By Rebecca Doulton
Rolex watches have come a long way since founder Hans Wilsdorf decided to promote the world's first waterproof watch by strapping his Oyster timepiece to the wrist of cross-Channel swimmer Mercedes Gleitze in 1927.
Given the brand's dominion for water-resistance, robustness and sporty watches, an alliance with yachting was a natural step.
Since the late 1950s, Rolex has been the sponsor of ultra-competitive races, which today include the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race - one of the toughest offshore races in the world, with 375 boats competing in the 608 nautical mile race from Cowes to Plymouth.
This year, Rolex watches gave the Yacht-Master - its nautical watch par excellence - a radical makeover with a black dial and what might be mistaken for a rubber strap. Launched in 1992, this is the first time in the Yacht-Master's history that these Rolex watches for men appear dressed in black. But there is another novelty on the 2015 Yacht-Master. Christened the Oysterflex bracelet, the hybrid high-tech black strap hides flexible metal blades on its inside, which have been covered with elastomer for superior comfort and resilience.
The Oyster case of the Yacht-Master, available in Everose gold in 40mm and new 37mm diameters, features the classic fluted bezel fitted with a new black ceramic insert. The rotatable black ceramic bezel bears raised numerals for recording elapsed times of up to 60 minutes. Being a descendant of the Oyster, the Yacht-Master case has the hallmark screwed-down caseback and crown to ensure no water will ever enter the movement, even at depths of 100 metres. The luxurious case is made from a solid block of Everose gold from Rolex's very own foundry and, as you would expect, feels appropriately heavy on the wrist.
The sleek, black matte dial is offset with large raised hour markers filled with a luminescent material that emits a long-lasting blue glow, ensuring exceptional legibility in daylight and the dark. Keeping the hours, minutes, small seconds and date window in perfect time, Rolex has equipped these new watches with its in-house calibre 3135 (on the 40mm model) and with calibre 2236 with silicon technology on the 37mm model. Both of these watches have COSC chronometer certification.
Even if you don't plan on rounding the Fastnet Rock in August, these new Rolex watches are handsome companions, guaranteed to perform as well on land as in the salty spray of the sea.
Rolex's new Yacht-Master in a 40mm Everose gold case boasts a new Cerachrom insert in black ceramic fitted in the rotating bezel on the dial. The raised and polished numerals stand out clearly against the matte black ceramic and are designed to measure elapsed times of up to 60 minutes.
The first member of the Rolex Yacht-Master family, pictured here, was presented in 1992.
The Oyster case, made from a solid block of Everose gold, displays the hallmark fluted bezel and crown, and the screwed-down caseback to keep the watch waterproof to depths of up to 100 metres.
Rolex's new Yacht-Master 40mm watch comes on an innovative Oysterflex bracelet, a resilient and sporty alternative to the traditional metal bracelet. The high-tech strap is made from blades of flexible metal, which are covered in black elastomer for enhanced comfort and exceptional durability.
The Rolex Yacht-Master 40mm is equipped with the automatic in-house calibre 3135 and has passed the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) tests. The large hour markers and hands are filled in with a special luminescent material that glows blue in the dark.