Almost to the day three years ago, after tons of commenting on his posts and persistent badgering, I pried away a 70’s Yema 53 001 6 Superman with French caliber 4611 quick set movement from a Yema collector located in Paris.
That type of provenance, its ghost bezel and the unique bezel locking mechanism is the stuff of #watchnerd lore and began an affinity with me for the brand.
Yema is a French watchmaking company founded in 1948 in Besançon, France by Henry Louis Belmont. The brand has had noteworthy accomplishments throughout its years. They produced early anti-shock watches in the 50s and in the 60s the Yema Superman was water-resistant to a robust 300 meters (1963) and the Yema Rallygraf was equipped with a tachometer for car enthusiasts (1968). In 1966, 1967 and 1968 Yema was the leading exporter of French watches with more than 500,000 sold each of those years across 50 countries. The Yema Spationaute was the first (only?) French watch to fly in space with Jean-Loup Chretien in 1982 and the Yema North Pole accompanied Nicholas Hulot (no “b” lol) and Hubert de Chevigny to the North Pole in 1987.
Having been owned by Seiko Watch Corporation of Japan since 1988, Yema returned to French ownership in 2004, and in 2009 Yema was acquired by the French watchmaker group Montres Ambre, based in Morteau, France. In 2011 Yema released its first-generation self-winding mechanical in-house movement, the Caliber MBP1000. It has been used in over 250,000 Yema timepieces since then. Yema now has developed its second-generation in-house calibers exclusive to the brand.
For this review, we have the Yema Superman Bronze black, (Ref. YSUPZ20C39-AAS), equipped with the new three-hand Yema 2000 caliber movement. Precision has been improved to +/-10 seconds a day rate accuracy (from a +/-20 seconds a day tolerance), and the power reserve is now 42-hours.
The bezel rotates unidirectional and features sapphire crystal on top of a black insert utilizing a 0-60 count-up scale. The way it catches light sometimes along with the hands and crystal is worth mentioning. The domed sapphire crystal is 2.6 mm thick and for better or worse, has an anti-reflective treatment.
A matte black dial contrasts nicely with applied hour markers outlined in a gold finish matching the case. A slightly recessed date window adds some depth to the dial.
Keeping true to its heritage, all Yema Superman models feature their unique bezel-lock at 3 o’clock. It has been found on all Superman models since 1963 and has proven useful to professional divers. As might be expected, the watch features a screw-down crown and has a vintage Yema logo engraved. The 316L stainless steel caseback is also engraved with Yema’s coat of arms. Water-resistance is 300 meters.
The Superman models are available in both 39 mm (Ref. YSUPZ20C39-ATPS) and 41 mm (Ref. YSUPZ20C41-ATPS) brushed bronze case diameters, immediately quieting most case and wrist size issues.
Here are the specs for each:
Diameter : 39 mm | 41 mm
Thickness: 13 mm | 13 mm
Lug-to-lug: 48 mm | 49.5 mm
Interlug: 19 mm | 20 mm
Bronze that’s untreated will age differently depending on its use and weather conditions exposed to, making each patina and watch unique over time. The hands and markers are treated with lume that is extremely legible. The bronze watch including the strap weighs 83 grams. The steel case vintage Superman weighed in at 56 grams but because of the case material difference, it’s like comparing bronze apples to steel oranges.
In a side by side comparison with my Yema Superman from the ’70s, they are exactly the same in every way minus a tenth of a millimeter (0.1 mm) greater thickness difference for the modern version, imperceivable to the eye or on the wrist. Both have a (measured by digital calipers) 39.5 mm case diameter, 47.8 mm lug to lug length, and 19 mm lug width. As previously mentioned, the thickness of the vintage auto is 13.5 mm, where the modern is 13.6 mm.
I really like this particular Superman offering as well as the revival of the brand and their other automatic watches as a whole. The bronze Superman has excellent wrist presence, catching multiple strangers taking a glance at it during its time out in the wild with me and it feels just like its vintage counterpart on the wrist. I personally would have liked this model in steel better than bronze to match the authenticity of the original Yema Supermen of the 60s and 70s but it’s done very well and they currently offer multiple steel Superman variations. I was also not a huge fan of the OEM black leather minimal stitch strap pairing the model comes with and quickly changed it out for a vintage tropic strap and all was right in the world once again. Yema currently also offers tropical rubber strap and steel bracelet options and I suggest you go with one of those. I have a green canvas strap with its name on it next which may be “the” combo for it but you’ll have to check my Instagram feed @kicktoc to see for yourself.
Retail is $1,399. Learn more at Yema.