute bezel (but here, bidirectional). It’s possible this close resemblance to the Submariner might be the reason why the Yacht-Master was so unpopular in comparison. This is why, over the years, it has evolved with different materials and more colours (two-tone Rolesor, blue dial, ladies’ and mid-size versions… things that the Submariner does not have).
The most famous version of the Rolex Yacht-Master was introduced in 1999, under the reference 16622: steel case, steel bracelet, solid platinum bezel and platinum-coated dial with a sparkling finish. At Baselworld 2012, the brand came with refreshed versions, including new blue accents on a silver model as well as a cobalt-blue dial option. Finally, a major evolution came in 2015, with the introduction of the Everose version, with black dial, black ceramic bezel insert and Oysterflex (rubber) bracelet – a new design that dramatically changed the perception of this watch.
While the standard size for the men’s version has always been 40mm, this year Rolex introduces a new version which grows and takes some of the nicest elements of the Everose version, but now in a larger white gold on rubber version. Let’s have a look at the new Rolex Yacht-Master 42.
The New, Baselworld 2019 Rolex Yacht-master 42
After having launched several versions of the YM in 40mm, it was apparently time for Rolex to increase the size of its model, in order to differentiate it even more from the Submariner. Thus, the new Rolex Yacht-Master 42 ref. 226659 has gained 2mm in diameter to now 42mm overall – meaning one of the largest time-and-date watches in the collection.
For those of you who thought it would be rather more accessible, there’s a downside. This new reference is only available in white gold for the moment. Certainly, some evolutions will be seen in the coming years – steel, Everose, two-tone Rolesor – but for now, don’t count on a watch priced below EUR 10K.
The combination used on this Yacht-Master 42 ref. 226659 is rather new too. It features the typically raised track on the bezel, polished on a matte background, that is found on all Yacht-Master watches, but here rendered in black ceramic. The watch is also worn on a matte black Oysterflex (rubber) bracelet, giving this watch a nice, sporty yet elegant look.
The dial has true maxi indexes and hands but sticks to the proportions and style of the older references. Nothing new to note on this side. The entire dial – hands, indexes and inscriptions – is white, without a hint of color. Surprising too, but sleek looking.
As for the movement, Rolex integrates here the new generation of calibre, with the 3235 and its efficient gear train, Chronergy escapement and a longer power reserve of 70 hours. All in all, a solid package.
The Rolex Yacht-Master 42 ref. 226659 is worn on the truly superb rubber bracelet (not a strap, really a bracelet) named OysterFlex and featuring metal blades inside, as well as Rolex Glidelock extension system.
This new 226659 is a rather unexpected yet a highly conservative watch on many points.
Case: 42mm diameter – white gold case, polished – black ceramic bezel, matte with polished raised numerals – sapphire crystal on top – 100m water-resistant
Dial: black dial, Mercedes hands, Chromalight-filled applied indexes and hands
Movement: Calibre 3235, in-house, Chronometer certified – self-winding – 4Hz frequency – 70h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds, date
Bracelet: Oysterflex rubber bracelet with white gold folding clasp (Oysterclasp)
Price: CHF 26,500 | USD$$27,800