Rolex Yacht Master; Frustrations in Marketing

I don't know why I just can't let certain things go sometimes. But, try as I may, and especially when it's so obviously pretentious, I can't.

I was browsing through some photos of watches (as I like to do), and came across the latest Rolex Yacht Master 40 and I liked it! I liked it a lot!

In fact, I liked it so much I actually went to the Rolex website to learn more. Happily, I discovered that not only does the Yacht Master have a 40mm case (not some 44mm barbarity), but they even make it in 37mm!

The 37mm is not only directed at the traditional watch enthusiast like myself, but 37mm also works great for the female market. So, all in all, so far so good!

Of course what really caught my eye was the light gray version (not the - yuk - gold version). The particular choice of grey, which is fairly light, and that particular choice of light blue for the second hand (which is different shade than the blue used in watches when they heat the metal to very high temperatures and used by many high-end manufacturers), works really well together.

Im not sure I would ever pay the $10k and up for this watch (considering the competition at that price), but maybe on the second hand market in a few years, if they come down enough as other contemporary Rolex models have, I'd have a look.

So, I proceeded to read about the specs, etc., and thats when that familiar slap in the face and deep rooted frustration turned its ugly head again.

Perpetual, self-winding and automatic all refer to the same thing!

Perpetual, self-winding and automatic all refer to the same thing!

Take a look at the photo above, and notice the circled words. Under the Movement section of the specs, Rolex list "Perpetual, mechanical, self-winding".

The problem is that perpetual and self-winding as it pertains to Rolex, as they have decided to use the word is the exact same thing!

In other words, as mentioned many times before (for Pete's sake!), in the watch world the word perpetual is reserved for perpetual calendar movements. This is a very difficult thing to create, let alone create it well. The least expensive, but really really good perpetual calendar watch is by Jaeger LeCoultre, and the only reason its under $20k ($19k more or less), is because they offer it in stainless steel as well as gold, etc. Otherwise, it'd be much much higher.

Rolex has never made such a movement, but they use the word perpetual anyway. This dates back to the fact that when the first self-winding movements were being developed in the 1700s, by Perrelet and Breguet, they used the French word "perpetuelles" to describe them. The idea of automatic anything was not really common in the 1700s (I don't think they had the Jetsons back then!). Furthermore, Harwood, who created the first *commercially viable* self winding movement, also referred to it as a movement with a perpetual rotor.

Rolex simply followed their lead, but if you think Rolex was/is not aware of the confusion using the word perpetual and not automatic creates, and the advantage it gives them, you're as ignorant as they are!

So, looking back at the photo of the published specs at Rolex.com, if we substitute the word perpetual for a word or phrase the rest of the entire watch world uses to describe a watch with a self-winding or automatic movement, it would look something like this:

Automatic, mechanical, self-winding

or

Automatic, mechanical, automatic

or

Self-winding, mechanical, self-winding

Again, this is the case because perpetual and either self-winding or automatic, as it applies to Rolex movements means exactly the same damn thing! Rolex is using perpetual as a synonym to automatic or self-winding.

Using their logic, Seiko for example, could take their Seiko 5 (a $75-$150 watch), and also call it the Seiko 5 Perpetual.

Of course, Rolex will try to nit pick or use creative writing, or even legalese to paint a different picture (thats easier and cheaper than actually developing their own truly perpetual movement). They will say:

Perpetual refers to the fact the watch will run in perpetuity thanks to the self-winding rotor

Or

The rotor rotates in perpetuity, which allows the watch to self-wind.

Or some other convoluted attempt to dance around the subject.

But, don't be fooled. There is only one reason Rolex continues to use the word perpetual as they do, and its not because of tradition or some crap like that. It's because all of the truly high end watch brands know how to make a proper perpetual movement, and Rolex does not.

In other words, you can NOT call yourself "luxury high end" if you don't, at a minimum (because luxury high end brands go well beyond just perpetual movements), make a perpetual calendar movement.

Rolex is relying on your ignorance to help them get away with not doing so.

And thats why I just can't let it go.