The History and Development of the Rolex Yacht Master II

Published on Saturday 6th of November 2021
Rolex Watch History

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 The Rolex Yacht-Master sits well in the Rolex Professional Watch line up. A watch with all the capabilities as the truly rugged working watches like the Rolex Submariner, or the Rolex Sea-Dweller, but with more of a luxury feel, and a more affluent target market than some of the other watches in the range.

In 2007, 15 years after the birth of the Rolex Yacht-Master, Rolex announced it would be making a new watch that would share the Yacht-Master name, the Yacht-Master II. At first glance it looked like this watch would be the missing link between the luxurious Yacht-Master, and the bulkier function orientated watches that it shares a catalogue with.

Three years after the announcement of the Rolex Yacht-Master II, the first watches were released. To begin with, the Rolex Yacht-Master II was available exclusively in 18kt yellow gold (ref 116688) or 18kt white gold (ref 116689). The Yacht-Master II has one of the largest case sizes ever made by the Swiss power house, at 44mm. It dwarfs its Yacht-Master sibling, and the large case is equipped with a large numbered bezel, several brightly coloured hands and dial details, and two chronograph-like pushers at the 2 and 4 o’clock position, indicating the increased functionality of the new Yacht-Master II.

Behind the unapologetically extravert design of the Yacht-Master II, there is unsurprisingly some superbly complicated and high quality watch making. For the first time on a Rolex watch the Yacht-Master II uses what Rolex call a ‘Command Bezel’. This bezel puts the watch into different setting modes depending on what position the bezel is turned to. Turning the bezel 90 degrees to the left allows you to use the crown to set the other impressive complications built into the Rolex calibre 4130 movement contained within the Yacht-Master II.
The main complication of the watch is a programmable ‘fly-back regatta timer’, which is essentially a countdown timer that used to show the remaining time in the starting period of a yacht race. Once the bezel is in its times-setting position, the crown can be used to set how many minutes the count down time will run for. Once this has been set, the bezel can be turned back to its normal position, and the pushers on the side of the case can be used to start, stop, and reset the timer.


Rolex Yacht Master II White Dial 
Rolex Yacht Master II White Dial 


The regatta timer complication also has another feature that, although minor, shows the amount of horological problem solving that went into the design of this watch. When the timer is running, the bottom pusher can be pushed so that the seconds hand will fly back to the zero mark, and crucially the hour hand will fly back to the nearest minute, and both begin running again immediately. This small but extremely complicated detail allows you to resync your countdown with the official countdown time.

In keeping with the largely extroverted styling, the Rolex Yacht-Master II has a bright blue ceramic bezel, matched with a white dial, a blue ringed sub dial at 6 for the running seconds hand, and a horseshoe shaped scale across the top three quarters of the dial counting down from 10 to 0, with an arrow shaped pointer hand to indicate minutes remaining. The hour and minute hand match the white and blue colour scheme with a blue sword shape, and the fly back timer seconds hand contrasts the blue with bright red colouring. The large oyster bracelet like the smaller Yacht-Master has polished centre links, and a flip lock clasp.


Rolex Yacht Master II
Rolex Yacht Master II


In 2011, Rolex added a rose gold and steel version of the Yacht-Master II to the range (ref 116681). Keeping the blue white and red colour scheme to the watch but adding rose gold details to match the rose gold added to the case and bracelet. It wasn't until Baselworld 2013 that Rolex completed the collection by finally releasing an all steel version of the Yacht-Master II (ref 116680).

It was announced that 2017 (10 years after the first Rolex Yacht-Master II was launched), would be the year the Rolex Yacht-Master II range would see its first, and so far only change to its design. All reference numbers would remain the same, but Rolex gave post 2017 watches an update. Up until this point the watch had square luminous hour markers around the edge of the dial, framed in a metallic blue to match the hands, but the change saw the blue surround replaced with white gold, and the 12 o'clock marker changed to an inverted triangle like many other Rolex watches, with a taller rectangle at 6 o’clock. The hands were also changed from the blue sword shaped hour and minute hands, to a more traditional white gold Rolex ‘Mercedes’ hands. It is thought this was done to improve legibility, especially in low light.

Today the Rolex Yacht-Master II, like all other watches in the Rolex Professional Watches range are getting harder to obtain from Rolex authorised dealers, with demand vastly outweighing the supply, and pushing the prices of pre-owned models higher. Creating an opportunity of investment within the watch collecting world, only helped by the unusual overstated colours and instantly recognisable design, is what makes the Rolex Yacht-Master II so popular.

Author: C Lawson

Rolex Yacht Master II from Rolex on Youtube



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