Rolex doesn’t really make unique AAA Rolex replica watches – at least, not that we hear about. That’s what makes this platinum Yacht-Master, to be auctioned at Monaco Legend on April 22, so exceptional. It’s a one-off prototype Yacht-Master commissioned by former Rolex CEO Patrick Heiniger in 1992, who had taken over as the CEO from his father, André, that same year.
Heiniger ordered the watch to celebrate the production of Rolex’s 10 millionth chronometer-certified movement, as shown by the “Dix Millionieme Chronometre” on the dial. In addition to the platinum case, bracelet, and flip-lock clasp, the unique grey dial is set with blue sapphires and diamonds. The whole package is wonderful and opulent and gaudy in the best way possible. Rolex introduced the Yacht-Master line in 1992 as a kind of luxe alternative to the Submariner – the Sub was for divers in the ocean, the cheap CA fake Rolex Yacht-Master watches for those cruising topside – and this prototype is the most Yacht-Master of Yacht-Masters.
For about as long as it’s been around, high quality replica Rolex watches has made accuracy and producing chronometers core to its identity and its omnipresent marketing. It’s even given other landmark chronometers (the 50,000th or 100,000th, for example) to historical figures like Churchill and Eisenhower. But for number 10 million, it went all out with a platinum Yacht-Master.
In other words, when Rolex wanted to celebrate the most Rolex of anniversaries, this is how it did so. And it celebrated in the most Rolex of ways: the luxury Rolex copy watches wasn’t intended for the public, only Heiniger himself. By the way, it was an achievement worth celebrating – as our old friend Joe Thompson reported way back in 2010, Rolex made another seven million chronometers from 2000 through 2010, blowing by its next closest competitor, Omega, which produced 2.3 million during the same period.
According to Davide Parmegiani of Monaco Legend Group, on the day Heiniger introduced the new yellow-gold Yacht-Master in 1992, he had this platinum prototype on his wrist. Heiniger was CEO until 2008, and the best replica Rolex Yacht-Master watches would be the only new model line he introduced during his tenure. Heiniger was just the third person to hold the top job at Rolex, after his father, who had run Rolex South America, took over the CEO position when Hans Wilsdorf died in 1960 (the job was left open for two years after Wilsdorf’s death).
Monaco Legend Group has placed the estimate at €1 million to €2 million (about $1.1 to $2.2 million), and has even guaranteed the low estimate to the consignor, said to be a descendant of the Heiniger family.
Can A Yacht-Master Really Be ‘Collectible?’
This isn’t the first platinum Rolex with Heiniger provenance we’ve seen over the past few years, and those previous top Rolex fake watches have already brought in records, setting the mark for what a modern Rolex can achieve at auction.
In the late ’90s, Heiniger also commissioned a series of platinum Daytonas – it’s thought four were made, and that Heiniger kept one for himself. We’ve seen three sell at auction over the past five years, all with the reference number 16516 and each with a unique dial. In 2018, we saw the first appear: a platinum Daytona with a black mother-of-pearl dial. It sold for about $872,000 at Sotheby’s. Then, in 2020, a 16516 with a lapis lazuli dial sold for $3.27 million. It set a record not just for an automatic Daytona, but any modern Rolex super clone watches online at auction. It was followed closely by the third example, a turquoise “Stella” 16516 that sold for $3.14 million in 2021.
But this Yacht-Master is something different and completely unique. It also comes on a full platinum bracelet. And while at least a few of those Daytonas were gifts, the 2023 Rolex Yacht-Master replica watches was commissioned by Heiniger, for Heiniger.
“It’s truly a prototype,” said Justin Gruenberg of Loupe This and The Keystone. “Unlike those Daytonas, it wasn’t serially produced, and has no serial or model number on it.” As Parmegiani explained to us, it’d be years before Rolex made a platinum professional watch in series – the platinum Daytona only entered the catalog in 2013.
While the Daytona has a lore all its own, the perfect fake Rolex Yacht-Master watches isn’t exactly considered “collectible” by modern standards – not yet, at least. You either love it or hate it. And especially among vintage collectors, more hate than love the Yacht-Master.
“Like other relatively unpopular models – the original Explorer II 1655, the Milgauss – as style evolves, at a certain point there could be more of an appreciation for the Yacht-Master than there is today,” Gruenberg said.
Meanwhile, some have already come around on the Yacht-Master, and this one in particular.
“It exemplifies today’s trend of ‘quiet luxury,'” dealer Zoe Abelson said, “with such a classic sporty design in a full platinum case and a silver dial that makes the diamonds somehow look subtle.” While the platinum Yacht-Master might be the pinnacle of modern Rolex, it doesn’t exactly scream so, even with its diamond and sapphire indices. Sure, it’s a lot, but relatively subtle, as much as sapphires and diamonds on a platinum Rolex can ever really be subtle.
Most I talked to seemed to agree that despite (or perhaps, because of) its love-it-or-hate-it aesthetic, the Swiss movements Rolex Yacht-Master replica watches should surpass the record for a modern Rolex set by that lapis lazuli Daytona ($3.27 million). As the 1990s edge farther into the rearview and attain the status of vintage, or at least “neo-vintage,” we’re starting to see collectors take more interest in this era of Rolex and figuring out the most collectible watches from the period. As far as rarity, none can match a unique Yacht-Master, even if the model itself is still a bit of an odd duck.
No, it’s not Paul Newman’s Paul Newman, the Bao Dai, or even Marlon Brando’s GMT-Master, and it might not bring in bidders from outside Rolex fake watches wholesale – it’s a Rolex celebrating Rolex. Parmegiani even admitted to us that, if a larger auction had been able to take this Yacht-Master on an international roadshow to tell its story, it might achieve a bigger result. Still, he’s confident that smart collectors are paying attention and will understand the value of a truly one-of-one Yacht-Master.
That’s because, while a four-digit vintage Rolex might capture the heart (or at least, my heart) in a way a 1992 Yacht-Master never could, this platinum Yacht-Master is perhaps the first opportunity bidders have ever had to buy a guaranteed unique Rolex, and one with all kinds of historical importance to the brand. That’s worth a lot, and by the time auction day rolls around, could make for a record-setting result.
As Rolex gets bigger and continues to command more of the watch world’s attention, the myth around the brand also grows. And with that, replica Rolex watches for sale like this become more interesting. Watches that are important if for no other reason than Rolex made them to be important, even if it never exactly intended for the public to see them.