Rolex Yacht-Master vs Yacht-Master II
Rolex Yacht-Master vs Yacht-Master II

Starting with the Explorer II in the 1970s, Rolex has created a few model spin-offs over the years, where the second version is often larger or more technically advanced than the original. Aside from the Explorer II, there’s the GMT-Master II, the Datejust II, and more recently, the Yacht-Master II. But what exactly are the differences between the Yacht-Master and the Yacht-Master II? Join us as we outline all the details as we compare the Yacht-Master vs Yacht-Master II.

Origins: Yacht-Master vs Yacht-Master II

Rolex introduced the Yacht-Master in 1992 as an ultra-luxe sports watch with a nautical flair. The first reference in the collection was the Yacht-Master ref. 16628–a solid gold watch to emphasize the luxuriousness of the then-new Rolex model.

Yacht-Master vs Yacht-Master II
The Rolex Yacht-Master in Yellow Gold

From its 40mm Oyster case to its rotating timing bezel to its Oyster bracelet, Rolex opted for 18k yellow gold for the very first Yacht-Master. Over the course of its history, the Yacht-Master collection welcomed other sizes and materials and today, it is one of Rolex’s most varied sports watch models.

The Yacht-Master II is a much younger Rolex watch, having made its debut in 2007. Featuring a regatta chronograph inside its large 44mm Oyster case, Rolex positioned the Yacht-Master II as a tool watch for professional racing sailors.

Yacht-Master II
The Rolex Yacht-Master II in White Gold and Platinum

Like the original Yacht-Master, the first models of the Yacht-Master II were also 18k gold models but Rolex offered the choice of the white gold YM II ref. 116689 with a platinum bezel or the yellow gold YM II ref. 116688 with a blue ceramic bezel. Although the Yacht-Master II is still only available in one size, Rolex has added other metal options to the collection.

Design: Yacht-Master

Through the Yacht-Master is a varied collection, the defining traits of the watch include a water-resistant (to 100 meters) Oyster case, a Twinlock winding crown, a undirectional rotating bezel with raised numerals marked to 60 minutes, and the familiar Rolex sports watch dial layout with geometric lume-filled hour markers and Mercedes-style hands. The Yacht-Master is a time and date Rolex watch, therefore the dial is home to the date window at 3 o’clock accompanied by the customary Cyclops magnification lens protruding from the sapphire crystal.

Rolex Yacht-Master 40 in Steel and Everose Gold

Rolex has made the Yacht-Master in a number of case sizes throughout the decades: 29mm, 35mm, 37mm, 40mm, and 42mm. Rolex no longer makes 29mm or 35mm and currently only offers the latter three sizes.

Materials wise, Rolex originally made the Yacht-Master in yellow gold, stainless steel with a platinum bezel (dubbed Rolesium), and two-tone steel and yellow gold. These days however, Rolex no longer uses yellow gold in the Yacht-Master collection, opting for Everose gold (the brand’s proprietary rose gold alloy) instead. What’s more, Rolex recently added for the first time a Yacht-Master in white gold. Therefore, the Yacht-Master is now available in stainless steel with a platinum bezel, white gold, Everose gold with a black ceramic bezel, and two-tone steel and Everose gold.

Rolesium Yacht-Master in Steel with a Platinum Bezel

While Rolex originally fitted the Yacht-Master exclusively with the three-link Oyster bracelet, in 2015, the brand debuted the black rubber Oysterflex bracelet. However, the Oysterflex bracelet is currently only available on the 37mm and 40mm Everose gold Yacht-Master and the 42mm white gold Yacht-Master.

Design: Yacht-Master II

The Rolex Yacht-Master II is one of the brand’s largest watches with a 44mm Oyster case, fitted with a Triplock winding crown, a pair of chronograph pushers, a Ring Command bezel, and an Oyster bracelet. It is also one of Rolex’s most complicated modern watches, complete with an innovative regatta chronograph with a programmable countdown feature (1 to 10 minutes) and a mechanical memory. Interestingly, rather than just a decorative element, rotating the Ring Command bezel is how you program the countdown function of the Yacht-Master II, which can be synchronized to the sequence of race start times during a regatta.

Yacht-Master II in Stainless Steel with a Blue Cerachrom Bezel

One of the most striking design elements of the Yacht-Master II is its dial design, which is unlike any other Rolex watch. The hour and minute hands are at the center while accompanied by the running seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. Arching above the center hands, from 8 o’clock to 4 o’clock, is the countdown display whereby the red arrow-tipped hand indicates how much time is left on the countdown. There’s also the central chronograph hand, which can flyback or fly-forward back to its starting position while in motion.

For the first decade of its production, the Yacht-Master II featured straight center hands and square lume-filled hour markers. However, as of 2017, Rolex switched to Mercedes-style hands and added a triangular hour marker at 12 and a rectangular hour marker at 6 to sit alongside the square ones.

Two-Tone Yacht-Master II in Steel and Everose Gold

The Yacht-Master II is available in a few different material versions: stainless steel with a blue Cerachrom bezel, yellow gold with a blue Cerachrom bezel, two-tone stainless steel and Everose gold with a blue Cerachrom bezel, and white gold with a platinum bezel.

Yacht-Master & Yacht-Master II References

Below is a comprehensive list of Rolex references for both the Yacht-Master and Yacht-Master II collections.

Yacht-Master References

ReferenceMaterialSizeIntro Year
16628Yellow Gold40mm1992
Yellow Gold29mm1994
Yellow Gold35mm1994
Steel + Yellow Gold29mm1995
Steel + Yellow Gold35mm1995
Steel + Platinum40mm1999
Steel + Platinum29mm1999
Steel + Platinum35mm1999
16623Steel + Yellow Gold40mm2005
Everose Gold40mm2015
268655Everose Gold37mm2015
Steel + Everose Gold40mm2016
268621Steel + Everose Gold37mm2016
226659White Gold42mm2019

Yacht-Master II References

ReferenceMaterialSizeIntro Year
116689 (New Dial)
White Gold + Platinum44mm2007
116688 (New Dial)
Yellow Gold44mm2007
116681(New Dial)
Steel + Everose Gold44mm2011
116680 (New Dial)
Stainless Steel44mm2013

YM or YM II?

While they share the same name, it’s clear that the Yacht-Master and the Yacht-Master II are quite different. Yes, they’re both nautical-inspired Rolex sports watches, yet the first is smaller and more refined while the latter is larger, bolder, and more complex.

Whether you decide on the Rolex Yacht-Master or the Yacht-Master II depends largely on the size of what you’re looking for. If you want an oversized Rolex chronograph, then the Yacht-Master II may be right for you. If however, you are looking for a Rolex sports watch that is 40mm or smaller, then the Yacht-Master range is the better option.

Regardless of which model you pick, the Yacht-Master and the Yacht-Master II are fantastic Rolex watches inspired by a life at sea.