Review Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold ref. 226659

The Master and Commander of the Crown's Nautical Fleet.

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Rebecca Doulton | ic_query_builder_black_24px 9 minute read |
Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold 226659

If a conservative bastion of watchmaking like Rolex proposes a 42mm white gold watch on a black rubber strap as the epitome of sporty elegance, well, you’ll have to admit that times have changed. Rolex seems to have tapped into the zeitgeist for larger luxury sports watches doubling up as watches that can be worn just about everywhere with just about anything. Released during Baselworld 2019, the Yacht-Master was revisited in a larger 42mm case with sleek black tones and the new-generation calibre 3235. It also marks the first time the Yacht-Master has appeared in white gold, so let’s take a closer look at Rolex’s “watch of the open seas”, the Yacht-Master 42 White Gold ref. 226659.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold 226659

The call of the sea

When Hans Wilsdorf presented the Oyster in 1926, the world’s first waterproof wristwatch, he paved the way for Rolex’s outstanding and ongoing tradition of water-resistant watches. From the iconic Submariner to hyper professional deep-sea divers like the Sea-Dweller, the sea and all things maritime are a natural habitat for Rolex’s robust tool watches. Rolex also enjoys a long-standing relationship with the world of sailing and since the early 1950s has partnered with select yacht clubs around the world. As the sponsor of prestigious regattas, like the exciting Rolex Fastnet Race, Rolex even developed a watch, the Yacht-Master II, with a specific regatta countdown function for competitive sailors.

Below: Sir Francis Chichester, the first person to sail single-handed around the world from west to east, a nine-month journey from August 1966 to May 1967. Next to it, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual he was wearing on his wrist during this voyage.

But what about wealthy yacht owners and sailing club members who prefer to watch regattas as opposed to participate in them? Men who want a sporty looking watch that can definitely take a plunge but with enough panache to wear to a cocktail or a more formal event? Welcome the Yacht-Master 42, Rolex’s luxury nautical sports candidate.

Theory of Evolution

Rolex is the most Darwinian of watch brands, generally known for introducing evolutions as opposed to revolutionising the scene with brand new collections year after year. Careful, well-thought-out ameliorations on existing models tend to be the norm at Rolex and most of the time it’s a tweak on the dial or an ‘exciting’ upgrade to steel. Change comes slowly at Rolex and only to improve upon an existing species.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold 226659

This explains why the debut of the Yacht-Master in 1992 was hailed as such a groundbreaking, surprising event: a full 25 years had passed since Rolex’s last release (1967 Sea-Dweller). But there was another reason why the Yacht-Master surprised and then failed to engage Rolex fans and that was its non-tool watch status. Unlike the Submariner, the solid gold case of the Yacht-Master was not really compatible with a rugged, professional dive watch. Although it picked up on many design cues and was fitted with the same calibre as the Submariner, the water-resistance was reduced to 100 metres and its vocation as a professional dive watch was redirected to activities above deck.

Tooled down, dressed up

Although Rolex will never officially confirm whether the Yacht-Master was the result of an aborted plan to revamp the Submariner in the 1980s, the Yacht-Master was positioned as a luxurious nautical watch, a statement watch that you can wear on the deck of your yacht, get splashed by ocean spray and still look, well, affluent.

Rolex yacht-Master 16628 Yellow Gold 1992
The first generation of Rolex Yacht-Master with yellow gold case and white dial – reference 16628 introduced at Baselworld 1992

The first generation Yacht-Master appeared in 1992 with a 40mm yellow gold case (ref. 16628) and a white dial. Sharing the same dial with no numerals, the same hands, the same date window with Cyclops lens, the same 60-minute bezel, the same Triplock crown, and the same movement as the Submariner, the differences lay in the more refined, more rounded aesthetics, the thick solid gold (bidirectional) bezel and the large raised mirror-polished numerals.

The Rolex Yacht-Master 16622 in steel, with platinum bezel and platinum-coated bezel – source: bobswatches

Over the years the Yacht-Master has appeared in a mid-size 35mm men’s version and even a 29mm ladies’ model (1994). Today it exists in three sizes: 42, 40 and 37mm. It wasn’t until 1999, however, that the Yacht-Master really got the wind in its sails with a steel case and platinum bezel model (ref. 16622) called Rolesium, which is still going strong today. By 2005, two-tone Yacht-Masters joined the line-up and in 2015, the Everose (ref.116655) introduced two major aesthetic updates: the bezel featuring a black ceramic insert and a daring black rubber ‘Oysterflex’ strap.

The 2015 Rolex Yach-Master Everose gold, Ceramic bezel and Oysterflex bracelet

Overnight, the 2015 Yacht-Master looked radically different from its metal counterparts. It was suddenly more contemporary, sleeker and more dramatic with its rich red gold case and contrasting matte black features.

Sized up, toned down

Sporty look but luxurious materials (and price…) This white gold Yacht-Master 42 proclaims its independence from the Submariner.

The 2019 Rolex Yacht-Master 42 follows the style mandates of the 2015 model playing heavily on the textures card but tones down the colour scheme and ups the size. With its more discreet 18k white gold case and matte black bezel and strap, you could say that this is the black-tie model of the Yacht-Master family. It is also the largest model of the Yacht-Master with a 42mm diameter, no doubt a move designed to differentiate it one step further from the 40mm steel Submariner Date with a black dial and bezel.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold 226659

If for any reason your first glance at the watch led you to believe it was a Submariner, a quick look at the price tag will clearly establish its identity. This Yacht-Master 42 reference 226659, in white gold costs EUR 25,700 while the Submariner Date ref. 116610LN costs EUR 7,850: that’s a difference of EUR 17,850 (if ever you can find a Submariner Date at retail price… but that’s another debate)

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold 226659

A case study in textures

The case, for the first time in the Yacht-Master’s relatively short history, is crafted in 18k white gold straight from Rolex’s proprietary foundry. All the gold surfaces are polished for a more elegant feel and the lugs benefit from the 2015 update when they were whittled down and given more of a curve.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold 226659

The distinctive white gold, bidirectional rotating bezel of this Rolex Yacht-Master 42 is filled with black Cerachrom ceramic. Developed and patented by Rolex, Cerachrom is a hard ceramic material that is practically scratch-proof, corrosion-resistant and impervious to ultraviolet rays. The matte black ceramic has been sandblasted to provide a more technical, contemporary finish and provides the background for the raised black numerals marking 0-60 minutes. The numerals and markers are first moulded into the ceramic and then polished to contrast with the sandblasted bezel.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold 226659

Add to this the remarkably flexible and resilient black rubber strap and you can see how important textures are to this watch: the cold, sleek feel and weight of white gold; the rugged, slightly gritty sandblasted ceramic; the knurled bezel and fluted caseback; the prominent and raised numerals; and the agreeable warm and supple texture of the rubber strap.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold 226659

The black lacquered dial, which reinforces the sober aesthetics of this Rolex Yacht-Master 42, features applied 18k white gold hour markers. The hallmark Mercedes hour hand, the minutes hand and the central seconds hand with its round counterweight are also crafted in white gold, and like the hour markers, are treated with Rolex’s very own luminescent material known as Chromalight that emits a long-lasting blue glow in the dark. As a model that is equally as happy in an executive suite as on the deck of a yacht, all Yacht-Masters have a date window at 3 o’clock magnified with Rolex’s hallmark Cyclops lens.

Oysterflex bracelet

Originally used for dive watches, the rubber strap went upmarket in the 1980s onboard Hublot’s daring precious metal/rubber strap combination. The Rolex Yacht-Master 42, like the 2015 model, is fitted with a matte black rubber strap. Not just any black rubber strap mind you, but a black elastomer strap with a hidden infrastructure made up of flexible metal blades that replicate the robustness and reliability of a metal bracelet with the flexibility and comfort of a rubber strap. An Oysterlock folding clasp in 18k white gold fitted with an extension system (Glidelock) allows you to adjust the length of the strap by about 15mm without tools!

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold 226659

From our experience, it might seem big on the wrist and protrude quite a lot… But believe us, it certainly is one of the most comfortable straps you’ll find on the market.

Calibre 3235

This Rolex Yacht-Master 42 reference 226659 is fitted with the latest-generation automatic movement developed and manufactured by Rolex: calibre 3235. First introduced in 2015 to replace the long-serving calibre 3135, calibre 3235 is now Rolex’s flagship date-function movement and is protected by no fewer than 14 patents! The most significant innovation is the new Chronergy escapement. Made from anti-magnetic nickel-phosphorous, about half of the beefy 70-hour power reserve can be attributed to the newly designed escapement. A Parachrom hairspring fitted on Paraflex shock absorbers, also insensitive to magnetic fields and temperature variations, offers 10 times more precision that a tradition hairspring in case of shocks. Calibre 3235 was the first movement to receive Rolex’s own certification as a Superlative Chronometer with a tolerance of just -2/+2 seconds a day (more stringent than COSC).

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 White Gold 226659

Thoughts

The name of this watch couldn’t be more appropriate. Yacht-Master refers to the master of the yacht, not the deckhand or cabin boy. Clearly, this is a statement watch with a lot of style that makes its point without shouting. It is also a versatile watch: sporty but not a cumbersome tool watch, robust but sleek enough to wear at more formal engagements. Far less flashy than the Everose model, the combination of white gold and black give this watch a distinctive, elegant personality. As for the 42mm diameter, it seems that Rolex is only answering a demand of the market. I know some here might disagree on this increased diameter, but many collectors are asking for larger watches… The people have spoken.

Price & Availability

The Rolex Yacht-Master 42 reference 226659 has a retail price of EUR 25,700. Regarding availability, it is now for sale in stores. Demand appears reasonable and the watch doesn’t suffer the same shortage or premium as some other Rolex models (in steel, though).

More information rolex.com.

14 responses

  1. This seems to be a well-planned and well-executed product that takes Rolex where it probably wishes to be … in the segment of luxury sports watches, rubbing shoulders with AP and Patek. And I bet that their brand ‘halo’ is strong enough to make most target customers make overlook the horological differences between Rolex and Trinity time pieces …

  2. It’s a bit too big and bulky, but I have always thought this design was just about perfect. On the right wrist, in steel, I say, “Fair enough.” The other day I was outside having a smoke and a brand new 911 Carrera S pulled up. I defy anyone to fault that purchase.

  3. I just don’t get the price hike for a tool watch of good but not great quality…however, people will buy it because it’s a Rolex and they are advertised at F1, tennis and golf championships. Who pays for that?

  4. I’m sorry if I offended you. Maciej, I honestly didn’t know a tool watch was only in stainless steel. Now I am better informed, thank you.

  5. No, no, no, no!! Keith, you did not offend me. I can’t hear but I do sense sarcasm in your comment;-) I wasn’t at all referring to your comment. Besides, I do agrr with what you say. I just hate things that pretend to be something they are not. You don’t make white gold hammers. Just like I hate the idea of a Lamborghini SUV. Gold is an elegant material, and a tool is a tool. It’s all marketing. Things like watches, cars, cameras etc are tools, they have a function. Sure, you want them to look and feel special and so on, of course, you want them to have character, be more than just tools. But when they start become fashion or marketing items, to me they lose their raison d’etre.

  6. Every single Rolex is a fashion item or statement of wealth which is nothing to do with function. I once asked on a Rolex forum what a submariner could do that a $100 quartz dive watch rated to 300m could not. I was greeted with outrage, but not a single person could give me a coherent answer. Why? Because the answer is “nothing.”

  7. I don’t agree. No, I do agree. We all know that $100 Casio does an even better job than a Submariner. And you could say this about pretty much about any of the watches featured in Monochrome. And obviously soldiers use G-Schocks rather than Vermont’s, pilots probably don’t need to use any watches, much less Navitimers. And “nobody” who buys a Submariner actually takes it diving (just like “nobody” takes their Range Rover off-roading (in””, because a small percentage probably do). But that doesn’t mean they are just fashion items…we want our accessories to feel and look special, not “just do the job”. But once they start contradicting their intended purpose, even if it’s just theoretical, they—as I said—lose their raison d’etre. Even if in practical terms they have lost 8t long time ago.

  8. The key word Maciej is “accessories”
    A professional diver doesn’t have those.
    A soldier soon learns the stupidity of taking an inadequate watch into combat. Doesn’t matter which Brand Ambassador promotes it. Here’s a clue as to the authenticity of G-Shock.
    They don’t have them. Don’t need them.
    A competition yachtsman would probably not want the weight of all that gold.
    It’s ALL nonsense. I see many young men toting fancy leather bags these days. Why? The same reason they buy “lifting toning water” and friggin “lightening” underarm deoderant! Just another demographic to squeeze dry.
    We have reached The End of Days.

  9. I’ve always thought that Rolex were brilliantly made watches but never thought they actually looked great. I do like the look of this one but it is a fashion piece not a tool watch

  10. The thing that REALLY REALLY annoys most watch guys is that Rolex USED TO BE genuine tool watches. Then they fell victim to “Louis Vuitton Syndrome”. Vuitton used to make some of the best leather in Europe…..120 years ago. Now they sell mediocre bags at stratospheric prices. And they don’t even make them where they claim to make them. At least with Rolex, you ARE getting a technically superior watch as time moves on. But that is the excuse they use to inflate the prices to insulting levels. They find ways to justify massive prices, like “904L steel” and RolexRolexRolexRolexRolex all around the rehaut (which hugely cheapens the look if you ask me). And then they do other things which actively detract from the stated mission, like refusing to use AR coatings, like polishing tool watches (!), like writing everything they can think of on the dial…..all for one reason; to lure in the “consumer” in their fancy boutiques with all the spot lighting shining nicely on the brand new, impeccable finish. They take tool watches and fancy them up, making them less correct for the job. And they don’t care because they are raking it in.
    Here’s an infallible method to decide whether a watch is a tool or not.
    Imagine it banged-up.
    Imagine a gouge out of one lug, a scratched crystal, badly-damaged bezel.
    Will it look better, or ruined?
    If the answer is “B”, it is not a tool watch.

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