March 18, 2015
by Ariel Adams
The new sports watch from Rolex for 2015 was an interesting version of the Rolex Yacht-Master presented in an 18k Everose gold case with a Cerachrom black ceramic bezel matched to a new strap Rolex calls the Oysterflex. The 2015 Yacht-Master is actually two watches and each has slight, but important differences. First is the 40mm-wide Yacht-master 116655, but you should also be aware of the interesting 37mm-wide Yacht-Master 268655 version. aBlogtoWatch debuted the Rolex Yacht-Master 116655 for 2015 in Everose gold and ceramic here.
While the watch is gold (which means it is expensive), it is nevertheless a great looking sports watch. While it is true that many people consider a true Rolex sports watch to have a steel case, there is an emerging market for precious metal sport watches as a lifestyle item. At least with Rolex, you know it also has a lot of durability and thought behind it. I am curious to know what people’s thoughts are on what is a great-looking sports piece with the 2015 Rolex Yacht-Master, even though it is more than double the price of, say, a steel Rolex Submariner.
The Yacht-Master has always existed in an interesting place within Rolex’s sport watch family. When it first debuted, it was meant to be a more high-end lifestyle type of sport watch compared to the more utilitarian Submariner or GMT-Master. The Yacht-Master was never meant to be a professional diving watch or something for pilots. If anything, it was meant to be a watch for people who sail on or own yachts. That means there is a degree of activity to their life and some water resistance is necessary, but so is style and status. So what does all that mean for the rather radically new Rolex Yacht-Master that nevertheless very much lives within the larger current generation Rolex Yacht-Master family
In our debut post of the Rolex Yacht-Master 116655, I more or less laid out the technical details of what Rolex has presented for us in 2015, and now, after some hands-on time with the new Rolex Yacht-Master, I am going to fill in some details and other insights after Rolex explained what this new watch is all about.
In person, the Rolex Yacht-Master 116655 is just as handsome if not more handsome than it is in Rolex’s (typically immaculate) press images. I’ve always been a fan of mixing gold and the color black – something which you can find in other Rolex models from time to time if you look for it. What immediately comes to mind is the Rolesor (two-tone) Rolex Submariner with a gold and steel case and a black dial. The Rolex Yacht-Master in 18k Everose gold (Rolex’s own unique alloy of rose gold that does not fade over time) mixed with black ceramic does some interesting things visually and is an extremely different (albeit obviously in the same family) watch as the Rolex Submariner. While the Submariner has a glossy Cerachrom black ceramic bezel with engraved markers, the 116655 Rolex Yacht-Master’s Cerachrom ceramic bezel is in matte black with the markers in deep relief (like other Rolex Yacht-Master bezels which are in precious metal).
The matte black color and texture of the Rolex Yacht-Master bezel is echoed on the dial – which again is very rarely matte on a modern Rolex sports watch. This makes for a cool look that is both a bit more legible and aggressive looking than the slightly glossy Rolex Oyster sport watches we are used to. Of course, with the 116655 Rolex Yacht-Master the hands and hour markers are in 18k Everose gold and polished – which gives the watch that real “Rolex character.” It also happens to look nothing like all currently available Rolex Oyster sport watches – not to mention other Rolex Yacht-Master timepieces. For this reason alone, I think watch lovers will take keen interest in the Rolex Yacht-Master 116655.
While 2015 saw Rolex release the exciting new 3255 automatic movement in the Day-Date 40 watch collection, the 40mm Rolex Yacht-Master 116655 contains the existing Rolex caliber 3135 automatic movement that is of course COSC Chronometer certified. The 3135 is the same movement you’ll find in some other Rolex watches – namely the Rolex Submariner Date watch. With that said, it is interesting to report that the 37mm-wide Rolex Yacht-Master 268655 has a completely different and actually newer Rolex movement. Inside the 37mm-wide Rolex Yacht-Master is the Rolex caliber 2236 which we debuted here during Baselworld 2014. Rolex announced the 2236 movement as the first Rolex caliber to contain Syloxi (Rolex’s name for their silicon balance spring), and it is contained in a woman’s watch.
Men wanting to experience a Rolex watch with silicon parts now have an option – well sort of. The 37mm Rolex Yacht-Master 268655 will certainly find itself on some men’s wrists, although it is certainly a smaller watch and will more than likely be seen as a ladies piece. Will some people prefer the 268655 model over the 116655 given their preference of the newer 2236 movement? I wonder…
I will admit that it has been a while since I’ve taken a close look at Rolex Yacht-Master watches, as my interest in other Rolex timepieces has eclipsed this collection. I don’t recall them having this shape of case though, which looks a lot more sporty and modern compared to older Rolex Yacht-Master cases that felt like a picture between a Submariner and a Datejust case in terms of style (which essentially they were). As an Oyster case, the Rolex Yacht-Master is still water resistant to 100 meters. So yeah, I am pretty sure that, in addition to everything else, there have been some refinements to the case of the Yacht-Master compared to the outgoing models.
That last statement has an important implication – which is that the new Oysterflex strap (which Rolex calls a bracelet) only fits on these new 2015 Rolex Yacht-Master watch cases. Rolex is pretty notorious for making it difficult to “part swap” pieces from one Rolex watch to another, and unfortunately, you will not be able to purchase the Oysterflex strap independently.
Oysterflex is pretty cool, actually, and I do hope that Rolex rolls out this new strap option to other watches. We will likely see that in the future, but Rolex isn’t saying more about it. Oysterflex is not made from natural rubber, even though it feels almost exactly like it. The structure of the bracelet begins with a metal “blade” (a titanium nickel alloy) that creates a base shape and allows it to fit securely. One of the most interesting elements on the strap are the “fins” underneath that are designed to create a cushion between the strap and your wrist. This allows for your wrist to expand and contract a bit while the strap remains comfortable and snug, and also helps vent the inner part of the strap a bit on hot days. It is a great feeling strap made out of an “elastomer” material which is connected to an 18k rose gold deployant clasp.
There are two downsides to the Oysterflex that some collectors might find. First is that the strap does not fit flush with the Yacht-master case. I agree that straps and bracelets look really nice when they fit flush with the watch case. I have no doubt there is a reason for how Rolex designed the end of the strap – there is pretty much a [good] reason for everything that Rolex does. My guess is that given the material of the strap, it simply would not look nice right up against the case as the strap moved around. The second issue is limited adjustability. The Oysterflex strap will come in six different sizes and you’ll need to choose the right fit for you when you buy it. There is some micro-adjustability in the deployant clasp but you’ll need to choose only one strap option. Even cutting the straps to size is not really and option because of the metal part in the strap. You’ll get a nice clean look with this decisions, but you can’t share watches with friends and if you ever do, you’ll need to purchase another Oysterflex strap directly from Rolex.
As I talked about when we first announced these 2015 ref. 116655 and 268655 Rolex Yacht-Master Everose and ceramic watches, it seems as though Rolex is both listening to its core enthusiast demographic and also respecting the heritage that makes Rolex… well, Rolex. That is a tough job and really what Rolex tries to do with care and attention each year. I think a lot of people are going to like this new black and gold Rolex Yacht-Master with its chic sporty look and novel strap. Let’s hope that some of its features and style continue to trickle down to more Rolex timepieces in the future. The Rolex 268655 Yacht-Master is priced at 21,000 Swiss Francs and the Rolex 116655 Yacht-Master is priced at 23,800 Swiss Francs. rolex.com
Keep up with our pre-, post-, and live Baselworld 2015 coverage here.