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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.

Written by

Celine Simon

Celine is a freelance luxury watch writer who has enjoyed working in the horology industry for over ten years. Like many of the high-end timepieces she writes about, she comes from Switzerland—the heart of fine watchmaking. From Singapore to Montreal to Geneva to Dubai, Celine has lived all over the world but now calls Southern California home.