Rolex Yacht-Master 42 "Falcon Eye" 226659
The funny thing about Yacht-Masters is that in the collecting world, they’re a watch that tends to pass people by.
They aren’t a hype-piece, they are rarely mentioned in the discussion of “tool watches” and in fairness to them, they are woefully underrated.
There are, of course, reasons for this, but with the upgrades to the line, they’re reasons that are relevant to the Yachty’s of old, less so the current lineup.
The Yacht-Master was first launched in 1992 in full yellow gold. It was very much a "HELLO SAILORS" piece designed, as its name suggests, for the Yachting set, those who split their time between sailing and getting plastered on Martini’s while gracing the decks of the yacht-club. It was designed to straddle the world of work, and play.
Being precious metal, early buyers would have been wise to keep it a little calm on the work front though, it must be said.
A steel case and bracelet variant, the 16622 was launched in ’99 and is considered by some to be the definitive Yacht-Master.
It had a platinum dial, a vibrant red seconds hand, and a platinum bezel and was mounted on an oyster bracelet with polished centre links.
Rolex named the steel and platinum mix “Rolesium” as is often their habit when combining metals.
Rolesor (steel and gold) belong the better known example of both word and metal blending.
The mix goes as follows:
Role(x) S(teel) and either Or (gold) or “ium”, the end letters of platinum.
Quite proprietary but can still create some confusion with those who aren’t “au fait” with the method.
The 16622 was and still is a lovely watch, but it was always a niche seller and never quite hit peak.
There may be a couple of reasons for this:
Primarily, the platinum bezel.
While utterly opulent, it is difficult to refinish due to its sandblast base and polished raised numbers.
A precious metal bezel + swinging sails + adventurous wear could mean an eye-watering bill should you need to replace the bezel after battering it.
Despite having a triplock crown, its water resistance rating was set at 100m so as to not pit it against the flagship Sub.
Don’t get me wrong, 100m is perfectly adequate, but it put the Yacht-Master amongst the likes of the Daytona, GMT, and DateJust - none of which are marketed as watches for the high seas.
It was also considered to be a bit of a hybrid piece. With a curved and polished case similar Daytona minus its chrono pushers, and the use of precious metals, it wasn’t appealing enough to the tool-watch nuts to be a big hit.
There have been plenty of other configurations of Yacht-Master available over the years, ranging from 27mm (now discontinued) to the 44mm of the regatta chronograph equipped Yacht-Master II.
They have been available in a range of flavours bi-metal, full gold, sunburst dials, plain dials, MOP dials, and pretty much everything in between bar a full stainless steel variant.
Those of you who keep in the loop will also be aware of the brand spanking new 2023 release of the Yacht-master 42 in full RLX titanium. A new metal in the Rolex playground that was initially premiered in the whopping 50mm Deepsea Challenge.
Lets call the new Ti YM42 the follow-up for more moderate wearers.
Personally, I don’t think we’re going to see a Ti Submariner any time soon, which is indicative of the strategy that Rolex is putting in to the Yacht-Master with its recent tweaks, firsts, and investment into the range.
It has gone from the oddball of the catalogue to the point were its offering some significant competition to its stablemates.
The most notable of which was the 2019 release of the Yacht-Master 42 which shed its soft bouncy curves in favour of a larger, sharper, beefier case which echoes that of the Submariner +1mm.
Those of you who have met my love of analogy before - it’s gone from Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and The City to full Sarah Connor.
This has been a roaringly successful evolution that brings us quite neatly to the subject of this review. The Yacht-Master 42 “Falcon Eye”
The Yacht-Master 42 is a relatively new addition to the Rolex line-up. Released in 2019 in 18 carat white gold with a black dial.
Its got the “macho” hard lines of the submariner, along with a gorgeous matte black ceramic bezel (no more worries about taking chunks out of platinum) and is fitted to a Rolex Oysterflex bracelet, which in typical Rolex form, is not actually as simple as a rubber strap, despite appearances.
The “Oysterflex” bracelet was first released in 2015 on the 40mm Everose Yacht-Master and comprises of two titanium blades in arced shapes, which make the base “skeleton” of the strap.
The blades are covered by a black elastomer (rubber) which has two “fins” on the underside to raise the rubber from the wrist slightly to improve ventilation and comfort, as well as increasing the stability of the watch and reducing the propensity of a heavier watch head to spin on the wrist.
As the bracelet cannot be cut to size, Rolex offers it in several different sizes to accommodate all wrists, and the fitted clasp allows for both micro-adjustment and has an easy link feature to take care of any change in wrist size due to heat and humidity.
Its supremely comfortable and robust, and is, in my humble opinion, the perfect bracelet for this particular reference.
The use of both matte ceramic and Oysterflex in this instance is Rolex playing a sneaky blinder, because if you want the increased size, Oysterflex, and a non gloss ceramic, the YM42 is your only option.
Rolex haven’t released a Sub or SeaDweller with a matte bezel, or on Oysterflex so Rolex have very cleverly created a funnel from those who want matte and rubber straight to the YM line which has done the job as Yacht-Masters have seen a switch from being a faintly forgotten about member the professional line, to increased popularity and waiting lists.
The case is 18 carat white gold with thick lugs and flat polished case sides, and the bezel is a matte ceramic with raised polished numbers. No surprises from the crown there.
The dial, however, is the show-piece of this particular model.
It’s a “Falcon Eye” which is a stone from the Tiger eye family (technical term - unreplaced crocidolite) but rather than exhibiting flashes of gold and brown like the tiger, the falcon eye exhibits flashes of mid and dark blue with occasional green or grey bands.
The stone is said to have both calming and protective properties, which makes it an ideal talisman for dealing with traffic, children, GP receptionists, and customer service hotlines as well as excelling in its default setting of yachts, boats, decks, bars, clubs and snorkelling.
The wonderful thing about this dial is that in some lights, it looks utterly black and unassuming, but when the light hits it glints into life and displays some captivating blue and grey striations which brings a bit of restrained partying to the proceedings.
Given that low key extravagance has become pretty synonymous with the Yacht-Master line in general, it’s a triumph.
I suppose that drawing this review to a close, a sensible question to ask would be would I choose this Yacht-Master 42 over any of its competitors, whether that’s a precious metal or steel Sub, a GMT, or even a Daytona, as these pieces are that natural competitors.
I have to say, yes. In a Falcon-Eyed flash.