Unlike most other brands, Rolex isn’t known for introducing entirely new models on a regular basis. Instead, they choose to slowly evolve their most celebrated lines through the introduction of new references, given their iconic and legendary status. Having said that, the brand is still aware that their collectors enjoy something new every once in a while, as indicated by the announcement of the Yachtmaster in 1992, which at the time was Rolex’s first all-new model in 28 years. Today, let’s take a closer look at the Yachtmaster, and how it’s become a mainstay of the Rolex collection over the years.
As previously mentioned, the Yachtmaster’s story begins officially in 1992, though it’s history can be traced as far back as 1967, when Rolex produced just three Yachtmaster-branded Daytona dials, that would be cased just two years later. According to vintage Rolex folklore, this Yachtmaster was designed prior to the development of the Sea Dweller, meaning that Rolex was attempting to capitalize on the tremendous success that they had with their earlier tool watch, the Submariner. This ultra-rare watch isn’t commonly seen or discussed, but from the information circulating in the watch world, it would seem as if two of the three examples are in the collections of Rolex and John Goldberger – a horological scholar, author, and important collector.
Fast forward to 1992’s Baselworld watch and jewelry show in Switzerland, where Rolex would unveil what some would call a dressier interpretation of the classic Submariner, fitted with a platinum dial and bezel, along with a contrasting seconds hand in red. The watch I speak of is of course the modern Yachtmaster which we all now know and love, and upon it’s release in 1992, enthusiasts of the brand were certainly stunned. Although the overall look of the watch was very similar to what consumers had already seen Rolex release in the past, subtle details and finishing touches like the rounded case and platinum bezel set this piece apart from the rest.
According to several Rolex experts, the design of the Yachtmaster was originally thought up in the late 1980’s by the watch manufacturer’s design team as a way to modernize the existing Submariner design. Even though what they came up with was a terrific looking watch in its own right, it was ultimately deemed too radical of an update, as they feared altering the tried and true design of the great Submariner would prove to be unwise.
In 2016, Rolex still produces the Yachtmaster in its original platinum and red color scheme, but in recent years, they’ve also introduced new variants of the watch to address other areas of the market. One such example is the sunburst blue-dialed Yachtmaster of 2012, which still featured red details on both the dial and seconds hand, making for an especially patriotic aesthetic. Rolex also launched a new chapter in the history of the Yachtmaster in 2007, with the introduction of the Yachtmaster II – a 44mm regatta timing timepiece, suited for professional sailors and weekend hobbyists alike.