First, I don't believe that yellow gold is "out" these days. I see lots of new watches in that color, and, for a change of appearance, I like it. Gold-plated watches do not have to appear like old-style watches, and, if you look around at the nicer Seikos and Citizens, the lines and design can be very modern, even if the color is yellow gold. However, I really
like rose gold (or "pink gold," "red gold," as it is variously called). Second, we have to distinguish between the color of the case (and, possibly hands, hour markers, etc.), on the one hand, and the process by which it was applied, on the other. There are various levels of gold plating, ranging from the thinnest flash coating (less than 1 micron) to heavier gold plating (sometimes referred to as "gold-filled") that can run upwards of 10 or more microns, all the way up to Cartier's vermeil
process, which is 20-micron gold covering over .925 sterling silver. There is certainly nothing "tacky" about the better plating versions, and, in my mind, they are a legitimate case finish, reasonably hard-wearing and attractive, albeit far less-expensive than solid gold. The really thin coating looks fine for a while, but will wear through with use in time, and then it does start to look tacky.
These levels of plating also extend to rose gold. But I've discovered that you have to be very careful with watches that appear to have rose gold cases or accents. Sometimes, what you really have is a copper-based finish, and the watch may be described as having rose-gold-colored
accents. On the other hand, there are some inexpensive rose-gold finishes that are rose-gold IP (I imagine very very thin), such as:
There are also watches advertised as having rose-gold cases or accents that are, in fact, not actually plated with rose gold at all and merely look like rose gold. Here's one (an inexpensive Nautica watch) that is described as a "rose-gold dive watch," but in the fine print, we read that it has a "rose-gold colored
stainless steel case." It's hard to know what's meant here, but I don't think we can assume that a true rose-gold plating was used:
To my eye, those finishes (and the very thin rose-gold IP) are less attractive than heavier rose-gold plating, or best of all, solid rose gold like on one of the GS Spring Drive Chronographs--this baby:
Excessively large pushers, but everything else is just beautiful to my eye.