Swanky Sailor: Reviewing the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master

In this feature from the WatchTime archives, we take a close look at the modern version of Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master, with black Cerachrom bezel and Oysterflex bracelet. Original photos are by Nik Schölzel.

Rolex Yacht-Master - RG - soldier

A water-resistant Oyster case, large hour markers and bold hands are essential elements of Rolex’s Submariner, introduced in 1953 and made for use underwater. In contrast, Rolex’s Yacht-Master, launched in 1992, is a luxury liner – equally at home on board a yacht on the high seas or on land at a ritzy yacht club. But to enjoy this luxury you’ll need to pay almost $25,000 for the 40-mm Everose gold and Cerachrom ceramic version shown here. Stainless-steel versions of the Yacht-Master are priced about $13,000 less.

The Yacht-Master was the first watch in Rolex’s Professional Oyster Collection to come in three different case sizes: 29, 35 and 40 mm. The model we tested, launched last year, is offered in two sizes: 37 and 40 mm. We chose the larger version, which we measured at precisely 40.19 mm in diameter and 11.49 mm in height (excluding the magnifying “Cyclops” lens for the date).

The well-known Cyclops date lens was patented by Rolex in 1953 and introduced in 1954 on the Datejust. This magnifying device is made of sapphire, like the watch’s crystal, and has nonreflective coating on both sides. The jumping date advances exactly at midnight.

Rolex Yacht-Master - RG - reclining

The watch is powered by a seasoned caliber, the Rolex 3135, used in the very first Yacht-Master in 1992. The 3135 debuted in 1988 in the Submariner. The blue Parachrom balance spring was added to the movement in 2005, five years after it was first introduced in the Cosmograph Daytona. Its paramagnetic alloy resists changes caused by temperature variations and magnetic fields.

The Parachrom balance spring is thinner than a human hair and up to 10 times more resistant to shocks than a conventional balance spring. Provided with an overcoil, it is attached to a large balance wheel with a variable moment of inertia. Fine adjustments are made using four gold Microstella regulating screws. The balance wheel is supported by a height-adjustable bridge. The entire construction ensures rate results that bring the Yacht-Master (as well as the other watches in the Oyster collection) to the rank of “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified.” These words on the Yacht-Master’s dial mean that the watch has endured 15 days and nights of testing by COSC in addition to a series of tests conducted by Rolex in its own laboratory. Acceptable rate results for a Superlative Chronometer allow deviations of less than +/-2 seconds per day, while COSC’s test permits average deviations between -4 and +6 seconds per day. In addition, Rolex’s tests are carried out under conditions that correspond more closely to real-life situations than COSC’s tests and are conducted on fully assembled watches, while COSC tests just the movements.

Rolex Yacht-Master RG - back
The Yacht-Master’s new Oysterflex bracelet has a core made of nickel – titanium alloy blades, a black elastomer coating and a patented cushioning system inside.

We, too, tested the finished watch – fully wound and after running for 24 hours – first in five positions on the timing machine and then with a two-week wearing test on the wrist (or simulated on a winding machine). In our tests, the Yacht-Master remained within the standards specified by Rolex for a Superlative Chronometer. On the wrist it showed virtually no deviations over the two-week period. On the timing machine it showed a gain of about 1 second per day with minimal variations among the positions.

The tests performed by Rolex include a water-resistance check. Unlike the Submariner, the Yacht-Master’s water resistance is “only” 100 meters. This means that the Yacht-Master is not designed to be a professional dive watch, which requires water resistance of at least 200 meters.

Rolex Caliber 3135
Automatic Caliber 3135 was introduced in 1988 and since 2005 has had a blue Parachrom balance spring. The balance wheel is visible beneath a bridge.

The Yacht-Master’s bidirectional bezel also keeps it from being a dive watch. The bezel on a dive watch usually rotates in only one direction so it won’t show a shorter dive time if it’s repositioned inadvertently. But the Yacht-Master’s bezel is impressive: it has 120 ratchets and shows graduations in 5-minute increments using both Arabic numerals and line markers. The first quarter has well-defined minutes markers. Polished, raised graduations on the ceramic inlay stand in relief against a sandblasted, matte black background. The bezel is made of Cerachrom, Rolex’s ceramic material. The Ceramic inlay is set in a deeply grooved ring made of Everose gold, Rolex’s rose-gold alloy. A grooved caseback seals the case hermetically and can only be opened using a special tool. Three dots on the screw-down crown indicate that this watch has been sealed with the Triplock sealing system, a triple water- resistance system developed by Rolex.

The screw-down crown sits securely inside the case between two crown guards. Releasing the crown allows it to spring away from the midsection, which makes it easy to use for manual winding, rapid date change and setting the hands.

The dial has a characteristic Rolex look. The applied markers and elongated triangle at 12 o’clock are filled with Rolex’s luminous substance, Chromalight, and are displayed on a matte black background. The hour hand has a “Mercedes” circle filled with Chromalight and the seconds hand has a luminous Chromalight dot. The stark contrast of black and white ensures excellent legibility during the day; at night the Chromalight emits a blue glow for easy reading in the dark.

Rolex Yacht-Master - RG - lume
The Yacht-Master’s dial is easy to read day and night thanks to a strong black-and-white contrast and blue Chromalight luminescence.

This watch is the first Rolex with an Oysterflex bracelet. (We use the term “bracelet” rather than “strap” because the Oysterflex, unlike standard rubber straps, has metal on the inside.) Combining a rubber strap with a gold case is nothing new, but at Rolex, known for its conservative approach to design, it’s a major innovation. The patented bracelet has a core made of nickel-titanium alloy blades, which provide excellent flexibility and are coated with a black elastomer, a synthetic type of rubber. When the material is subjected to tension and pressure, it returns to its original shape quickly. It resists environmental changes and is long lasting, waterproof and hypoallergenic – a good alternative to a metal bracelet. The bracelet’s black color goes well with the ceramic bezel and with the Everose gold case, presenting a modern, two-tone look.

Inside the bracelet is a patented cushioning system that increases wearing comfort. The bracelet accommodates changes in wrist size. The single-sided Oysterlock folding clasp made of Everose gold offers additional flexibility; it allows for three length adjustments. Screws attach the clasp securely to the bracelet. A safety bar makes opening the clasp more difficult but prevents it from opening accidentally.

Manufacturer: Rolex SA, Rue François-Dussaud 3-7, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Reference number: 116655
Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date, bidirectional rotating bezel
Movement: In-house Caliber 3135, automatic, “Superlative Chronometer” certified, 28,800 vph, 31 jewels, Kif shock absorbers, Glucydur balance with Microstella regulating screws, Parachrom balance spring with overcoil, 48-hour power reserve, diameter = 28.5 mm, height = 6.0 mm
Case: Everose-gold Oyster case with black Cerachrom ceramic graduated bezel, sapphire crystal with Cyclops magnifying lens, water resistant to 100 m
Bracelet and clasp: Oysterflex bracelet with Everose-gold, single-sided Oysterlock folding clasp
Rate results: Deviations in seconds per 24 hours (Fully wound / after 24 hours)
Dial up +3.1 / +2.9
Dial down +2.1 / +3.2
Crown up -0.7 / -1.6
Crown down -0.8 / -2.6
Crown left +2.5 / +2.6
Greatest deviation of rate 3.9 / 5.8
Average deviation +1.2 / +0.9
Average amplitude:
Flat positions 292° / 265°
Hanging positions 247° / 233°
Dimensions: Diameter = 40 mm, height = 11 mm, weight = 154 g
Variations: 37-mm case (Ref. 268655, with Caliber 2236, $22,000)
Price: $24,950



No Responses to “Swanky Sailor: Reviewing the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master”

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  1. Jonathan Messer

    gold on rubber = cool if one can afford it. I still prefer my S/S Y-M with PT dial & bezel = an understated goes everywhere quite comfortable piece. By the way… hardly mentioned BUT the curved lugs on all Yacht-Master models make for a wonderfully contoured fit + way better than straight lugs on most Rolex’

  2. You’ll have to sell it to pay for the repairs for your yacht… but you’ll sure look good wearing it!

  3. Kevin Cox

    An interesting piece, shame about the poor out of focus photo’s !!!

  4. Rowen T. Yolo, MD

    May I request for an article or review regarding swiss made SELECTRON chronograph / computer watches made possibly during the 60s-70s?

  5. Whineboy

    That patent on the Cyclops would have expired over 40 years ago, meaning whatever it covered now can be freely-used by the public, I’m not sure it’s a bragging point (and, no, patents cannot be renewed).

  6. This was a very nice watch.
    Is it automatic or manual? Do you know a good place to buy it?

  7. Graham Williams

    Just aquired the YM 40 in Everose, stylish a touch sporty with a different look from my other Rolex’s.

    • Dir Kirsche

      Hey GW? Was wondering, since the article didn’t mention it, how is the rubber bracelet sized?

      • Erik Behrendsen

        It actually comes with three different sizes, so you just pick the pair that works best for your wrist.

      • Graham Williams

        Sizing is a bit of a problem, I bought mine 2nd hand but never worn. AD will have various sizes in combination to make it fit. So if i were to sell it on that person may have a heck of a time getting it to fit.

  8. Love the watch but I was told I had to wait a year to purchase the 40mm size in Canada. So, off I went and purchased a watch from a different manufacturerer!

    Why make the consumer with cash in hand wait?

    There are certainly other options available these days!

  9. Old Caliber, a braclet which cannot be changed. What else can you expect from Rolex for a price about 24k Euro?

  10. Sean Stegmann

    Hi, So does this mean that they have dumped the YM2 with its funny 10 second / minute countdown dial? I never liked the look of the YM2.

    • Brian Anderson

      If they did it would explain why they are now available at Costco.

  11. Frank Gregory

    Oh my goodness! Another lust object from Rolex (the origin of my watch, sorry chronometer, fetish). Faultless style and flash balanced with flawless functionality (OK, you can’t go all the way down). Opening my savings account now.

  12. Debashish

    Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master is truly a fabulous watch and though it cost me a lot of money, I must say it is worth the money that I had to pay for it.

    Over the years it has been quite accurate and did not cause me any difficulty till date.

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