Watch Review: Yema Rallygraf
Manufacturer: Montres Yema
Model: Rallygraf Round YMHF 0703
Type: Quartz Chronograph
Strap/Bracelet: Leather strap, pin buckle type
Size: 44mm diameter, 51mm lug to lug
Water resistance: 100M
Those of you who have spent much time in the WatchUSeek Affordables forum have probably seen pictures or read reference to Yema watches. One of our regulars here, member Reno, has shown and discussed both current and vintage models from this French manufacturer.
Montres Yema, founded by Henry Louis Belmont, has been producing watches in Besancon, France since 1948. They created the first automatic chronometers manufactured entirely in France and have been noted for their sport type watches, particularly the Flygraf, Meangraf, Yachtingraf and Rallygraf. I saw pictures of a vintage Rallygraf Super somewhere, probably here on WatchUSeek, and fell in love with the racing look of the watch. Ever since then I had hoped to find more information, and perhaps even a new version of the watch.
For a time Yema was under the control of Seiko, and other than the occasional appearance on Amazon and some other online watch sellers there wasn't much information or many watches available from this watchmaker. Then I read that the brand had returned to French control and was aggressively marketing itself. I found their website but I assumed that they were primarily targeting French and Western European customers as there was no mention of North American distributorship.
Around that time I began to see new model Yema watches posted by our French members of WatchUSeek and became determined to eventually get my hands on one, especially since Yema was now remaking the Rallygraf. I liked the design so much that I had purchased a Triumph branded chronograph with the characteristic "T" shaped framed subdial arrangement. Unfortunately the movement used a subdial as the chrono seconds which I didn't care for and eventually sold the watch to a friend.
A short time ago I became aware that Yema had secured North American distributorship, and the new Yema Rallygraf went on my watch wanted list. Then WatchUSeek owner Ernie Romers mentioned that the U.S. distributor was looking for someone to review a Yema watch. I volunteered and contacted them with my mailing address. Last Tuesday (10/19/10), a package appeared at my doorstep, and I was a bit puzzled at first since I knew I didn't have any incoming watches. Then I realized it must be the Yema. I wasn't sure which model they were sending as I had mentioned a few different watches in my correspondence with the U.S. distributor. I was pleased when I saw that it was the new Rallygraf As I was quite busy with work and teaching all I did when I opened the box was set the current time to my computer's clock. I finally got to put the watch on Friday afternoon and have been wearing it since.
The watch arrived in a fairly simple black cardboard box, but the inner watch box looked good, with a carbon fiber finish and attached metal plate. The only other thing in the box was an international warranty card:
Opening the box
I know some don't care for carbon fiber on watch dials, but in this context I think it looks just right, corresponding with the auto racing style for which the Rallygraf has been known. (I should note that there is another model in the series with a plain black dial and white stripe). The checkered flags incorporated with the brand logo and red racing stripes add to the auto racing feel of this model. I also liked the subtle circular patterns in the subdials, the 'steering wheel' style pattern in the 6 o'clock subdial, simple applied stick markers and the applied aluminum look minute chapter and T-shaped subdial frame. While the crown is unsigned, all of Yema's models have a blue ring set into the crown. The brushed and polished stainless steel case is finished off with a black tachymeter bezel. To me, the overall look of the watch says "racing", and is fairly reminiscent of the vintage Rallygraf Super that I liked so much.
Fit and Finish
OK, I think the watch looks good, but will it be too big, too heavy or just not fit? This model Rallygraf comes with a contrast stitched leather strap with pin buckle though other models are available with a bracelet. When I took the watch out of the box I noticed that the buckle was not what you would usually see:
It is a nicely machined stainless steel piece continuing the racing style of the rest of the watch, a very nice touch.
As I have usually found with new watches the smooth matte finished leather strap was a bit stiff, but after wearing for a short time it has been quite comfortable. It also has two small carbon fiber embossed panels, again a nice touch helping to unify the racing theme throughout this model:
So, how does it fit? I was a little concerned with the size as I tend to prefer watches around 40mm or so, and the Rallygraf size is listed as 44mm in diameter, 51mm lug to lug. My calipers confirmed these measurements, and the watch is about 50mm with crown and pushers and 10mm thick. On my 7.25" wrist, I think it is just right for a racing style chronograph, and my concern about the lug to lug size was unfounded as they wrap nicely down around the wrist:
I like the brushed top and polished sides, not too blingy or stodgy. The stick markers and hands are lumed. After being exposed to sunlight for a bit they glow like a torch but are pretty short lived. If you are a lume freak you will be disappointed. Since it is a racing themed watch I don't think it really matters since most races are held during the day or under pretty bright lights. Also, the chronograph sweep seconds hand hits every second mark perfectly.
One thing I couldn't find out was crystal material. Since it isn't specifically listed on the Yema websites and doesn't sound/feel like acrylic I have to assume it is a mineral crystal.
I was curious as to what movement was under the Rallygraf's hood. The classic Rallygraf Super that this watch is based on used a Valjoux 7736 hand winding movement. The new Rallygraf is quartz, but the Yema websites were not very detailed in the movement used in this watch beyond "1/20th second chronograph with date" and "retrograde second". I couldn't think of a movement offhand that would combine a 1/20th of a second register with a retrograde feature. Then I took off the watch and looked at the back:
Aha! 'Mouvement Quartz OS22'. I know Citizen/Miyota uses the "OS" beginning designation of their quartz chrono movements so I went over to the Miyota movement website to check out the specifications. The Miyota OS22 is a 13 1/2 ligne movement, 5.1mm thick. The top button is the chronograph start/stop, the bottom is chronograph reset. The 3 o'clock subdial is a 24 hour hand tied to the main movement and not a 24 hour totalizer. The 6 o'clock subdial is a dual function hand. In timekeeping mode it functions as a standard sub-seconds. In chronograph mode it is a retrograde 1/20th of a second hand. If you haven't seen one of these before, it is really cool to watch. The 1/20th second function runs continually, sweeping back and forth for the first 60 seconds of the main chronograph sweep, then sets to 0 until the chronograph is stopped. The 6 o'clock subdial then displays the 1/20th of a second of the final measured time on the bottom scale. Note that the OS22 does not do lap timing, a press of the reset button resets the whole chronograph, it does not take an intermediate time. Finally, the 9 o'clock subdial is a 60 minute totalizer. Like all the Citizen chronograph movements that I have owned, the minute totalizer does not 'click' over to the next minute each time the main chronograph sweep reaches the 12 o'clock position, but is a continuously moving hand. The OS22 movement uses a SR927W battery, and according to the spec sheet should run for around 2 years before a battery change.
Miyota lists the movement as being accurate to +/- 20 seconds per month. I set the watch on Tuesday with my computer clock (which self adjusts to a time signal), and it was +2 seconds today. That should give about 12 seconds per month, well within the specification.
Even though I prefer mechanical chronographs, I like this watch. It is also the first watch that I have shown to my wife that has received a positive response! She said "now that I like", before she asked how much it cost. Since it is a review watch for return I was happy to say "nothing". I would enjoy wearing this watch to a race as well as in a casual t-shirt and jeans setting. Obviously it isn't designed as a dress style watch, nor would it fit easily under long sleeve dress shirt cuffs, but for hanging out on a weekend it is just fine. The Rallygraf wears comfortably, it isn't too heavy, thick or large for my wrist. Sometimes I forgot I had it on, so for those who like a serious chunk of steel on their wrist they may want to choose a bracelet style. The Rallygraf also comes in a square cased version, though I prefer the round as it is more like the original.
There are a couple things that disappointed me. Since there was no documentation included I had to go looking on the web for more information on the movement, though that could be because it was a watch for review and not a retail sale. And, even though I am a fan of Citizen/Miyota, the continuous nature of the minute totalizer isn't my favorite. It is a little difficult to read what minute the subdial is showing unless it is on a five minute mark. I've felt the same way about all my Miyota quartz based chronographs though, not just the Rallygraf, and I feel the same way about my much more expensive Zodiac Calame automatic chronograph, a watch that retailed for at least three times more than the list price of the Yema. Also, nowhere does it say where the watch is made. Much is said/written about the nature of "Swiss Made" on the dials of watches, but the Rallygraf says nothing. No "Japan Movement", no "made in France/Japan/Switzerland", nothing. I would like to think that Yema cases up the movement in France but I have no idea. I also couldn't find any information about country of manufacture on either the Yema France website or the Yema USA website.
Ultimately, those small disappointments would not prevent me from purchasing this or any other Yema model. I like the look and feel of the Rallygraf, and I also really like the Sous Marine dive watch, which is an automatic. It isn't going to be easy packing up this watch and shipping it back to the manufacturer, I would love to keep it! As a life-long open wheel race fan, I could see myself sitting down to an afternoon of the Speed channel on cable TV wearing the Yema Rallygraf
For more information:
Manufacturer's website: Montres Yema - Qualit et tradition de l'horlogerie Franaise depuis 1948
U.S. Distributor: Puri-Time, Inc.
U.S. Website: MONTRES YEMA of France | Automatic & Quartz Watches Since 1948 | www.yemausa.com
Email (U.S): email@example.com
Listed price of model reviewed on Yema USA website: $430.00
I'll leave you with this final wrist shot:
I hope you enjoyed the review!
Affordables Forum Co-Moderator