The Yacht-Master II is an all-out professional regatta timer with unparalleled capabilities. Featuring an adjustable countdown timer that offers flyback functionality and a mechanical memory, the Yacht-Master II is among the most bold and technologically advanced watches that Rolex has ever created. 2020 update: suggested retail prices start at $18,750 and increase depending on the metal used. Shop our full selection of used Rolex watches.
Released 15 years after the original Yacht-Master first appeared in 1992, the Rolex Yacht-Master II added relevant functionality to a family that had previously distinguished itself as little more than a luxurious variant of the Submariner. It’s all-gold case and bracelet, set against a stark white dial with black applied indices was surely a feast for the eyes (and a devastating blow to the wallet), but there was little in the way of nuts and bolts credibility to back up the ostentation.
However, judging by the Rolex Yacht-Master II, the brand came to the same conclusion and thus set about designing a watch more practically suited to the rigors of real-world yachting. The Yacht-Master II more than makes amends for its lavish forerunner by bringing hitherto unseen functionality to the party. If that sounds like an over-statement, get this: No mechanical watch can do what the Rolex Yacht-Master II can do, and very few electronic alternatives do it as cleanly and as well.
Sure, you might not have much need of a Regatta timer on dry land, but if racing yachts is a passion, then the Rolex Yacht-Master II does more than help you look the part, it might just be able to help you win.
When the Yacht-Master debuted in 2007, it was Rolex’s first new release in seven years, and the first really new watch since the original Yacht-Master and the Lady-Datejust Pearlmaster hit the shelves in ‘92. It was a complete transformation from the original model from which it inherited its name.
Unlike its predecessor, the Rolex Yacht-Master II had been specifically designed to be used in an active racing situation. Rolex engineers had gone beyond a creative display that could eke out a little extra functionality from an existing movement, and instead developed an entirely new movement that would instantly and forever alter what was expected from a regatta timer.
Those that have never taken part in a boat race may not be aware of how a regatta timer is expected to function and why it's so important to the sport.
At the start of a yacht race, the boats are not simply able to line up on a start line as sprinters would before the 100m dash. The wind and waves are moving and boats are moving with them, so skippers are required to sail in the vicinity of the start line, tacking backward and forward before the race begins and they are allowed to cross the line. If they cross it early, there is a significant penalty applied; should they be caught unawares and cross the line later, they are unlikely to be able to claw back the time lost to a competitor that got the jump on them at the gun.
So how does this work? Race organizers decide upon a countdown, which is normally anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. A gong/gun/siren sounds and the countdown begins. At this point, a skipper activates his or her Regatta timer (set to the correct countdown time). Every passing minute is marked by another audible signal, enabling skippers who may have started their timers early or late to adjust accordingly so they can estimate the correct time to strike out for the start line.
As soon as the countdown is complete, the yachts are free to race. At that point, the Regatta timer’s job concludes, and a more traditional chronograph may be relied upon instead.
With that in mind, the purpose of a regatta timer (and the reason why a standard stopwatch isn’t quite up to the task) has to do with the inevitably of some degree of human error (starting the timer too soon or too late). This sounds easy to avoid, but remember how many things a skipper has to manage at the best of times – having a finger poised to activate a stopwatch may not be possible. And exact timing is crucial, as beating the wind (or another boat to it) by fractions of a second can be the difference between winning or losing.
What the Rolex Yacht-Master II can do is even more special than any of its regatta timer-toting peers. It can be synchronized on the fly. Yes, even after the countdown has begun, the timer can be adjusted either forward or backward with the push of a button. Using a specially-developed system, not too dissimilar to a Flyback chronograph, the Rolex Yacht-Master II will not only reset the seconds hand to zero but also align the minute countdown hand to the nearest minute at the same time.
For example, if the countdown is for 10 minutes and you are seven seconds late in starting your timer, when the next signal sounds to alert you to nine minutes remaining, you can press the pusher at 2 o’clock and the seconds hand will snap to 0 while the minute hand jumps forward the equivalent of 7 seconds to line up with the nine. And if you mess this up, you can have another try the next time the minute sound ticks around.
It truly is a remarkable and remarkably niche complication that is perfectly suited to its intended purpose. Additionally, the Rolex Yacht-Master II is rather easy on the eye as well, which makes it suitable for the podium, captain’s lounge, and desert island retreat all in one ultra-luxurious package.
The Rolex Yacht-Master II is a weighty beast that comes in either Oystersteel, Rolesor, 18-karat yellow gold, or platinum and white gold. Each of those options, coming in at 44mm wide and fitted to a solid link Oyster bracelet, makes for a rather noticable presence on the wrist, but thanks to some surprisingly sympathetic lugs, the Rolex Yacht-Master II is easy to wear on all but the most slender of wrists. In many ways, its larger diameter works in its favor – where the Submariner (especially the new, Ceramic bezel versions with the boxier lugs) can look a bit blockish on the wrist, the Yacht-Master II is, while quite a bit larger, a little more ergonomic in profile.
Retail prices for Rolex Yacht-Master II watches starts at $18,750 for the stainless steel model with a blue Cerachrom bezel, and increase from there with the use of precious metals. The most expensive Yacht-Master II model is the solid 18k white gold and platinum version, which costs $48,150 when purchased brand new.
|Model||Retail Price||Second-Hand Price||Materials||Bezel|
|Ref. 116689||48,150 USD||from $25,595||18k White Gold||950 Platinum|
|Ref. 116688||43,550 USD||from $29,500||18k Yellow Gold||Blue Cerachrom|
|Ref. 116681||25,350 USD||from $18,795||Steel + Everose Gold||Blue Cerachrom|
|Ref. 116680||18,750 USD||from $14,295||Stainless Steel||Blue Cerachrom|
With an entirely new movement reference (Caliber 4161), a hefty, 44mm case, all modern furnishings (a Cerachrom bezel insert and Chromalight lume on the dial), not to mention the frequent use of precious metals in its exterior construction, the Yacht-Master II unsurprisingly boasts one of the highest points of entry in the entire Rolex catalog.
The "entry-level" model is the all-Oystersteel reference 116680 at $18,750. Next, with a retail price of $25,350 is the reference 116681, which is the Rolesor version made from Oystersteel and Everose pink gold. Arguably the most visually impressive model within the relatively small Yacht-Master II family is the full yellow gold reference 116688, which comes with a retail price of $43,550 and oozes luxury appeal.
Lastly, topping out the collection is the reference 116689, which is crafted entirely from 18k white gold with a solid platinum bezel and comes with a retail price of $48,150. It boasts an icy and professional look (and has a reassuring weight to it), making it the true expression of 'stealth wealth' since to the untrained eye, it appears to be a stainless steel model.
For such a new and concise family, there aren't so many icons or popular models to discuss, but if there is one model that exemplifies all that the Rolex Yacht-Master II stands for in terms of true, racing functionality and high-profile looks, the 18-karat yellow gold ref. 116688 takes the crown.
With a bold aesthetic that is somewhat reminiscent of the original solid gold Yacht-Master from 1992, it is rare to see the ref. 116688 in the wild; however, it enjoys life on the wrists of those who truly appreciate this incredible watch for what it is. This is not an all-gold Submariner or Daytona. This is a model for people who specifically want this watch rather than a more commonly-spotted status symbol. For that reason, it paints those wearing it with a true streak of individuality and industry awareness.
Although perhaps better known for wearing his Rolex Submariner on his voyages around the globe, famous sailor (and dedicated Rolex testimonee) Paul Cayard was one of the first recipients of the Crown’s professional regatta timer in 2007. Cayard was presented with the watch in recognition of his achievements on the high seas on May 23rd at the Real Club Nautico, Valencia, Spain, in the run-up to the 32nd America's Cup.
Rolex prefers to associate itself with the yachting community through sponsorship of key events. Rolex lends its name to the legendary “Rolex Fastnet Event” that takes place off the coast of the Isle of Wight, England. In addition to the Fastnet competition, Rolex has sponsored the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the Rolex TP52 World Championship, the Rolex Farr 40 World Championships, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the Rolex Giralgia, the Rolex Swan Cup, the inaugural SailGP season, the Rolex Middle Sea Race, and is frequently involved in New York Yacht Club regattas.
Rolex also sponsors the Rolex World Sailor of the Year awards, awarding the victors with a Rolex timepiece. 2019 saw 19-year old Italian Marco Gradoni take home the men's title with Dane Anne-Marie Rindom snaring the ladies’ prize. Additionally, Rolex awards the US Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year titles annually. The reigning champions from 2018 are currently Jud Smith for the men, with Carmen and Emma Cowles sharing the female award.
For many people, the very thought of buying the Rolex Yacht-Master II collection seems a distant dream, given that it is one of Rolex's most complex and expensive watch collections. However, for those who love this bold Rolex sports watch, it is a dream perhaps worth entertaining. Although these models are incredibly expensive when purchased new, a significant savings can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
While this may change over time as the legacy of the Yacht-Master II becomes further established, at the moment this premium product appears to be seen more as a functional companion than it is a collector's item. For that reason, you can expect to pick up a used Rolex Yacht-Master II for a significant savings compared to retail prices, especially if you plan on purchasing one of the precious metal versions of the watch.
Regarded as the premium Rolex Professional model, the Yacht-Master family's position within the catalog seems doubtless. While the original model continues to provide the volume of sales traffic for the collection, the Yacht-Master II continues to boost the collection's reputation as a truly special contribution to horology. Whichever model you choose, it is sure to keep you entertained for many years (and successful regattas) to come.
It isn't very often that Rolex releases an entirely new model. In 2010, the brand did just that with the innovative Yacht-Master II. It takes several cues from its cousin, the Yacht-Master while utilizing a brand-new movement exclusive to the series and the clever Ring Command bezel. Besides offering self-winding technology, the newer movement also boasts a programmable countdown timer with mechanical memory and both flyback and fly-forward functionality. The Cerachrom Ring Command bezel grants the wearer access to each of these functions, which can all be set through the winding crown.
The ingenious regatta chronograph is trending among many Rolex aficionados, with the all-steel reference 116680 being among the most popular for its versatile styling and affordable price point. The series also includes a two-tone Everose Rolesor ref. 116681, all gold ref. 116688, and white gold and platinum ref. 116689, which swaps out the blue ceramic insert of its siblings for one made from solid 950 platinum.