Is the Rolex Yacht-Master Ref 126622 a cool watch? I get asked this question – or a variation of it – with increasing frequency these days. There was a time, not so long ago, when I didn’t give much thought to this model. And to be fair, neither did anyone else. The Yacht-Master was always kind of the odd one out in the Rolex sports watch collection. You couldn’t fault its credentials per se, but it didn’t quite belong.
In recent years though, Rolex has worked to improve the Yacht-Master’s positioning. Making it a little less luxe and a little more utilitarian. The overwhelming demand for steel Rolex sports watches has also played a big part. If you can’t get your first choice, you go for your second and so on. Now though, the Ref 126622 is becoming the first choice for more and more watch lovers. Not the third or fourth. And this is being reflected in its pricing on the secondary market. So, can we say the Rolex Yacht-Master Ref 126622 is officially cool now? As always, I’ll lay it out and you can make up your own mind.
A (Very) Brief History Of The Rolex Yacht-Master
By Rolex standards, the Yacht-Master is quite a modern addition to the collection. Yacht-Master dial prototypes first appeared in the 1960s. But the inaugural production model didn’t make its debut until the early 1990s. That said, the brand has been present in the world of sailing for decades. Forging an alliance with the New York Yacht Club in 1958. Many more such partnerships would soon follow and still continue to this day.
The first Yacht-Master was the Ref 16628 and it was only available in solid yellow gold. There’s nothing unusual about that per se. Introducing new models in gold cases first is a common strategy for Rolex. The Smurf is a good example of this, after which the Hulk followed in steel. But with the Yacht-Master there was an added reason for doing so. Rolex wanted to position it more as a sporty yet luxurious watch as opposed to a practical tool watch. In line with this the Ref 16628 was also offered with several Serti dial options. (Rolex speak for gem-set dials.)
Fancy dials aside, the Yacht-Master is very much styled after the Submariner. Rumour has it that Rolex was even considering an overhaul of that model. But cooler heads prevailed and instead a new collection launched. Regardless, the spec sheets read very similar. 40mm case. Mercedes hands. Upside down triangle at 12 o’clock. Circular and rectangular markers for the hours. Date with cyclops. Rotating bezel with 60-minute markings. (Although on the Yacht-Master it’s bi-directional. Whereas on the Submariner – and all dive watches – it’s uni-directional.)
The Ref 16628 even used the same movement as the Ref 16610. The Calibre 3135. The only practical difference (aside from the bezel) was that it was only water resistant to 100m. Which is why a lot of collectors weren’t that enamoured with the Yacht-Master. It was like buying a Submariner-junior.
This perception wasn’t helped by the addition of 29mm and 35mm Yacht-Masters in 1994. Rolex has never offered any of its other Professional watches in reduced cases sizes. Before or since. It’s not a bad thing per se. But it made it clear the Yacht-Master was more of a ‘lifestyle’ watch.
Rolex Yacht-Master Ref 16622
Things started getting a little more interesting for the Yacht-Master collection in 1999. That’s when Rolex unveiled the steel Ref 16622. I say steel but the technical name (at least the one Rolex invented) is Rolesium. This signifies – in Rolex speak – that the case combines both steel and platinum. The Yacht-Master was the first to debut this pairing. And Rolex has kept it exclusive to the collection ever since.
I’m not sure why Rolex chose platinum for the bezel of the steel Yacht-Master. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say it was all about differentiating it as “luxury-first” watch. Whatever the reason, the end result is actually pretty cool. The bezel itself has a sandblasted finish. While the raised numerals have a high polish. Combined with the sandblasted, platinum dial it creates a very attractive monochromatic effect. (And yes, the dial is actually made from platinum.) The seconds hand and the “Yacht-Master” text in bright red add just the right level of contrast.
These days you can pick up a good quality Ref 16622 for around US$10,000. Which is quite reasonable for a steel Rolex. The reference still doesn’t get that much love from collectors. But it is practical for daily wear and still offers chronometer precision. If you’re in the market for one, check out our retail partner WatchBox. (Affiliate link.)
Rolex Yacht-Master Ref 116622
In 2012, Rolex introduced the upgraded Ref 116622. This is the Yacht-Master most people are familiar with. It’s not too different from its predecessor although there are some key changes. The main one being the introduction of a rich blue dial with sunray finish. I don’t know what it is but platinum cases and blue dials go together like ham and cheese. Even when the use of platinum is sparing, as in the case of the Yacht-Master. Both dials (the platinum and the blue one) also feature Chromalight for the first time.
Rolex retired the platinum dial in 2016. In its place came the now familiar rhodium dial with light blue contrasts. For some it was the wrong decision. After all the platinum dial was one of the USPs of the Yacht-Master. Others welcomed the change, saying it gives the model more modern appeal. Plus the watch doesn’t feel quite as weighty on the wrist. I can see it both ways although I do think the grained platinum dial is very cool.
Another upgrade is the solid link bracelet with the spring-loaded Oysterlock clasp. This was a big improvement over the clasp on the Ref 16622. Rolex also added a new bezel which has 120 clicks in both directions. Not a game-changer but noticeable none the less when compared against previous models. Inside was the same Calibre 3135.
There’s no doubt the Ref 116622 is an upgrade on its predecessor. Which is why you can expect to pay a considerable amount more for one. Somewhere in the vicinity of US$13,500 – US$15,500 depending on age and condition. Keep in mind Rolex produced this reference right the way up to 2018.
Rolex Yacht-Master Ref 126622
The current reference of the Rolex Yacht-Master is the Ref 126622. Debuted in 2019 this watch looks like a carbon copy of its predecessor. And from a visual standpoint, it is. Rolex had already tweaked the Yacht-Master quite a bit by this point. So, there was not much left to improve on the case and bracelet. And the blue and slate dial options have become synonymous with the model.
One thing that did change though is the movement inside. Rolex added its upgraded Calibre 3235. The same movement that would find its way into the new Submariner a year later. Rolex was already using it in the Datejust 41 and the Sea-Dweller. This self-winding mechanical movement boasts 14 patents in total. Including the Chronergy escapement, combining high energy efficiency with greater dependability. Made of nickel-phosphorus, it is also insensitive to magnetic interference. New barrel architecture and superior efficiency means a power reserve of 70 hours.
Like the 3135, the 3235 gets the Superlative Chronometer certification. Meaning it is very accurate (−2/+2 seconds per day) and reliable. It also features an instantaneous date at 3 o’clock with secure rapid-setting.
Price & Availability
The recommended retail price for the Rolex Yacht-Master 40 Ref 126622 is around US$11,800. Making it quite a bit more expensive than a Submariner. Of course, that means nothing as neither watch is available at retail. At least not to the average joe walking in off the street with no buying history.
As such, you can expect to pay closer to US$16,000 – US$17,000 on the secondary market for a Ref 126622. Still competitive compared to what some other steel Rolex watches are trading at. But a tough pill to swallow none the less. Again, if you’re in the market check out our retail partner WatchBox. (Affiliate link.)
Is The Yacht-Master Ref 126622 Officially Cool Now?
This is a tricky one. Rolex has definitely evolved the Ref 126622 to become an attractive standalone package. And there’s no doubt it’s a good-looking watch. But it’s hard to know how much of the appeal is being driven by hype. And the lack of availability of other steel Rolex alternatives. Versus watch lovers discovering a genuine appreciation for this model.
Ask yourself this question. If you had the option of buying any steel Rolex model at retail, would the Ref 126622 still get a second look? I’m not so sure the answer would be yes. But then again, there’s no denying the Yacht-Master has its own unique appeal. Which could be the reason it’s stayed in the Rolex line-up for close to 30 years.
Technical Specifications: Rolex Yacht-Master 40 Ref 126622
- Case: Oyster – 40 mm – Oystersteel and platinum – monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown – 950 platinum bidirectional rotatable bezel, 60-minute graduated with raised numerals– twin-lock double waterproof crown – waterproof to 100 metres / 330 feet.
- Dial: slate or bright blue – hour markers and hands in white gold, all filled with Chromalight material – running seconds hand in light blue or red.
- Movement:Calibre 3235 – bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor – paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring – Chronergy escapement with optimized energy efficiency – 70-hour power reserve – certified as Superlative Chronometer.
- Price: USD 11,200
This article by TheWatchLounge has been sponsored by our partner WatchBox.