This year, Rolex introduced several new Yacht-Master models during Watches and Wonders. The 42mm white gold version with the Falcon’s Eye dial is one, and the yellow gold version is another. But how come the Yacht-Master receives little love compared to the other sports models from Rolex?

Reference 16628, the debut Yacht-Master model from 1992. Image source: Xupes

I love the Yacht-Master. Ever since I got into watches, I have had a weak spot for this quirky-looking Rolex. The Yacht-Master was the last addition to the core Rolex sports collection, with the first model making its debut in 1992. In full gold, mind you! It wasn’t until 1999 that Rolex introduced a steel version of the Yacht-Master.

Even then, it had luxurious elements like a rotating bezel and dial in 950 platinum (Rolex dubbed this combination of steel and platinum “Rolesium”). The Yacht-Master has also been available in different sizes, making it a great fit for whoever wants to wear it.

Rolex Yacht-Master 16622

The 1999 Rolex Yacht-Master 16622 Rolesium

Rolex Yacht-Master collection

One could say that the Yacht-Master is a watch for those who like hanging around yacht clubs rather than a tool watch on board a yacht. That changed in 2007 with the introduction of the Yacht-Master II. This purpose-built watch featured a 10-minute countdown chronograph for timing the lead-up to regattas.

Rolex Yacht-Master II 116680

Using the rotating bezel, the wearer could set and synchronize this countdown chronograph to the sequence of race start times. This very clever, complex mechanism probably still makes the Yacht-Master II the most complicated model in Rolex’s catalog today. Many also regard it as a big, chunky watch, earning it even less love from enthusiasts than the standard Yacht-Master.

What I like about the Yacht-Master is that it’s slightly different from the other Rolex sports models. The shape of the case is softer, much like the Daytona case but without the pushers. Then, there’s the bidirectional bezel in platinum or gold with its raised numerals, which doesn’t have the same function as a diver’s bezel. On top of that, there’s the red seconds hand and red printing of the Yacht-Master name.

Rolex Yacht-Master Rolesor 116621

The addition of the new dials and sizes

In recent years, Rolex ditched the solid platinum dial and started to play with more colorful dials, such as brown, slate, black, and blue, depending on the case and bracelet materials. Brown is allocated to the two-tone reference (Everose and steel), black to both the full gold and bicolor models, and slate and blue to the steel Yacht-Master (with a platinum bezel). Mind you, this is only for 37mm and 40mm models.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 in white gold with the Falcon’s Eye dial

New 18K gold models

In 2019, Rolex added the 42mm edition of the Yacht-Master in white gold featuring a rubber strap referred to as the Oysterflex bracelet. This was not the first for the Oysterflex, however, as it already debuted in 2015 on the full Everose gold 40mm Yacht-Master.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 in yellow gold

This year, we saw two new Yacht-Master 42 editions, one in 18K white gold with a Falcon’s Eye dial and one in yellow gold with a normal black dial.

Although I had overlooked the Falcon’s Eye dial at first during the Watches and Wonders 2022 exhibition (I thought it was some kind of reflection), upon closer inspection in the Rolex offices, it’s actually quite a special dial.

Rolex Yacht-Master 40 Everose

Everose gold Rolex Yacht-Master 116655

Times are changing for the Rolex Yacht-Master

Since the introduction of the rose gold Yacht-Master 40 a few years ago as well as the white gold 42mm edition, it seems that the collection is getting more traction. It could also be that the Yacht-Master is getting more attention because everything that says Rolex on the dial (except the Cellini) is doing very well these days. The prime example is the Oyster Perpetual collection, which soared to heights when Rolex introduced it in various colors.

Rolex Yacht-Master 16622

Showing off

With the first collection of Yacht-Master (40mm) watches, the lack of interest had to do with the fact it wasn’t perceived as a tool watch. It was a show-off piece with precious metals such as platinum and gold, and the 60-minute scale bezel had no real function compared to those on the Submariner and Sea-Dweller.

Rolex Yacht-Master Everose and steel wristshot

You can debate how many Submariner and Sea-Dweller watches will see some water action or how many GMT-Master watches will be set to different time zones by their wearer. We like to own purpose-built watches, but often just to know that the watch is up to the task. I remember a TV commercial for Volkswagen in which a guy says that his Touareg SUV can drive through a muddy pool, even though he refuses to.

Every Rolex model with “just” 100 meters of water resistance, including the Datejust and the Yacht-Master, will indeed make it out of the swimming pool. You don’t need 300, 1,200, or even 11,000 meters.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 yellow gold

A new audience

With the high demand for Rolex, caused in part by the influence on social media channels, the Yacht-Master also received more demand. Social media got an entirely new audience to buy Rolex watches for all the wrong and right reasons. Many of these “new buyers” do not have the same reservations that some collectors and enthusiasts have about the Yacht-Master. The watch hardly gets talked about during GTGs (get-togethers) or meet-ups, where (vintage) Rolex collectors frown upon it. There is hope, though! I noticed that even the guys over at Amsterdam Vintage Watches have developed a soft spot for the quirky Yacht-Master. They write:

“We specialize in the classic models that shaped the Rolex brand over the time span of many decades. We’re talking about classics like the Datejust, Submariner, GMT, and Daytona. In that sense, the Yacht-Master is a bit of an odd duckling. Introduced in the 1990s, it’s a crossover model between the no-nonsense tool watches of old and the luxury sports watches that Rolex produces nowadays. It’s a thin line between cool and gaudy, but Rolex hit gold with the Yacht-Master. We love the Yacht-Master because it’s a lighter take on the classic Submariner diver watch.”

It’s refreshing to see that even hardcore vintage watch collectors and enthusiasts are opening up to this Rolex model.

Rolex Yacht-Master 116622 slate dial

Rolex Yacht-Master 116622 with a slate dial. Image source: Xupes

Undeservedly overlooked

The Yacht-Master is still underrated or frowned upon among collectors and watch enthusiasts. And undeservedly so, I would like to add. Perhaps it is to Rolex what the Boxster is to Porsche. You might need to defend why you didn’t pick a Porsche 911, but the drive is incredibly enjoyable. If you have a Rolex Yacht-Master (II) watch, I don’t have to tell you to enjoy it, and you’re probably already doing so. However, if you’ve never looked into the Yacht-Master, give it a try. You’ll probably like it more than you care to admit.

You can find more articles on the Rolex Yacht-Master here.