The History and Development of the Rolex Yacht-Master

Published on Tuesday 22nd of February 2022
Rolex Watch History

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The History and Development of the Rolex Yacht-Master

In the mid-1980s, Rolex were having great success with their line of sports watches that had remained unchanged for many years. However rumour has it that at some point Rolex were looking at redesigning the iconic Submariner. Thankfully Rolex eventually came to their senses and left the design of the Submariner alone. However, the work that had gone into the redesigned watch was rather good and it seemed a shame to leave it on the design room floor. Therefore, in the years that followed, Rolex used the new design intended for the Submariner to make a brand new line of maritime watches for the luxury market, and so the Rolex Yacht-Master was born.

The Rolex Yacht-Master made its debut in 1992, and was the first new design in 25 years (since the Sea-Dweller in 1967). Although it obviously shares its DNA with the rugged steel tool watch that is the Submariner, the Yacht-Master is designed to be a more luxurious offering, appealing to those who spend their spare time relaxing on superyachts above the water, as opposed to working under it.
Originally only available in solid 18kt yellow gold, the Yacht-Master was, and still is, the only Rolex watch available in three sizes, with a 29mm - ref 69628, a 35mm - ref 68628, and the most popular being the 40mm variant ref 16628. Its wealthy target market was also well catered for in dial options, with options including various colours of mother of pearl, as well as a deep sunburst blue, with the option of hour markers in ruby-red, sapphire, and black onyx-set. The most popular dial combination being a striking white dial and contrasting black hour markers.

The Rolex Yacht-Master was exclusively available in 18kt yellow gold until 1995, when Rolex introduced a new Yacht-Master in steel and yellow gold. A few years later they added a steel and platinum model, all with the unique sandblasted finish bezel and highly polished raised numerals. An oyster bracelet and polished centre links made them stand out as the dressy luxury option in the Rolex professional line-up. All three metal variations of Rolex Yacht-Master were available in three sizes and various dial options. It wasn't until 2015 that the Rolex Yacht-Master range saw a change in design.

The History and Development of the Rolex Yacht-Master

By the mid-2010s, Rolex had stopped making the solid 18kt yellow gold Yacht-Master, with only the steel/platinum, and steel/yellow gold versions being available until 2015. Rolex also stopped making the steel and yellow gold Yacht-Master in order to make way for a new generation of Rolex Yacht-Master. Rolex are normally trend setters in the world of watches, with many fashion brands trying to replicate the aesthetics of the Rolex range, but with the use of rose gold in fashion getting more and more popular, the Rolex Yacht-Master would be the latest in the range to adopt the ‘Everose’ material (Rolex’s own rendition of rose gold).

As well as the introduction of rose gold, the new generation of Yacht-Master ref 116655 included a first for Rolex, the option of a rubber strap. The soft black rubber of the new ‘Oysterflex’ bracelet has a flexible titanium-nickel alloy core to ensure its strength and flexibility. As well as the introduction of the Oysterflex bracelet, the new Rolex Yacht-Master also had a new bezel, keeping its sand blasted finish with raised numbers, but now made of a black scratch resistant ceramic, giving the bezel a matt black finish to contrast to the highly polished rose gold case.

A year after the introduction of the rose gold on black rubber Rolex Yacht-Master 116655, Rolex replaced the steel and yellow gold line of Yacht-Masters, with a steel and rose gold range of watches. This colour scheme, like the rose gold on rubber bracelet, is available in two sizes, a full sized 40mm watch ref 116621 (replaced with the ref 126621 in 2019), and a reduced size of 37mm ref 268621.
This addition to the Rolex Yacht-Master Range means that the collection has three different variations, with two size options for each. The new steel and rose gold model, the rose gold on rubber bracelet model and the steel and platinum Yacht-Master, which is available in a 40mm (ref 126622), and in 37mm (ref 268622) size. This has two distinct dial options, a deep blue dial with a line of red text and matching seconds hand, and a dark slate dial with a turquoise blue line of text and matching seconds hand.

Amongst the new releases at the Baselworld watch fair in 2019, there was a new Yacht-Master to join the line-up. With a new case size of 42mm, the new ref 226659 is the biggest Yacht-Master yet. It has the same black Oysterflex rubber bracelet and black ceramic sandblast finish bezel like the rose gold Yacht-Masters in the range, but this new model is exclusively available in 18kt white gold and gloss black dial, giving the latest Rolex Yacht-Master a contrasting monochrome look.

Today the Rolex Yacht-Master sits in the Rolex Professional Watches range, alongside its bigger brother the Yacht-Master II, being a modern sports watch. The Yacht-Master is generating far more interest in comparison to the supply that Rolex are giving to authorised dealers, and thus the price of the Rolex Yacht-Master on the used watch market is steadily increasing.

 Rolex Yacht Master 42

Rolex Yacht Master 42

 

 

Author: Watches by Timepiece

 

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