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Rolex salutes sailing ties with Yacht-Master 42
ROLEX'S ties with the world of sailing goes way back to the 1950s, but it took the brand nearly half a century later to launch a watch dedicated to it.
Meanwhile Rolex has launched the Submariner and the Sea-Dweller for divers, the GMT-Master for pilots, the Explorer for explorers, the Cosmograph Daytona for car racers and the Milgauss for scientists.
What took it so long to roll out a wrist-watch for sailors? At sea, survival depends a lot on the accuracy of onboard chronometers to calculate where the boat is. Till the start of the 20th century, these large clock chronometers were the only instruments that could help do the job.
Rolex's founder Hans Wilsdorf was convinced that a wrist watch could do it just as well, if not better - and he set about producing this small timepiece which could rival the precision of the best marine clocks.
This was long before Rolex struck up any formal ties with sailing. In fact, almost from the day it was founded, the brand was seeking to make a wrist-watch for the men at sea.
Just six years after it set up shop, in 1910, Rolex was awarded the world's first chronometer certificate for a wristwatch by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne, Switzerland. In 1914, Britain's Kew Observatory, the highest authority for precision testing at the time, bestowed it a "Class A" chronometer certificate - the first time a wristwatch was given.
After 45 days of extremely rigorous tests, the Rolex wrist watch matched and even exceeded the standards expected of the finest marine clocks which, until then, were the only ones certified.
The latter could not deviate by more than a few seconds per day without putting the safety of the ships at risk. Rolex's wristwatch recorded an average daily variation rate of only +1 second.
The brand's next goal was to design a perfectly water-proof case to protect the movement and maintain its certified precision. This it did in 1926 with the invention of the Oyster, the world's first water-proof wristwatch - thanks to an ingenious patented case system that featured a screw-down bezel, case back and winding crown. The Oyster was also dust-proof.
Five years on, Rolex unveiled a self-winding Perpetual rotor system which is driven by wrist movements. There was no longer a need to wind the watch manually with the winding crown, a critical point that ensures the watch continues to be water-proofed.
Precision, water-proof and reliability and robustness - they are what it takes to make an ideal wrist-watch for sailors. And Rolex has the know-how to build it. But the Rolex Yacht-Master range didn't appear till much later.
That's probably because the Rolex Submariner, introduced in 1953 and which featured the Oyster case, easily filled the role of the watch for seamen. A Rolex advertisement in 1967 carried the tag "The Rolex Oyster - The Watch for the Yachtsman", accompanied by a picture of the Submariner watch.
For 25 years after Rolex struck a partnership with the New York Yacht Club, the cup of the America's Cup, which the club founded, wasn't the only award for winning this legendary boat race, or regatta. It came with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner. The Submariner was the yachtsman's watch of choice, until the Yacht-Master came along in 1992.
Any Rolex watch with the Oyster case could have been a sailor's watch. Sir Francis Chichester, who sailed solo around the world in 1966-67 charting the course for subsequent generations of yachtsmen, had a sextant and Rolex Oyster Perpetual chronometer among his navigational instruments. "I cannot imagine a hardier timepiece," he wrote to Rolex in 1968. "When using (it) for sextant work and working the foredeck, it was frequently banged, also doused by waves coming aboard; but it never seemed to mind all this."
Today Rolex is linked with a dozen yacht clubs around the world, giving the brand title sponsorship of about 15 major races in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific basin.
SPECIALLY DESIGNED FOR SAILORS
The Yacht-Master, introduced in 1992, is Rolex tipping its hat to the world of sailing and regattas. Accurate, perfectly water-proof and robust, it's one of three models introduced after the passing of Rolex's founder Hans Wilsdorf in 1960. The other two models are the Daytona (1963) and the Sky-Dweller (2012).
Specially designed for sailors, the Yacht-Master is a technical, elegant and sporty watch that's above all a useful and reliable nautical tool. The Yacht-Master II is the only "high complication" model in Rolex's existing lines - along with the SkyDweller. It comes in stainless steel, steel and platinum combination, steel-rose gold and white gold.
The white gold version was launched only this year, when Rolex also announced a new partnership with SailGP, a new global sports series which takes place in several stages all year long. Rolex is also the Official Watch of SailGP, which brings together one-design catamarans with hydrofoils and windsails.
The new white-gold Yacht-Master 42, as its name suggests, has a 42 millimetres wide case - the biggest so far in the Yacht-Master series, making the watch more legible. The distinctive bidirectional rotatable bezel of the model remains, with its raised 60-minute graduation. In matt black ceramic, it complements nicely with the black lacquer dial.
Beneath the dial is a new advance movement that extends the power reserve from 50 to 70 hours - and sharpens the measure of time.