Rolex introduced quite a few models at this year’s Watches and Wonders in Geneva, from the platinum Daytona with, for the first time for the brand, a transparent case back, to the unexpected yet amusing Day-Date model with the jigsaw puzzle champlevé enamel dial, this Yacht-Master 42 in titanium has been perhaps overlooked for what it has to offer. Considering it is only the second ever titanium watch from Rolex, with the first being the Deepsea Challenge introduced last year, it can be said that the material is still relatively green to the brand, especially if we consider the impact it has on the weight of the watch.
In this case, Rolex uses a specific alloy called “RLX titanium”, a grade 5 titanium that fuses aluminium and vanadium. For the desired purity, this alloy requires a rather complicated production process, including multiple melting procedures to initially extract pure titanium, then fuse it with the aforementioned metals, and lastly, purifying and homogenising the mixture. Like all titanium alloys, the RLX titanium is lightweight and has notable mechanical strength and corrosion resistance. However, what makes this alloy special is the flexibility of finishing, whether it is polished, satin, or brushed, though this also means the production processes are more challenging in light of the mechanical strength of titanium, presumably requiring a specific set of tools.
Though no exact weight figure has been published yet, the watch certainly feels lighter. The results in a surprising impression once the watch is in hand, as it defies the normally expected weight on any other stainless steel model (of Rolex), let alone one with a fully linked bracelet attached. Still, it retains a reasonable weight overall and it quickly draws your attention to the finishing on the bracelet and the case as you flip through the watch, which is impressive, and might just be one of the best compared to some of the other modern titanium watches in the market.
It is not quite the usual, gleams across a dining table finishing of Rolex, but the quality is undoubtedly retained. Various finishes can be found throughout the watch, with the brushed grain taking up most of the surface, giving the natural grey hue of the titanium a deep contrast when the light hits right. The bracelet, including the folding clasp and the Easylink comfort extension link, is also made of the same titanium alloy. The overall aesthetic is subtle since there are very few reflective surfaces on the watch, a detail that is extended to the matte black ceramic bezel, emphasising the stealthy look.
Held within the titanium chassis is the COSC-certified calibre 3235, which was first introduced in 2015 with a total of 14 patents. It has since animated other Rolex models including the Datejust, Sea Dweller, and the Deepsea. One of the most notable changes from the preceding calibre 3215 is the Chronergy escapement that boosts the power efficiency by 15%. The Chronergy escapement is essentially a refined version of the traditional Swiss lever escapement, optimising the escapement / lift angle between the pallet fork and escape wheel, as well as the profile of both components. Together, a lower torque is required to drive the escapement, resulting in a longer 70 hours of power reserve.
Surrounding the theme of a Rolex being a proper tool watch, this Yacht-Master 42 provides an appropriate package. From the choice of material, the finishing and the overall aesthetic, to the modernised movement, it is a very special offering in Rolex’s current catalogue, for its unique, no-nonsense character.