Rolex doesn’t really do big new designs, and hardly needs to. It’s a policy that works, but does mean that the annual unveil at the watch industry’s spring trade fair, Baselworld, is a focus on very slight evolutions in design.
The single biggest story this year was that there was a new ‘Batman’ version (ie blue/black bezel) of the GMT-Master II, to join the upgraded ‘Pepsi’ (red/blue) of last year. So, when Rolex does reveal something that feels genuinely new, it’s almost unsettling.
The Yacht-Master 42mm, rolling out across stores this month, is only new in Rolex terms – there have been 36mm and 40mm predecessors – but it isn’t really the case shape, movement or functions that catch the attention . Instead, it’s the combination of the white-gold case, black dial and strap that is so monochromatic as to give the watch a stark, deliberate character, which the smaller, rose-gold versions just don’t have.
Part of the effect comes from the contrast between the matt of the bezel inserts (Rolex’s patented ceramic, Cerachrom, since you ask) and the synthetic-rubber Oysterflex strap with the gloss of the hands and case. All far more directional than you would ever expect from this brand.