The Rolex YachtMaster: From Ignored to Adored
How an unexpected pairing with the Oysterflex™ bracelet put this lesser-known timepiece into the limelight.
1992: The Yacht-Master is Born
Although it was originally designed in the 1960s, the Yacht-Master wasn’t debuted until 1992. From a marketing perspective, creating this new addition to the Rolex lineup just made sense. Markets were up, increased globalization was creating new sources of income, and the internet was in its infancy. A new type of executive was entering the C-suite, and they formed a vanguard that wasn’t afraid to show off the profits they were making. This was the era of private jets and personal yachts, and Rolex wanted a bold new design to appeal to these buyers. Enter the original Yacht-Master ref 16628 in 18k yellow gold, flashier than a Submariner while still retaining some of the best parts of its predecessor.
Early 2000s Yacht-Master
As the global economy cooled and tastes began to change, the Yacht-Master was just a little too ostentatious for most Rolex buyers. Next to the silver fox Submariner, a Yacht-Master looked like it was trying too hard, a physical representation of a man over fifty who dyes his hair and uses contemporary slang terms incorrectly. Customers in the early 2000s craved a quieter, more understated vision of luxury. Submariners and GMT-Masters consistently outsold the Yacht-Master, which languished in dealer inventories as a fossilized relic of an era of excess that no longer existed. Some collectors speculated that Rolex would retire the Yacht-Master quietly and unceremoniously.
Rather than bowing out of the lineup, 2015 brought the world a brand new Yacht-Master, one that rose from the ashes of its former self to become a fiery phoenix that took the world by storm at Baselworld 2015. The Yacht-Master became the first Rolex to feature the rubber Oysterflex bracelet, and the combination was, frankly, stunning. When it was flanked with a traditional bracelet, the Yacht-Master case felt a little large on the wrist, but the new pairing with the understated velvet-black Oysterflex™ strap offset and complemented the Yacht-Master’s larger Cerachrom bezel and dial. Truly, a match made in heaven.
It was an incredible accomplishment when Rolex reinvented a watch that had looked dated and unable to appeal to a new generation of collectors. Most brands would be content with that amount of innovation. But in 2019, Rolex somehow improved upon perfection, introducing a white gold case in the largest size yet: 42 mm.
With the cancelation of Baselworld 2020, no one is quite sure where the Yacht-Master will go from here. Will any new changes retain the attention it’s courted since 2015? It’s possible that a new Yacht-Master could be unveiled in a stainless steel case, making this watch even more accessible to a wide range of buyers. Only time will tell. But in the meantime, we’ll be pairing our Yacht-Masters with several different straps, waiting for word on new features for this dark horse watch that’s quickly started leading the pack.
Everest Watch Bands fit Yacht-Master references: 126622, 16622, 116622, 16623 & 16628 (They are not compatible with the Yacht-Masters that come on Oysterflex™ bracelets.)
Written by Meghan Clark
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