Aside from the F-You watch status of the Rolex 226659, what is really new is the 2mm enlarged Yacht-Master 42 case. The broad lugs actually make this watch a bit too large for my wrist, even though I really admire the slightly expanded overall proportions over the standard Yacht-Master 40. Rolex actually updated the entire Yacht-Master 40 collection for 2019, in addition to coming out with the Yacht-Master 42. The entire lineup gets the brand’s latest-generation case-making and finishing processes, and the modern-generation in-house-made caliber 3235 automatic movement. Again, that includes the 40 and 42mm Yacht-Master. Consider this solid 18k white gold Yacht-Master 42 an experiment to test sales of a 42mm-wide case on the Oysterflex bracelet.
Rolex almost always introduces new cases and movements in high-end watches first, in order to trickle them into the market and test them out. It is very (very) possible that Rolex will eventually produce a steel version of the Yacht-Master 42 case somewhere down the road. That really all depends on the success of the model. Rolex has already done pretty well breathing new life into the Yacht-Master by selling the 40mm-wide and 37mm-wide (gold) Yacht-Master pieces available on an elastomer Oysterflex strap. The Rolex Daytona on the Oysterflex strap was also a hit, and again, all of these watches are in gold. It is sort of amazing that in a time of so much variety in the market of high-end sports watches on colorful high-tech straps, Rolex continues to kill it by putting really fancy gold watches on black rubber straps.
My nickname for the Yacht-Master 42 in white gold and black ceramic is the “Yacht-Master Noir” because it reminds me of the stylized moodiness of film noir. Visually speaking, this silver and black watch could easily be mistaken for a Submariner at a glance — save for the different bezel and case shape. The Yacht-Master continues to be Rolex’s only sport watch with a swoopy case shape. The bezel also has markers in relief, but the insert is also black ceramic. It is worth pointing out that, unlike the uni-directional rotating bezel of the Submariner or other Rolex dive watches, the Yacht-Master 42 has a bi-directional rotating bezel (not really sure why). Note that even though the Yacht-Master and Submariner look very similar, the Yacht-Master is water-resistant to 100 meters, while the Submariner is water-resistant to 300 meters.
Rolex has enough customers out there for discussions like, “Doesn’t the 42mm Yacht-Master dwell a bit close into 43mm Sea-Dweller territory?” The answer is no. Rolex understands its customers well enough to know that the market for a 43mm-wide steel watch on a bracelet is different from the market for a 42mm-wide 18k white gold watch on a strap — despite the fact that they have virtually identical dials. In fact, the 226659 Yacht-Master 42 watch will probably be hard to get, not because it is sold out everywhere, but rather because Rolex simply won’t make a ton of them.