This year at Baselworld 2017, we saw the release of the Rolex Yacht-Master 40 116695SATS watch done in a gem-set bezel. It's not a Rolex for the usual fan of the brand but if you're already someone (like myself) who also appreciates the non-traditional Yacht-Master 40 with the Oysterflex bracelet and aren't afraid of some flash, then this is an interesting watch to have in a collection. You'll remember that the Rolex Yacht-Master 40 was introduced back in 2015 and immediately stood out due to the fact that it came on the then-new rubber Oysterflex bracelet. The reaction to the bracelet was, as expected, mixed but has been popular enough with the release of the Rolex Daytona on an Oysterflex bracelet this year.
Also released this year was this Yacht-Master 40 with a remarkably well-done gem-set bezel, which is about the only "typical Rolex" trait you'll find in this piece. Love it or hate it, its execution and quality are undeniable.
It's inevitable, but many watch enthusiasts have an unfortunate patellar-reflex response to seeing precious stones or gems on watches. I think there are several reasons for it: the often ugly bejeweled timepiece; crappy aftermarket jobs; an unfortunate desire to distance oneself from anything "bling" (sorry, but comment sections on watch blogs and forums are the only place I still see that word as of the past decade); as well as the fact that there are not many factory-made men's watches done with gems that aren't "diamond explosions" or just come off too effeminate. While it's obvious that this piece is going to be geared towards the mainland Chinese market, I think this can be seen as a viable men's watch in the Western market as well.
The Rolex Yacht-Master 40 116695SATS has a bidirectional rotating bezel set with 38 sapphires (blue, orange, yellow, and pink), 8 tsavorites (the green gems), and 1 diamond at 12 o'clock. The uniformity of the gems in respective color and shape is fantastic to behold and I can't imagine even the most critical hater not admiring it if they were to find one of these watches on their wrist. When discussing the far more elaborate and rare Day-Date 40 Green Emerald Platinum watch, our David Bredan discusses the work that goes into Rolex's gem setting:
"For models set with colored gemstones – rubies, sapphires, or, in this case, emeralds – Rolex takes particular care in ensuring that all the stones on a given watch are of the same hue, using a combination of a long sorting process carried out by hand, stone by stone in the Rolex workshops, as well as by using one of Rolex's several sophisticated machines that are, Rolex says, usually only found in independent gemological laboratories. The result is genuinely incredible – if one is familiar with precious stones and gems, it is no secret that it takes sorting through hundreds, if not thousands of pieces to find a bezel-worth of stones that are such a perfect match in color. If anything, it is almost (I said almost!) too perfect as, frankly, I hitherto thought such impeccable matching of colors and shapes would only be possible if every stone were entirely artificial."
Like the non-gem model, this Yacht-Master 40 comes on the Oysterflex strap introduced in 2015. Not technically rubber, the elastomer strap is fit with a titanium nickel alloy "blade" underneath to give it a more secure fit. The strap also has the well-received "fins" underneath, which are designed to create a very small space between skin and the bracelet allowing for some flexibility during hot and cold weather. The dial is slightly different, with Rolex choosing a glossy black finish as opposed to the matte dial on the non-gem model.
Functionality isn't affected with the functioning bi-directional bezel, it's still a real dive watch with 100M water resistance. The double anti-reflective coated crystal and Chromalight lumed hands should make for legibility in the dark, as well. As for the movement, we still see the caliber 3135 movement found in models like the Submariner which gets 48 hours of power reserve.
The Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster watches introduced a couple of years ago were mostly ladies pieces, but the 39mm model was labeled just as the Datemaster which implies it's a unisex piece. For me and many others, between the gems and diamonds on the bezel as well as the dial, it's all a bit too much. When I look at the Rolex Yacht-Master 40 116695SATS, I see a watch that is a sports watch with gems on the bezel that still retains much the watch's identity and DNA by leaving the dial untouched.
I think the current popularity of the practice of men's suits being mixed up with bright and colorful ties or socks shows a propensity to add color (with some restraint) to break up the mundane. This watch costs a lot more than a tie, but I see it much the same way. It's the watch you wear to a party to show off your style (and bank account) without the guilt and stigma, fair or not, of fessing up to an aftermarket job to your more conservative watch collector friends.
I can't tell if it's just me, but I don't find the colors on the gems to be so colorful that they are obnoxious to look at after a while. The stones are absolutely perfect and that adds a level of confidence to the playfulness of the multi-colored arrangement. Frankly, it's not often I see factory pieces with precious stones and think to myself "I'd wear that for a whole weekend" because they are just not versatile. I don't feel the same way here, I'd wear this piece to most day or evening events and not feel self-conscious or anxious.
If you know me, you'll know that precious gems and colorful aesthetics aren't really my cup of tea. That being said, there's something about the Rolex Yacht-Master 40 116695SATS with gem-set bezel that I can't help but appreciate. Once again, this is going to be marketed mostly to the Asian, specifically Chinese, market but I think one can pull off this watch without the baggage of a (I'll use this word once more to demonstrate the point) "blinged out" piece.
Price for the Rolex Yacht-Master 116695SATS is about CHF 62,500 and, if you want to go all out on gem-setting, there is a version with a full pavé dial for about CHF 86,000, though that apparently was too much for Basel to handle. rolex.com