Both the Rolex Yacht-Master and its successor the Rolex Yacht-Master II have captured the untamed spirit of the sea and the imaginations of watch lovers across the globe. Let’s take a deep dive into what makes these exclusive timepieces such enduring successes.
First, a look back. Not too far. We just need to ease the time-machine shifter into reverse for a quick trip back to 1992. Bill Clinton was elected U.S. President; Wayne’s World was a box-office smash and a little-known band named Nirvana swerved the music scene away from 80s hair bands to something called “grunge.” It was in this same year that Rolex dropped the very first Yacht-Master.
Rolex Needed a New Groove
The watch was a big deal at the time (as it is today). Rolex hadn’t much altered the design of its Sea-Dweller, the Yacht-Master’s nautical-themed predecessor, in more than two decades. Unsurprisingly, the shift came along when Patrick Heiniger took the helm of the company from his father. The new boss was intent on making some changes that would keep Rolex current. So the best parts of their tried-and-true Submariners and Rolex Daytona’s were combined with a few new cutting-edge design elements and the Yacht-Master was born.
The first model, offered in the Oyster Perpetual line, was somewhat similar to the Submariner with 3135 movement. But it had an 18 karat gold case, etched bezel inserts, large indices and hands, and, perhaps most fittingly, was water-resistant up to 100 meters. At 40mm, this freshman Yacht-Master was big, bold and an instant success.
Just two years later Rolex scaled back the Yacht-Master’s size with a 35mm edition for men with slimmer wrists and a 29mm offering aimed at women, along with an updated version of the 40mm watch. These new editions featured striking blue sunray dials that would go on to be regarded as hallmarks in the line.
As we neared the end of the 20th century Rolex looked to change with the times. And change was in the air in 1999. Maybe it was Y2K fears, maybe because the global population passed six billion or possibly because Ricky Martin was daring us to start “Livin’ la Vida Loca.” We may never know what inspired Rolex to move from gold to a new mix of platinum and steel called “Rolesium.” We do know it was a somewhat controversial move, with both lovers and detractors of the rare-metal mix.
Yacht-Master Spawns a Sequel
2007 was a big year for sequels (and threequels!). Hollywood gave us Hostel 2, Spider-Man 3, Rush Hour 3, Shrek the Third, Ocean’s 13 and Halloween 9. So it seems only fitting that Rolex would drop the Yacht-Master ii amid this retread mania. The watch was (and is!) bold in many ways, from its hefty 44mm size to its striking blue bezel, set against the meeting of two metals known as “Rolesor,” mixing steel with yellow and white gold. It’s an eye-catching combo that’s made the timepiece instantly recognizable and a favorite of watch aficionados worldwide.
Today’s Yacht-Masters run the gamut of variations. Go dressy with a link bracelet or sporty with a rubber strap. Dials span from midnight black and slate grey to powder white and shimmering bronze. Feel like bringing some bling with diamond accents? No problem, Rolex has a Yacht-Master for that too! These variations, the Yacht-Master’s timeless elegance, and the quality of fine Swiss watchmaking have put the timepiece in the spotlight and on some seriously trendy wrists.
Celebrities Sport the Yacht-Masters
Ellen DeGeneres. Demonstrating that big luxe watches aren’t just for men, Ellen has been spotted wearing an 18k Everose gold Yacht-Master. Her classic model has a Cerachrom bezel, matte black dial and she likes the watch best on a sporty black rubber strap.
Conor McGregor. Never shy about flashing some seriously nice watches, UFC champ McGregor’s go-to Yacht-Master ii is a brazen 44mm yellow-gold model with that ever-popular Ring Command bezel in vibrant blue.
David Beckham. You can say the same for David Beckham and his yellow-gold Yacht-Master ii. But McGregor and Beckham don’t really have the same watch. With Rolex’s unique use of natural materials, none of their signature mother-of-pearl dials is exactly the same.
Mark Wahlberg. The movie star takes a different tact with his 40mm Yacht-Master in Everose Rolesor with a mix of Oystersteel and rose gold. While the precious metals give it a dressed-up feel, the cool chocolate dial creates a more casual vibe that makes the watch quite versatile.
Roger Federer. Of course, the “James Bond” of tennis keeps things cool and sophisticated with his Yacht-Master ii, a Rolesium model with a rotatable platinum bezel and an 18k white gold case.
You may not be a tennis star, movie star or have the ability to take down a UFC fighter with a roundhouse kick (or maybe you do). Either way, you can still sport some star style with a nautical lean by slipping on a fine Rolex Yacht-Master.