Rolex Yacht-Master 40 26679SABR

Rolex Yacht-Master 40 126679SABR

Priced at approximately $80,000 USD, the Rolex Yacht-Master 126679SABR stands out with a price tag that exceeds that of a standard solid-gold Yacht-Master 40 by over $50,000. This premium is attributed to the gem-set bezel, four diamond-set lugs, and two diamond-set crown guards. It's undeniable that one could compile a long list of extraordinary watches offering a greater horological impact for that additional sum. Timepieces like a solid-gold Lange Zeitwerk, a Ulysse Nardin Moonstruck, or my personal favorite, the Breguet Tradition Chronograph Indépendant 7077, all exemplify the remarkable watchmaking achievements that can be acquired for $80,000.

Nevertheless, the fundamental question remains: What truly captivates us? Is it the calculated precision of intricate mechanical movements or the row of small stones that serve no purpose other than to astonish, impress, and communicate affluence and status? One thing is certain: Only a minority of watch enthusiasts claim to have developed their passion for watches through haute joaillerie timepieces. This puts gem-set watches at a disadvantage when it comes to capturing the appeal and approval of the broader watch enthusiast community.

Perhaps one of the reasons these gem-set watches are underappreciated is that watchmakers rarely dedicate efforts to showcase the complexities involved in their creation. Alternatively, lavishly adorned timepieces tend to receive less attention in the watch media due to their limited availability and the reduced enthusiasm compared to similarly priced mechanically complicated watches.

This lack of recognition is regrettable because the craftsmanship required to prepare, assemble, and finish a gem-set bezel and case is comparable to the expertise, dexterity, patience, and mastery of mechanical movements. Just as mechanical movements are judged by the refinement of their finish and the precision with which they operate, gem-set watches possess their own set of criteria to differentiate the exceptional from the mediocre.

One crucial factor is the quality of the setting, ensuring that all stones—40 trapeze-cut sapphires and diamonds, along with a triangle-cut diamond as the zero marker on the 126679SABR—are perfectly aligned and flush. This means that as you gently move the watch, the top facet of each stone lights up in a flat, white reflection, one after another. The meticulous precision required in the setting process becomes evident, as even the slightest deviation in the angle would be visible under any lighting condition.

While the myth of diamond scarcity has been debunked, manufacturers can still argue that sourcing and working with high-quality colored stones such as sapphires and emeralds pose challenges. Each stone reveals its true color only after pre-cutting, allowing for the selection of gems with the desired hue. Sorting these stones by color requires significant effort, followed by the delicate task of setting them without causing damage.

Rolex boasts its in-house gemmology department, where the precious and semi-precious stones undergo rigorous checks and comparisons against certified master stones. The brand employs specialized tools, some designed exclusively by Rolex, to ensure the quality and uniformity of its stones.

After selecting the stones, each one must be cut with tolerances as narrow as those used in movement fabrication—approximately two-hundredths of a millimeter, or around a quarter of the diameter of a human hair. This precision is necessary because the stones need to fit flawlessly within the bezel. The bezel is meticulously milled to accommodate the stones, and any deviation from precision would render the completion of the bezel impossible. The setting technique employed here is known as channel setting, or sometimes referred to as "baguette setting," where the stones are held in place between two metal rails and stacked side by side. The process may appear deceptively simple, but, as with many challenging tasks, it requires caution and expertise. The price of the Rolex Yacht-Master 40 126679SABR is 76,600 Swiss Francs, equivalent to approximately $82,000 USD.


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