Why Would My Only Rolex Be An 18K Gold Yacht-Master And Not A Submariner?
With its bold and brash big-cased look, the Rolex Yacht-Master series was never on my radar. It seemed too far removed from the original tool ethos of its brother, the Submariner. It also gave me the vibe of white slacks and a blue sports coat with brass buttons, which is not really my scene. But while the tool vibe of the Professional series has become far removed from its legend, the Yacht-Master has grown on me. But why would my only Rolex be an 18K gold Yacht-Master?
Honestly, putting this down on “paper” makes it seem as unlikely as wearing a 46mm hulk of a blingy 2000s Breitling daily. Or is it my perfect Rolex fit, while the Submariner has, in fact, had its day? Let’s face it, a diver wouldn’t trust a mechanical watch these days except for some snorkeling as dive computers and Garmins have taken over. This has made me feel a deep affinity for the somehow ironic Yacht-Masters on the accomplished Oysterflex rubber “bracelet,” but why?
The OG ref. 116655 Yacht-Master on Oysterflex
The first time I saw this back in 2015, I was shocked. Why would Rolex make a rubber strap with its expertise in steel bracelets? And why was it marketed as a rubber bracelet with an inner molded metal support structure? This was mad science to me at the time, but after trying it on, it made sense. It made the Yacht-Master look like a solid gold Submariner with a modded stealth bezel. I’m glad I was sitting down for that. But for some reason, the Everose gold 40mm and 37mm debut pieces resonated with me more than a Sub. With my calm and minimalist Nordic taste, I’ll put it down to more charming corruption by my Italian wife. This was the first time that Everose, Rolex’s in-house alloy of rose gold with a smidgen of platinum, had been used for the Yacht-Master, and at a quite perfect 40mm.
A tempting contradiction of styles
Unlike most Rolex releases, what started as a guilty-pleasure peep show has stayed with me for almost eight years. This Hublot beater was intended as an entirely different thing than a Submariner, but to my mind, the brand acknowledged that the age of actual tool watches had passed. The matte Cerachrom bezel insert with numerals in relief was a dark stroke of genius. The wholly unexpected combo of a printed crown and logo with the single line of red “YACHT-MASTER” script was sublime. It was a shameless party piece with no diving or extreme sports intentions but with a tough silhouette. As a bonus, the comfort and 40mm ergonomics made it much more comfortable than huge Big Bangs. But the market was the same, catering to the buyers of €3,000 Dior × Air Jordans and Supreme. A new version of your dad’s evolved ’60s diver it wasn’t. Today, the evolved 40mm ref. 126655 has a retail price of €28,800 / US$28,800.
Ref. 226659 is 42mm of stealth wealth
While my fave is the visibly glamorous Everose version, big kudos to Rolex for creating the monochrome 18K white gold ref. 226659. It is a bit big for me, but it is one of the best examples of understated grail-ness, hands down. It’s also quite available as far as Rolexes go and, even better these days, a great example of stealth wealth. Its unassuming case and matte black relief bezel make it an understated piece of monochrome cool. At a suggested €30,500 / US$33,100, it’s an expensive piece, but there is something about the charming contradiction of rubber and gold that sets it apart.
Hublot might have started the trend, but with few exceptions, those watches are the opposite of understated. This is, for lack of a better term, classy. Rock it with a suit or T-shirt, safe in the knowledge that criminals won’t recognize its value. With the caliber 3235 equipped with the Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers, this might be glamorous and weighty gold. But if you’re brave, it’s a go-with-everything sports watch.
Ref. 126679SABR — a 40mm glam-grail
The juxtaposed glam of these Yacht-Masters has proved a success, but as with everything Rolex, the numbers are kept under wraps. The March 2022 release of the limited 40mm white gold version to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the series stunned me. I’m not big on gem-set watches, but the studied color choice of the diamond- and sapphire-set bezel on the 126679SABR hit me hard. With diamonds underlining the elegant sweep of the lugs and a mix of diamonds and pink and blue sapphires encircling the dial, I’d wear it. I am not a rapper, a rockstar, or a TikTok celeb, but I can imagine this on my wrist. They’re going for a sobering US$179,000 and up on Chrono24, though, so I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon. I’m still craving after a 40mm Everose ref. 126655, but with a recession looming, I won’t be a Rolex owner in the near future either. Well, even with a great 2023, I couldn’t afford it, but daydreams are free, right?
So, Fratelli, do you think I’ve lost the plot and should want a Submariner like everyone else, or am I making an important point here? Let me know in the comments below.
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