The big novelty from Rolex at Baselworld 2016 was… you guessed it: the Daytona Ceramic Bezel 116500LN – a very nice watch sure, but still just a simple cosmetic evolution of an existing model. However, there were of course some other watches to discover. One of these models in particular has always managed to stay a bit under the radar, the Yacht-Master, a watch that has never really found favor with Rolex purists. Last year, it was revamped by the Crown, with the introduction of an Everose / Ceramic version. While we were expecting it to be introduced in steel in 2016, Rolex decided differently and instead unveiled the new Rolex Yacht-Master 116621 Two-Tone Everose Gold / Steel and Chocolate Dial.
What is the Rolex Yacht-Master? A bit of history
In 1992, at Baselworld, Rolex introduced a brand new model named the Yacht-Master. Now, if you know anything about Rolex, you know that the introduction of an entirely new model is not something that occurs very often. Rolex has a collection of iconic and purpose-built watches and, mostly, they improve and redesign these existing watches. In fact, a new model is so rare that, when this Yacht-Master was introduced in 1992, it was the first real novelty (and here I mean “entirely new watch”) since 1964, when the Daytona made its debut. It took Rolex 28 years to create a new model… or at least one with a new name, because, objectively, this Yacht-Master felt (and still feels) quite familiar.
This wasn’t the first time the name Yacht-Master was mentioned at Rolex however. In the late 1960s, the brand developed a nautical-inspired Daytona, with regatta counter, also named Yacht-Master – a chronograph that however remained at the prototype stage and was never commercialized. A sort of tribute to this rare bird can be seen in the current Yacht-Master II, also a nautical-inspired chronograph with regatta complication.
The first execution (1992) Rolex yacht-Master 16628 Yellow Gold
The modern-day version of the Yacht-Master made its first appearance with the ref. 16628, an 18k yellow gold version with white dial and black hour indexes. The design of this watch feels quite familiar, so it’s easy to speculate about the inspiration and the positioning of this Yacht-Master in the collection. Some stories (and keep in mind that there’s nothing official here) say that Rolex, during the 1980’s, experimented with tons of different options to revamp the iconic Submariner. Several attempts later, something close to the Yacht-Master appeared, however, Rolex felt that redesigning the Sub was probably not the right move. When you have an icon, you don’t want to kill it. However, the design proposed was pleasing to Rolex and they looked at options to commercialize it. It had to be slightly different from a Sub of course, so as not to cannibalize it. The decision was made therefore that this watch should be positioned as a sort of luxurious nautical watch, mixing attributes of a dive watch with the ability to be used at the yacht-club or on the deck of a super-yacht.
The distinction was simple: steel case water-resistant to 300m, black bezel, black dial and tool-ish characteristics for the Submariner. Gold case water-resistant to 100m, bright dial, solid gold bezel and luxurious characteristics (mainly due to more rounded shapes) for the Yacht-Master. For the rest, both watches were rather close: the same 3135 movement, the same dial layout, the same hands, the same 60-minute bezel (but here, bidirectional). It’s possible this close resemblance to the Submariner might be the reason why the Yacht-Master was so unpopular in comparison. This is why, over the years, it has evolved with different materials and more colors (two-tone Rolesor, blue dial, ladies’ and mid-size versions… things that the Submariner does not have).
The latest evolution of the Yacht-Master, the 116655 with ceramic bezel and Oysterflex strap
The most famous version of the Rolex Yacht-Master was introduced in 1999, under the reference 16622: steel case, steel bracelet, solid platinum bezel and platinum dial with sparkling finish. At Baselworld 2012, the brand came with a refreshed version, with maxi-dial and maxi-case, as well as a cobalt-blue dial option. Finally, a major evolution came in 2015, with the introduction of the Everose version, with black dial, black ceramic bezel insert and Oysterflex (rubber) bracelet – a new design that dramatically changed the perception of this watch.
The 2016 Rolex Yacht-Master 116621
What Rolex introduced this year is the Rolex Yacht-Master 116621 Everose Rolesor Chocolate dial. What does it mean, in ‘Rolex’ language? It means that we have a two-tone version (Rolesor) combining stainless steel and Everose Gold (Rolex’s own rose gold alloy) with a dark brown dial – a combination often used by the brand. It is not the first time that Rolex has used this Rolesor design on the Yacht-Master, as versions combining steel and yellow gold, with a white, grey, blue or gold dial, already exist. However, with this Rolex Yacht-Master 116621, it is the first time that Rolex offers a Rolesor Everose version of the model.
At Rolex, Rolesor means two-tone watches, described as such: “Rolesor is the auspicious meeting of two metals on a single Rolex watch: gold and steel (…) The concept is simple: the bezel, the winding crown and the centre bracelet links are made of 18 ct yellow or Everose gold (Rolex’s exclusive pink gold alloy); the middle case and the outer links of the bracelet are made of 904L stainless steel.” Thus, you would expect that this Rolex Yacht-Master 116621 follows those rules… Of course, it features a central case and a bracelet with satined outer links in steel. It also features Everose polished central links and bezel. However, the crown remains steel (which was the case already on the previous two-tone version ref. 16623). Look at all Rolesor watches by Rolex and you’ll see that the Yacht-Master, including this ref. 116621, is the exception. Nevertheless, I have to admit that, personally, I prefer the crown to be steel instead of gold, as I always felt this gold touch to be quite awkward.
The case is the usual Yacht-Master design, with a 40mm diameter and rather rounded lugs (while modern Submariners or GMT-Masters have bulky, squarish lugs) positioning this watch in the more luxurious category, strong crown protection guards – also rounded – and an abundance of polished surfaces (only the bracelet features satined surfaces). The bezel is the most striking design touch of this watch. It is now machined from a solid block of Everose gold but still with the same style as before: large, raised numerals, their polished surfaces contrasting nicely against the sand-blasted background. This has always been a distinctive point of this watch, compared to the Submariner – and the main aspect that made this watch more elegant and dressier than the Subs. Nevertheless, the bezel is bidirectional but, with its 60-minute scale, allows for recreational diving sessions.
With this Rolex Yacht-Master 116621, the brand opted for a safe combination, with a dark brown “chocolate” toned dial. This combination of Rose gold and brown dial has been widely used by the Crown. It gives the watch a warm aspect and a luxurious touch. The dial is finished with a sun-ray pattern, which affords gorgeous reflections in natural light conditions. The indexes, hands and Rolex logo are gold, allowing for great contrast and legibility. Traditional for this watch, the name of the model is printed in red, making it rather discreet. The date is displayed at 3 and, as always with the Crown, placed under a cyclops.
On the wrist, the Yacht-Master is very comfortable (thanks to the rounded lugs and crown guard) and offers a great combination of sports and luxury, which makes it a quite interesting weekend watch. Perfect for those who are not actively using their timepieces (for that, go for a Submariner) but who still want to be safe in case of an impromptu jump in the harbor. In fact, in this chocolate / Everose Rolesor combination, the watch gains a certain elegance and refinement, clearly setting it apart from the Submariner – and thus, making highly desirable. It perfectly deserves its name as a nautical-inspired watch that was not designed to be a tool watch.
As part of the new collection, this Rolex Yacht-Master 116621 also benefits from the latest technological features of the brand, including of course the blue Parachrom spiral as well as the new Superlative Chronometer certification (guaranteeing that the watch runs in the -2/+2 s/day range) and the 5-year warranty.
The Rolex Yacht-Master 116621 Two-Tone Everose Gold / Steel with Chocolate Dial can only be ordered in 40mm and for a price of 12,900 Euros or 13,400 CHF. Rolex.com.
Specifications of the Rolex Yacht-Master 116621
- Case: 40mm Oyster case – Rolesor Everose (combination of rose gold and steel) – bidirectional 60-minute bezel in rose gold – sapphire crystal on the front, plain caseback – 100m water resistant
- Movement: Calibre 3135, in-house – Superlative Chronometer certification – automatic – 4Hz frequency – 48h power reserve – hours, minutes, second and date
- Bracelet: two-tone (steel and rose gold) Oyster bracelet, with Osyterlock clasp and Easylink quite extension