Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681) Hands-On Review

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681) Hands-On Review

by Angus Davies

There are two brands which stand out as the darlings of the auction scene when it comes to watches, Patek Philippe and Rolex. No sale catalogue would seem complete without the mention of a rare Patek annual calendar or, in the specific case of Rolex, a scarce Daytona.

I understand the appeal of these much sought after watches. The scarcity of some unusual models means you are unlikely to bump into another individual wearing one at the same party. This particular aspect will resonate with legions of ladies who have at some stage attended a social event only to see a fellow guest wearing the same outfit. For the fortunate few, couture provides the answer obviating the risk of a social faux pas and similarly, a rare vintage Rolex may well confer the same benefit.

From time to time, I have met passionate Rolex collectors. They relentlessly pursue Submariners with different coloured dial text, such as “single reds” and “double reds” or expend much energy looking for rare references such as the Comex Submariner. This behaviour differentiates the true collector from the mere admirer. The Milgauss Submariner, with its central sweep seconds hand resembling a lightening bolt is, yet again, another coveted reference for the Rolex purist.

I am probably going to upset some of these collectors. I am not trying to cause offence, nor am I trying to be contentious. But, potentially, they may not like what I am now going to say.

However, I genuinely feel that the finest Rolex watches in existence are those which only left the factory gates last week. That is not to say the former models were anything less than superb at the point of creation. Quite the contrary, they were incredible watches perfectly suited for professional use, but Rolex has always sought to enhance its models.

I recently purchased my wife a new Oyster Datejust 36mm. There was nothing wrong with her former Oyster Lady-Datejust 26mm but, with the onset of middle-aged shortsightedness, the larger case diameter made more sense.

However, it is only when you contrast a recent Rolex with a former model that you notice the quiet evolution of the brand’s products. The bracelet has less sideways motion, the clasp is neater and, in my opinion, a great product has simply become better.

I now move to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht Master II, originally launched in 2007. It may not be considered “new” in the traditional sense of the word but, relative to some models in the Rolex family, it is still a youngster. In 2013, the Genevan brand released a stainless steel version of the model, made in 904L grade steel, but I have chosen to focus upon the steel and “Everose gold” model.

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681)

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681)

Rolex Yacht-Master II – The dial

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht Master II is, by the brand’s standards, a large watch with a case diameter of 44mm. The benefit of this scale is that it delivers a large dial canvas on which to display the various functions of the watch. Indeed, every element of the dial composition has room to breathe.

The dial is white, providing peerless contrast with the rest of the dial composition. The blue hour and minute hands are faceted and include luminous material on the surfaces, termed “CHROMALIGHT”. Both hands are blued gold and interestingly the minute hand has an open-worked area, according a view of the dial surface beneath.

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681)  - Dial

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681) – Dial

A red central countdown seconds hand has an exposed area of gold near its fulcrum. It is a small detail, but it is this minutiae which engenders a lasting love. Above 6 o’clock, a small seconds display resides. It is framed with a series of gold concentric circles, termed snailing, and marked with Arabic numerals sans serifs. A blued gold, lone hand, again with a gold hub, sweeps above a sea of white dial surface, kissing the aforementioned numerals.

Hour markers consist of gold appliques filled with CHROMALIGHT, which luminesce in restricted light. I particularly like the square profile of the hour markers which sit juxtaposed with an ensemble of curving lines. The different shapes are attractive, yet eminently cohesive. Adjacent the hour markers, presented on a horseshoe-like scale, is the programmable regatta countdown.

A delightful detail, I recall first seeing on a 44mm Deepsea a few years ago, is the inner flange encircling the dial. It repeatedly states the Rolex name on a virtually vertical plane. I concede it is a small design aspect, but nevertheless, I adore it.

Rolex Yacht-Master II – Operating the regatta countdown

The bezel is turned counter-clockwise, through a 90° angle, with the number “10” on the bezel aligned with 5 o’clock. The push piece at 4 o’clock is then pressed in. The wearer then unscrews the screw-down crown and pulls it outwards to the first position. Thereafter, the triangular tipped countdown hand, outlined in red, can be adjusted to the desired countdown period.

Once the chosen countdown period is selected, the bezel is rotated clockwise such that the number depicted on the bezel aligns with the matching value shown on the horseshoe-like scale. The push piece at 4 o’clock pops back to its original state and the crown can now be screwed back in.

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681) - Wristshot

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681) – Wristshot

The countdown function is actuated in the same way as a typical flyback chronograph, albeit this is not a chronograph in the truest sense. The push piece at 2 o’clock starts and stops the countdown, while the push piece at 4 o’clock resets the countdown function when stationary. Alternatively, whilst the countdown is in operation, pressing the push piece at 4 o’clock will stop, reset and start the countdown in one process.

Although explaining the countdown function sounds complicated on paper, rest assured, it is not. It is very simple to fathom within a few minutes of intimacy and is very logical in its design.

Rolex Yacht-Master II – The case

The case cleverly fuses robustness with a meaningful quotient of luxury, especially in this bi-metallic variant. A notable attribute of bi-metallic watches is that they offer greater versatility in terms of coordinating with various forms of attire. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht Master II proves to be no exception.

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681)  - Crown & Pusher

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681) – Crown & Pusher

There is a danger when mixing different metals and surface treatments that the resultant aesthetic may appear disjointed. However, the blend of 904L satin-finished and polished steel, together with the 18 carat EVEROSE gold charmingly coalesces and confers a harmonious outcome.

The bezel consists of a vibrant blue CERACHROM insert, made of ceramic and featuring engraved numerals coated in gold. They are incredibly legible to read. Whilst some Rolex fans will seek watches adorned with the steel bezels of the past. However, I prefer the latest ceramic bezels. They are less prone to scratching, bestow a very attractive appearance and confer greater longevity.

The OYSTER 3-row bracelet looks capable of surviving near apocalyptic trauma. It has a strong, yet stylish mien. This sense of solidity is reinforced with the sight of the OYSTERLOCK safety clasp which features the EASYLINK 5mm comfort extension link.

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681) - Clasp

Rolex Yacht-Master II (Ref. 116681) – Clasp

Rolex has comprehensively expended many hours on the creation of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht Master II and each element of the configuration is distilled to the highest order.

Rolex Yacht-Master II – The movement

The Calibre 4161 is a self-winding manufacture movement with COSC certification.

Rolex seems averse to revealing its movements via an exhibition caseback which, to some extent, is a shame because the specification causes me to drool with adoration. The chronograph movement is fully integrated with a column wheel and vertical clutch. Indeed, I would expect nothing less from Rolex, practitioners of horological propriety.

The PARACHROM hairspring includes a Breguet overcoil. The special alloy is not adversely effected by magnetic fields and is said to be 10 times more resistance to shocks than conventional hairsprings.

Rolex Yacht-Master II – Closing remarks

I like the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht Master II because it embodies all the knowledge acquired by the company since a young Hans Wilsdorf conceived the name Rolex, back in 1908, whilst living in London.

Rolex has always sought innovation and has delivered this in a controlled and measured way. Invention has not been imposed on the general public without exhaustive testing having taken place first. The brand has earned an enviable reputation for reliability with new technology carefully adopted once tangible benefits can be discerned without jeopardising the brand’s good name.

This does not mean the brand has stood still. The observant reader will note that I have capitalised each Rolex trademark. Each trademark denotes some form of added value, enhancing the ownership proposition for the fortunate wearer. It is therefore for this reason, I feel justified that with a relentless pursuit of perfection, Rolex watches seem to get better with each passing year.

    Author Bio

    Articles by Angus Davies


    Angus Davies is a self-confessed horological addict. It was this passion for watch collecting which led to the launch of his own website, ESCAPEMENT, in 2011. He now regularly writes articles for other websites and magazines both in his native UK, mainland Europe and the US. These include printed titles such as Great Golf Magazine, iW Magazine, Deluxe Swiss Made.