Watches & Wonders Geneva kicks off at the end of the month, which means that in just a handful of days, Rolex will be unveiling all of its new models for 2022. Despite being the world’s single most famous luxury timepiece manufacturer, Rolex is notoriously secretive about its operations and no one outside of the company definitely knows what new watches will be added to the catalog this year. With that in mind, Rolex predictions are consistently one of the most passionately discussed topics and speculation is currently running high among collectors and enthusiasts.
Regardless of what new Rolex watches get unveiled, they are virtually guaranteed to sell out at retailers and will easily be among the most discussed new releases of the year. However, one of my top Rolex predictions for 2022 is that it will be the year of the Yacht-Master collection, and there will be an all-new titanium Rolex Yacht-Master launched in Geneva at the end of this month.
Rolex’s Most Underrated Sports Watch
Rolex has reached a stratospheric level of popularity within the last several years, and the brand’s various sports watches have become nearly impossible to obtain at a retail level. While all of Rolex’s models are completely sold out at dealers around the globe, the Yacht-Master is the brand’s most underrated sports watch. Granted, you still won’t be getting any Yacht-Master from your local retailer without spending some amount of time on a waiting list, but the entire collection simply lacks the same general hype that surrounds other Rolex sports models such as the Submariner, Daytona, and GMT-Master II.
Historically, whenever Rolex introduces a new stainless steel sports watch, public interest in that greater collection also tends to rise. The Daytona saw a significant increase in popularity after the 2016 launch of the reference 116500LN, and a similar spike in interest can be observed within the GMT-Master II collection after the introduction of the stainless steel Pepsi reference 126710BLRO in 2018. The Oysterflex bracelet did bring a lot of attention to the Yacht-Master collection, but since the only models available with it are all crafted from solid 18k gold, the popularity boost they provide isn’t quite the same as if Rolex had created stainless steel versions of the same watches.
That being said, one of the few things even more exciting than a new stainless steel Rolex sports model would be if the iconic Swiss manufacturer released its first titanium watch this year.
Image: Ben Ainslie
The Titanium Yacht-Master Prototype
So, why titanium? As a manufacturing material, titanium isn’t a completely foreign substance to Rolex. Although the brand doesn’t currently offer any titanium models, its little sibling company Tudor does in the form of the Pelagos. Additionally, certain modern Rolex watches already use titanium in the construction of select components. For example, Submariner watches with ceramic bezels have titanium crystal securing rings and the Deepsea has its entire center caseback made from titanium because it is more flexible than traditional stainless steel.
However, far more important than a handful of titanium components is the fact that Rolex has already produced a prototype titanium Yacht-Master 42
in a no-date configuration - and this isn’t just some myth but rather a real watch that is confirmed to exist. English sailor and Rolex Ambassador Ben Ainslie has been spotted wearing the prototype on numerous occasions, and he has even gone on record saying, “the team at Rolex has been incredibly thoughtful by giving me a titanium Yacht-Master 42.” Rolex acknowledges that the titanium Yacht-Master prototype exists and that it runs on the Cal. 3230 movement; however, the brand (naturally) declines to supply too many details about the watch at this point in time.
Image: Jake’s Rolex World
Rolex Yacht-Master or Yacht-Master II?
Rolex’s first-ever titanium watch would almost certainly become one its most desirable models, and a titanium Yacht-Master seems like a serious possibility given that Rolex has already produced one as a prototype. However, the big question that still remains is whether the new titanium model would be part of the standard Yacht-Master lineup (just like the prototype), or if Rolex would choose to have its inaugural titanium watch be one of its purpose-built regatta timers and unveil a titanium Yacht-Master II at Watches & Wonders Geneva.
I’ve already said that I think the current lineup of Rolex Yacht-Master II watches will be discontinued this year, and a new generation that includes the brand’s first-ever titanium model would likely generate a lot of interest in what has historically been one of Rolex’s least popular collections. Despite being specifically designed for the world of competitive sailing, the current Yacht-Master II is a rather large and heavy watch, making it hardly ideal for a sport where lightweight equipment is imperative. If Rolex were to produce a titanium version of its professional regatta timer, it would largely remedy what is arguably one of the watch’s greatest functional drawbacks. Plus, this approach would seem like a highly local move given that Ben Ainslie is the Ambassador who Rolex chose to work with on the development of this specific project.
All of that being said, the simple fact that I am making this prediction means that it will almost certainly not happen, and Rolex will instead release a new Milgauss or something else this year and leave the Yacht-Master collection alone entirely. However, a lot of signs are pointing to there being a titanium Rolex Yacht-Master in the works, and it would hardly be the most unprecedented new release from a brand that is known for producing high-performing luxury sports watches.