A couple of months ago, at Watches and Wonders 2023, Rolex presented its new products for the year. The model that attracted the most attention was undoubtedly the new Daytona. The new 1908 collection was a pleasing surprise as a substitution for the discontinued Cellini collection. The new 40mm Explorer was an excellent and logical addition to the range, and the two new GMT-Master II models (gold and two-tone) are absolute marvels. But the most surprising, and perhaps even most notable, release from Rolex this year was the titanium Rolex Yacht-Master 42. Not only did it introduce titanium to the regular collection of wearable favourites, but the aesthetics of this new watch could give the Submariner and Sea-Dweller a run for their money. Let’s find out why.
Use of Titanium
If you follow the evolution of the luxury watch industry, you will know that there is a massive increase in the use of titanium for watch cases. Until recently, titanium was predominantly used for diving watches because the material is lightweight and resistant to corrosion. We now see many distinct types of titanium watches beyond diving watches. Just think of the Royal Oak models in titanium, the Grand Seiko, and the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus and the many Hamilton Khaki Field wristwatches in titanium.
The rise of titanium is notable and shows no signs of slowing down, but some brands have hesitated to adopt this material. Rolex produced titanium watches for a short time. It wasn’t until 2022 that they introduced their first titanium watch with the Deepsea Challenge, a 50mm beast of a watch with a depth rating of 11,000 m (36,090 ft) and a case made from grade 5 titanium. Its enormous size and specifications are not for the regular Rolex customer. I wouldn’t call the Deepsea Challenge a big presentation for a broad audience. Although titanium was undoubtedly an appropriate choice for the watch, as it is 30% lighter than it would be in steel, its extreme appearance means that the watch only has what we could call a niche audience.
That’s where the new titanium Yacht-Master comes into play. As some of you may know, the first Rolex Yacht-Master was designed as a revamped version of the Submariner in the late 1960s. Still, that watch never made it beyond the prototype phases, and the Yacht-Master name disappeared until the beginning of the decade. 1990. In 1992, Rolex introduced the new Yacht-Master, a luxury solid yellow gold sports watch intended for use in regattas. Rolex chose a solid gold watch for use on water rather than in the water to differentiate the Yacht-Master from the Submariner and Sea-Dweller. The luxury sports watch collection became a platform for Rolex to introduce new and exciting material combinations. The first was the 1999 Rolesium Yacht-Master, which featured a steel case and platinum bezel and dial. In 2015, the first Rolex with a rubber strap was also a Yacht-Master. This time, the watch was executed in rose gold with Rolex’s Oysterflex strap. Ultimately, this makes the Yacht-Master an interesting and versatile line of watches with sizes of 37mm, 40mm and 42mm.
Design of the Rolex Yacht-Master
In terms of design and specifications, the Yacht-Master looks like a dive watch with its rotating bezel, diving scale, Triplock crown, and 100m water resistance. Although the depth rating isn’t exactly outstanding, everything about the Yacht-Master screams “dive watch.” However, the use of precious metals makes a more luxurious statement and distances the model from being a true sports watch. But with the introduction of the new 42mm Yacht-Master, all that has changed. The RLX titanium case has made the watch a serious contender for people looking for a Rolex diver. With its black bezel and titanium Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock clasp and Easylink extension system, the titanium watch looks more like the Submariner and Sea-Dweller than ever and is powered by the same Rolex calibre 3235.
It will certainly appeal to people who are looking for a typical Rolex sports watch but want something lighter and less shiny than a Submariner. The titanium has a slightly different tone than the 904L stainless steel that Rolex uses for the Submariner. The new Yacht-Master also comes with a primarily brushed finish compared to the Submariner’s polished surfaces. Additionally, the matte black bezel with raised and polished numbers and graduations on the 60-minute diving scale gives it some presence. Personally, I love the look of the new titanium Yacht-Master; It’s less bright, which appeals to me more. I even prefer it to the current Submariner if I’m honest.
Expectations about the Titanium Yacht-Master 42
But the choice is not so simple: a Submariner will cost you just under €10,000, while the new titanium Yacht-Master 42 is closer to €15,000. That €5,000 price difference is substantial, and the choice can be difficult for people with that kind of money. Many people I spoke to right after its unveiling agreed that this is an extremely exciting step for Rolex and the Yacht-Master. It is the perfect addition to the collection and a watch that many fans would consider purchasing. Can you imagine if they made a 40mm version later? People would go crazy! Sure, many watch enthusiasts still want the security of a heavy stainless-steel watch on their wrist instead of a titanium watch, but that group is shrinking quickly. The rise in the number of titanium watches has been remarkable to witness, and that’s why this new Rolex Yacht-Master 42 is a brilliant step for the brand and could bring a lot of success. We know that Rolexes are highly sought after, and while it’s no Sub, this shiny new titanium Yacht-Master is no different.