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Rolex Yacht-Master 40 vs Yacht-Master II

March 17, 2023

As we alluded to in our previous article on Rolex's Explorer II, the watches Rolex designs and makes are made with a specific purpose in mind, even if they do end up sitting in a safe as an "investment piece". With that in mind, it's worth exploring the Yacht-Master and Yacht-Master II as they have some striking differences.

The Yacht-Master 40 126622

A modern-day classic, the Yacht-Master 40 126622 seems closer to the diving-focused Submariner than anything else. The bezel appears to have the same graduated markings, the 40mm case looks pretty much the same at a glance, and the watch comes with an Oyster bracelet. 

But, when you look closer, you see some subtle differences. For example, the Oyster bracelet is both brushed and polished to give the watch a bit of extra flair, and the Yacht-Master's case is smoother and more pebble-like than the almost angular Submariner. 

When the Yacht-Master as we know it today first appeared in 1992, it had precious metals in the case, which helped signify that this was meant to be more luxurious than the utilitarian Submariner. Even today, this continues. The example we have in our store at the time of writing has a bezel made of solid platinum with the markers raised up instead of engraved into the bezel, despite the rest of the case and bracelet being made of stainless steel.

While it's true that the Yacht-Master seems to be a more luxurious Submariner, Rolex was careful to ensure the two watches don't cross paths entirely. For example, while the bezel on the Submariner is a true diver's bezel that only turns in one direction (the safer direction), the bezel on the Yacht-Master turns either way despite having the same 60-minute graduations as the Submariner. Also, the Submariner has a 300m water-resistant case, but the Yacht-Master's is only 100m, although they both have a Triplock crown to prevent ingress if you leave it unscrewed for some reason.

Further, the Yacht-Master comes with different coloured dials to choose from, and it can come in three different diameters: 37mm, 40mm and 42mm. Also, if you want to fork out the cash, a couple of solid gold options are available with Rolex's unique Oysterflex rubber strap. 


For most, the Yacht-Master is an excellent alternative to the Submariner, which everyone and their mum seems to have these days.

The Yacht-Master II 116680

The Yacht-Master II is the more sizeable, more complicated and, some would say, less attractive second generation of the Yacht-Master range. Like with the Explorer and Explorer II, the Yacht-Master II isn't a direct replacement for the Yacht-Master, instead taking its place alongside the original in the boutique window (if they have any, that is).

The Yacht-Master II is also more focused on the task than the original. It's difficult to say precisely what equipment a watchmaker can make that someone with a yacht might need. A reliable timepiece should be obvious, but these days boats come equipped with everything you could need to sail successfully.

Regattas (boat races) start with a countdown, after which the yachts can begin the race. I tried looking up the rules to starting a regatta, but I got confused, I guess us landlubbers will have to stick with regular chronographs. Anyway, the Yacht-Master II features a particular type of chronograph which differs from nearly everything else. 

A typical chronograph, as you'd find in a Daytona, connects to the going train of the movement when the pusher is pressed using a clutch. This then powers the chronograph, which moves clockwise and records an elapsed time. Regattas begin with a countdown, and the yacht crew are required to synchronise their watches to ensure they don't cross the start line too early, which could result in a penalty. 

Rolex developed a unique chronograph-come-countdown timer for the Yacht-Master II, which includes the patented Ring Command bezel. A combination of the bezel, crown and lower pusher sets the chronograph. It also sets the chronograph's "memory" so that should it need to be reset, it can be done on the fly. The chronograph is then ready to be used as a normal one would, with the top pusher starting and stopping the chronograph and the lower pusher resetting it to its memorised position. If all of that seems like overkill for a watch which probably won't be used for that purpose, you're probably right. But, it is a great demonstration of what can be achieved. 

The watch is reasonably practical, too, with 100m of water resistance to match the Yacht-Master 40. It can even come in a stainless steel-only case if precious metals aren't your thing. It also has a ceramic bezel which is better at resisting scratches.

So, what are the downsides other than (potentially) the chronograph? Well, it's pretty pricey, more so than the Yacht-Master 40, and it's also much bigger. To fit all of that in, including the Ring Command bezel mechanism, and seal it up well means the case is 44mm with no other sizes available.

So, which to buy?

That's an incredibly personal decision, and you should ideally visit our store in Cardiff to see both. We will say that the Yacht-Master 40 will likely be to the tastes of more people due to its size and attractive silver dial with sunray polishing, at least in this spec (we also love the blue seconds hand). It is also more useable as a daily. However, the Yacht-Master II will likely keep you occupied longer with its intricate chronograph, and it's also a rarer beast to spot out in the wild. There’s also something very cool about having this watch, as it stands out from the rest of the Rolex crowd, it’s hard to describe just how unique it is.

These are just two excellent examples of the watches we sell at Watches of Wales. Don't worry if we don't have the watch you want in stock. We buy and sell a lot of watches, so another one is bound to come around, but you can always contact us, and we can help you source the perfect timepiece for your collection.