At least once a year Rolex introduces a product which is a high-end, albeit extremely understated luxury watch product.  I’ve edited this article a bit from how it was originally published because I used the term “F-You watch” without properly explaining the term to all members of the aBlogtoWatch audience. This term is used often by certain watch collectors and it isn’t an insult to anyone that made or wears the watch (not at all). It is a playful way of explaining the psychology at play when someone chooses a high-end product that isn’t noticeable as a high-end product to all but a select few who can identify it for what it is. For 2019, that type of product from Rolex is the 18k white gold and 42mm-wide new ref. 226659 Yacht-Master 42, that I also like to call the “Yacht-Master Noir.”

The F-You watch, in general, serves a very specific value for wealthy watch enthusiasts. F-You watches are always expensive but are meant to look as though they aren’t nearly as expensive as they are. Not that F-You watches look cheap, rather, they are designed to not look very expensive when viewed from afar. The perfect F-You watch looks ordinary or unremarkable (perhaps generic) to an ordinary onlooker, but can quickly be identified as being expensive to the trained eye (i.e., someone so trained in watch prices they would know its value and also be cognizant that other non-watch enthusiasts might likely mistake its value).

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Other people who know watches will recognize an F-You watch as not an ordinary watch, but as a high-luxury watch. That will make many of the people who view and recognize the F-You watch frustrated or even angry. Why angry? Because F-You watches are a really aggressive message to other people (those who can identify what you are wearing) who also openly wear more expensive products. The F-You watch is a taunt at other rich folk. F-You watches say “I have so much money to spend, I can even spend money on expensive things that don’t really increase my sense of social prestige when I wear them out and about.”

In that respect, F-You watches are a particular flavor of conspicuous consumption, though merely for a niche audience of other people rich in nuanced watch knowledge. For those who recognize the F-You watch, the message is that you conspicuously spent money on a humble-looking product… and perhaps that you are somewhat proud of that fact. Rolex, when it wishes to, makes very effective F-You watches. Let’s look at their latest one for 2019 as Rolex has a wonderful modern history in producing select products which send very specific messages to other watch lovers.

How would anyone think this handsome, elegant sports watch, in military-style silver and matte black on a rubber-style strap, is an almost $30,000 luxury item? As stated above, only other watch people. Aside from the F-You watch status of the Rolex 226659, what is really new is the 2mm enlarged Yacht-Master 42 case. The broad lugs actually make this watch a bit too large for my wrist, even though I really admire the slightly expanded overall proportions over the standard Yacht-Master 40. Rolex actually updated the entire Yacht-Master 40 collection for 2019, in addition to coming out with the Yacht-Master 42. The entire lineup gets the brand’s latest-generation case-making and finishing processes, and the modern-generation in-house-made caliber 3235 automatic movement. Again, that includes the 40 and 42mm Yacht-Master. Consider this solid 18k white gold Yacht-Master 42 an experiment to test sales of a 42mm-wide case on the Oysterflex bracelet.

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Rolex almost always introduces new cases and movements in high-end watches first, in order to trickle them into the market and test them out. It is very (very) possible that Rolex will eventually produce a steel version of the Yacht-Master 42 case somewhere down the road. That really all depends on the success of the model. Rolex has already done pretty well breathing new life into the Yacht-Master by selling the 40mm-wide and 37mm-wide (gold) Yacht-Master pieces available on an elastomer Oysterflex strap. The Rolex Daytona on the Oysterflex strap was also a hit, and again, all of these watches are in gold. It is sort of amazing that in a time of so much variety in the market of high-end sports watches on colorful high-tech straps, Rolex continues to kill it by putting really fancy gold watches on black rubber straps.

Mind you that Rolex quality is enviously impeccable. The Oysterflex strap is no slouch and is among the most comfortable and well-made sport watch straps available anywhere. What people say is that once you start wearing it, the comfort can be so convenient it is hard to go back to anything else (especially if you are coming from wearing a previous watch with an ill-fitting bracelet). Perhaps the most important thing to say about the Oysterflex bracelet is that, on the Yacht-Master 42, Rolex finally added its Glide-Lock micro-adjustment system to the deployant clasp. So, this is really good news for those who have been wearing for that (and can afford it in gold).

My nickname for the Yacht-Master 42 in white gold and black ceramic is the “Yacht-Master Noir” because it reminds me of the stylized moodiness of film noir. Visually speaking, this silver and black watch could easily be mistaken for a Submariner at a glance — save for the different bezel and case shape. The Yacht-Master continues to be Rolex’s only sport watch with a swoopy case shape. The bezel also has markers in relief, but the insert is also black ceramic. It is worth pointing out that, unlike the uni-directional rotating bezel of the Submariner or other Rolex dive watches, the Yacht-Master 42 has a bi-directional rotating bezel (not really sure why). Note that even though the Yacht-Master and Submariner look very similar, the Yacht-Master is water-resistant to 100 meters, while the Submariner is water-resistant to 300 meters.

Rolex has enough customers out there for discussions like, “Doesn’t the 42mm Yacht-Master dwell a bit close into 43mm Sea-Dweller territory?” The answer is no. Rolex understands its customers well enough to know that the market for a 43mm-wide steel watch on a bracelet is different from the market for a 42mm-wide 18k white gold watch on a strap — despite the fact that they have virtually identical dials. In fact, the 226659 Yacht-Master 42 watch will probably be hard to get, not because it is sold out everywhere, but rather because Rolex simply won’t make a ton of them.

Inside the Yacht-Master 42 is Rolex’s newer-generation workhorse movement, the caliber 3235. Accurate to about 2 seconds or better a day, this 4Hz frequency movement offers 70 hours of power reserve. Too bad you can’t see it through the caseback of the watch. It would have been really cool to see the movement through the sapphire crystal with a black-colored automatic rotor. No, Rolex will not likely ever do that (at least not any time soon).

Put the Yacht-Master 42 Noir on your wrist, and you’ll likely agree it is a very nice watch. How could it not be? This is Rolex’s most successful dial design formula and now in a flavor for weekend poolside warriors who smirk at the idea of wearing an F-You watch to the club for the guys to see. Or perhaps you want something low-key to wear while off-roading 40 feet away from the main road in that Land Rover Defender you spend far too much money maintaining merely for on-road use. There is no shortage of applicable scenarios when you want a toy on your wrist that doesn’t glaringly remind you of how expensive your hobbies are when you just want to act a little childish. Price for the ref. 226659 Rolex Yacht-Master 42 watch in 18k white gold on the Oysterflex strap is $27,800 USD. Learn more at the Rolex website here.

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