Then and Now: The First Rolex Yacht-Master vs. The Current Yacht-Master

If you’ve been following with our Then and Now series, you will no doubt be familiar with the format of these articles where we compare the very first reference in a Rolex collection with its most recent edition. It’s a fantastic way to highlight the technical and design evolution of a particular Rolex watch model. Today’s chapter takes a look at a pretty recent Rolex watch collection—the Yacht-Master.

The First Rolex Yacht-Master

Rolex Yacht-Master Ref. 16628

Although Rolex dabbled with a Yacht-Master prototype in the late 1960s, it wasn’t until 1992 that the first official Yacht-Master made its debut. The very first reference was the Yacht-Master ref. 16628.

As a full 18k yellow gold model, the Yacht-Master ref. 16628 was positioned as a lavish sports watch instead of a full-fledged tool watch like the Submariner. The Yacht-Master ref. 16628 comes with a 40mm yellow Oyster case and a matching gold Oyster bracelet. On top of the case is a bi-directional rotating bezel that combines a sandblasted background and polished raised numerals—also entirely crafted in yellow gold. The Yacht-Master’s bezel was a completely new style when it came out and it remains as one of the model’s signature design traits.

Rolex Yacht-Master Ref. 16628

The dial of the first Yacht-Master ref. 16628 is typical of Rolex sports watches of the era with a mix of round, triangular, and baton hour markers, Mercedes-style hands, and a date window at 3 o’clock. However, interestingly the black hour markers are not filled with luminescence but rather, they are accented with luminescent triangles next to them. Protecting the dial is a sapphire crystal with the essential Cyclops magnification lens. The Yacht-Master ref. 16628 is waterproof to 100 meters and comes fitted with the Triplock screw-down crown.

Since it came out in the early 1990s, the Yacht-Master ref. 16628 runs on the famed Caliber 3135. The Rolex Cal. 3135 is a COSC-certified chronometer that operates at a frequency of 28,800 beats per hour and offers a power reserve of 48 hours.

The Current Rolex Yacht-Master

Rolex Yacht-Master Ref. 116621

While Rolex continues to make the Yacht-Master 40 watch, the brand no longer offers a full yellow gold version. The newest model to join the line-up is the Yacht-Master 40 ref. 116621, which Rolex released at Baselworld 2016.

The Yacht-Master 40 ref. 116621 is a two tone model that brings together Everose (Rolex’s patented rose gold alloy) and stainless steel. In fact, this is the first time that Rolex offers a steel and rose gold Yacht-Master.

The steel Oyster case remains at 40mm in diameter and it is also waterproof to 100 meters and fitted with a Triplock winding crown. The case is topped with an Everose rotating bezel, featuring that signature sandblasted background and high-polish raised numerals contrast we’ve become familiar with. The Oyster bracelet includes solid Everose gold center links flaked by steel links, along with the practical Easylink bracelet extension system on the clasp.

Rolex Caliber 3135

The Everose gold details continue on the sunburst chocolate brown dial with rose gold surrounds encircling the luminescent hour-markers and rose gold Mercedes-style hands. Naturally, the date window is still there, as is the Cyclops sitting on the sapphire crystal above it.

Despite the 24-year difference between the modern Yacht-Master ref. 116621 and the maiden Yacht-Master ref. 16628, the newer version of the watch also runs on the Caliber 3135 automatic movement. However, it’s important to note that as of 2015, Rolex guarantees an improved accuracy rating of -/+ 2 seconds per day across all of their movements.

The Rolex Yacht-Master Evolution, Then and Now

Aside from the material differences and dial design touch-ups, it’s clear that the modern Yacht-Master 40 is strikingly similar to the first Yacht-Master from the early 1990s. That’s not that surprising given the young age of the collection. After all, it typically takes Rolex decades to make drastic changes (if they make any at all) to a model since the company is more about evolution than revolution.

Today, the Rolex Yacht-Master is available in a host of sizes, materials, and dial designs, yet most versions (except for the Oysterflex edition) look almost identical to the inaugural Yacht-Master released over 25 years ago.