If you weren’t paying close attention you could easily miss the new Rolex Yacht-Master 42 in white gold. And I mean that in the best way. It’s a handsome timepiece, with a quiet presence that (despite its newness) feels reassuringly familiar in some hard-to-define way.
Despite being 2mm bigger than its Everose Gold brother (and a 42mm Oyster case wears quite big), it’s the opposite of in your face. In fact, thanks to the monochrome colour scheme of the dial, bezel and case, and the matt black Oysterflex strap, it may be the most discreet model in Rolex’s entire line-up.
I’m not suggesting that it can’t be a love-at-first-sight piece – but the more closely you look, the greater the rewards. The absence of colour draws your eye to the details, and emphasises the play of shiny and matt surfaces: the fine band of polished notches around the outer edge of the bezel contrasts with the matt Cerachrom insert, which in turn plays against the shine of the black lacquer dial. The polished surfaces of the raised numerals on the bezel (they are an integral part of the bezel, moulded with the ceramic, rather than applied) cast barely-there shadows on the surrounding matt surface. And when the light plays over the highly polished case-side, with its seamless cutaway from lugs to crown guards – well, it’s a beautiful thing. The curve is perfect and the white gold has a visual softness that you just don’t get with steel or platinum.
The matt black rubber Oysterflex strap is the Goldilocks element, tying everything together in just-right harmony (whereas the hardness and shine of a metal bracelet could throw things off-balance visually).
Having been introduced in 2015, the Oysterflex strap is no longer news but it’s worth revisiting because it’s such a great piece of design – possibly the most comfortable watch strap known to mankind. That’s thanks to the tiny, flexible ‘blades’ hidden on the underside between a pair of longitudinal cushions. The effect is a feeling of extraordinary lightness on the wrist (balanced in this case by the pleasant heft of the white gold case), absolute stability and … no sweat. Literally, since the air can circulate between skin and strap. The folding clasp has an integrated extension system that enables you to adjust it in 2.5mm increments, up to a total of about 15mm – instantly and without tools.
On the dial, simplicity of the markers and their assertive size make it highly legible (again, with no colour to distract the eye – not even the line of red text that appears on other Yacht-Masters). Thanks to the Chromalight lume (which glows blue in the dark) none of this clarity is lost at night.
Rolex scores more points by bringing its new-generation Calibre 3235 (launched last year) into the Yacht-Master range for the first time – a technical step up from the Everose Gold model. The key attributes of cal.3235: the patented Chronergy escapement, designed to maximise energy efficiency and made of magnetically neutral nickel-phosphorus, and the Parachrom hairspring, resistant to shocks and also paramagnetic. The benefit: accuracy of +2/-2 seconds per day (tested after casing), more than twice the standard chronometer specification.
As we expect from Rolex, this is an exceedingly well built and tremendously practical watch, ideally suited to everyday sporting wear. Although it’s water-resistant to 100 metres, it’s designed for above-water not underwater life. The bezel is bi-directional; it’s Yacht-Master, not Dive-Master. It’s not a tool watch. So while I briefly thought – as I’m sure many of you did – “Why not steel?” I no longer ask that (rhetorical) question. White gold is entirely appropriate and, in this handsomely sporty monochrome package, it’s the stealth Rolex par excellence.
Rolex Yacht-Master 42 (ref. 226659) price
Rolex Yacht-Master 42, white gold on Oysterflex, $36,950