2022 was the year Rolex proved that it could only be taunted so much by detractors for the lack of complications in its lineup before it would come out swinging. It has long been the anti-Rolex league’s favorite go-to criticism, holding up the Swiss giant’s catalog of ruggedly simple, almost minimalist, three-hand watches and sneeringly comparing them to the overtly functional pieces from the likes of Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin. Did Rolex lack the imagination to compete with the sky charts and moonphases of other watchmakers? Or was it the technical prowess it was missing? Rolex took it with its usual granite stoicism for decades, with the modesty of the Day-Date’s dual calendar or the Daytona’s chronograph seemingly as extravagant as it was prepared to go. Then, the iconic Swiss watch manufacturer released the Rolex Yacht-Master II series.
Vastly different from the original and less complex Yacht-Master, the Rolex Yacht-Master II is a vibrant behemoth that contains one of the most technically impressive complications ever made. As a product, it could also serve as the dictionary definition of the word “niche.” Powered by a new caliber that required more than 35,000 hours to devise, the result was a watch that’s sole purpose was to help yacht skippers coordinate the starting procedure of a sailing regatta. The first models of the collection were available in either yellow or white gold. Then In 2011, the Yacht master II ref. 116681 appeared, which is a striking Rolesor variant that blends tough 904L stainless steel with precious 18k Everose gold. If you’re into big watches that make a bold statement on the wrist, then keep reading for everything you need to know about the Rolex Yacht-Master II 116681
While the styles of the Yacht-Master II watches have split opinions and are a world away from the handsome elegance that has been the Rolex hallmark for over 100 years, this technical yet luxurious sports watch has won plenty of fans. Its concept and sheer audacity have also silenced many of the brand’s critics and Rolex has proved that, should it decide to mix it up in the world of complications, it can compete with the best of them.
As mentioned, the first two Rolex Yacht-Master II models that debuted in 2007 were in yellow gold (ref. 116688) and white gold (ref. 116689, which was discontinued in 2022). Five years later, Rolex unveiled the Yacht-Master II ref. 116681 as the two-tone Everose gold and stainless steel variant. The combination of the two metals, the bright blue bezel (crafted from Rolex’s ceramic alloy, Cerachrom), and the flashy dial is certainly not the subtlest of Rolex watches, but somehow, the Yacht-Master II 116681 just works.
The Everose gold elements – on the bezel numerals, crown, pushers, snailing around the seconds sub-dial, and center links of the sporty Oyster bracelet – soften some of the brashness of the all-steel or yellow gold versions. As a variant, it’s a definite eye-catcher. It has retained its rather graceful proportions, especially for such a large piece and one that crams in so much functionality. The 44mm case (the biggest case size in the Rolex fleet that’s only shared by the Deepsea) affords a large surface area for the dial designers to play with. And it’s just as well. There is a lot of information displayed on the watch’s face, but the logical placement of each element gives it legible readability.
At the top is a horseshoe-shaped track numbered to ten. The starting gun in a regatta is preceded by a warning signal, often either five or ten minutes beforehand. It informs participants the countdown has begun, and the Yacht-Master II’s curved gauge is there to precisely time the flying start – the long dagger-like hand marks the countdown seconds while the small red arrow-tipped hand displays the countdown minutes.
However, the clever part comes should our yacht skipper need to reset the countdown for any reason. The watch is the first in the world to feature a mechanical memory with both flyback and fly-forward functionality, and it allows the regatta timer to reset to synchronize with the official race timer – either forwards or backwards to the nearest minute. Therefore, should the countdown have been triggered too early or too late, it’s a simple step to bring it back in line.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Rolex Yacht-Master II , Rolex rolled out redesigned dials across the entire collection – including, of course, the Yacht-Master II ref. 116681. So what changed?
First, Rolex replaced the original straight hands with a Mercedes handset, which is much more common across the brand’s sports watches. Also, the hands of the Yacht Master II 116681 went from a dark blue to Everose gold – a nice touch to match the rest of the pink-toned details of the watch. Another dial update that occurred to bring the face of the Yacht-Master II more in line with Rolex’s other sports watches concerns the shape of the hour markers.
Earlier models featured square lume-filled indexes for each hour. However, after the 2017 dial redesign, Yacht-Master II watches now included an inverted triangle and a rectangle at 12 and 6, respectively. Naturally, since the Yacht-Master II 116681 is an Everose Rolesor edition, the hour markers feature Everose gold surrounds.