Your Next Watch: One of the most attractive £1,000 diving watches available today...
Far more often than not a watch brand, a brand logo or even just the mention of a brand name triggers recollection in my mind of either knowing or seeing them in the past. I admit, this is an oddly specific skill but it one that came in handy when Yema watches came up in conversation. This is a watch brand that has been around since the 40s, but my main experience with them was seeing them exhibiting at a watch show in London as well as being very effective storytellers on Instagram.
But the brand is far more than an effective marketing team and nice images. Yema has an interesting history that we felt needed telling. It was time we had some hands-on time with the brand.
Fast forward a few weeks and the Yema Superman 39mm is in front of me, and I instantly start kicking myself for not looking at the brand earlier. This now brings us right up to date and where my hands-on time with the Superman really begins…
The Yema Superman - What it does
To properly discuss the Superman we have with us today we actually have to look back to 1963 and the birth of the model. This original model was released at a time when the demand for diving watches had exploded. The Superman though, with its looks that didn't break any moulds did offer a unique bezel locking system. 9/10 diving watches at the time (and today in fact) will only rotate one way and that's anti-clockwise. This is so if a bezel is accidentally moved during a dive it can only result in the diver thinking they have less time remaining to dive rather than more. This is a great safety feature, however Yema took this one step further with the introduction of their unique bezel locking system.
This works very simply with a small metal clamp resting on the bezel, held on the watch by the stem of the crown. Once the crown is screwed into the case, the clamp is also tight on the bezel meaning zero chance of the bezel moving. A neat feature for 1963, and one that has remained present on the Superman 39.
This modern-day version of the watch comes in at either 41mm wide, or 39mm. It’s the latter you’re seeing here which has a thickness of 13mm and a lug to lug of 48mm. That thickness isn’t all the case though, most of it lives in the bezel and crystal meaning the case that sits on your wrist is beautifully elegant. Elegant is not normally a word you’d expect to hear when talking about do it all diving watches, but it really has its place when talking about the Superman. The elegance doesn’t stop with the thickness of the case however, as the shape of the case, the relationship the lugs have with the crown guards and the polished finish are all simply incredibly charmful and sophisticated.
Complementing this refined design is a screw-down crown, a legible, well-sized bezel and of course that locking mechanism at 3 o’clock. We also get a water resistance rating of 990 feet as seen on the dial (that's 300 metres).
Looking through that domed crystal we see a glossy black dial with a date at 3, and Super-LumiNova C3 filling the hands and hour markers. The hands fitted to this piece are another subtle sign that this watch has more of a story to tell. With a large arrow hand for the minutes and Yema’s shovel seconds hand-design being transferred from the original.
The movement powering the Superman 39mm is the Sellita SW200. A movement that makes total sense here for the price point, the brand’s values and the quality of the watch. You get 28,800 vibrations per hour, 38 hours of power reserve, hacking and quick set date. The SW200 is a movement we're seeing more and more, which is only a testament to its quality.
Hands-on thoughtsYou might have picked up on my hints throughout this review so far that I’m a fan of this watch. And you’re right, I’m a big fan and there are three main reasons why. To start with the watch is 39mm wide but it doesn’t feel like a sub 40mm watch on the wrist. When compared to the Submariner’s dimensions they feel almost identical with the lug to lug distance of the Yema actually making it seem bigger in some cases. The second reason I’m a big fan of the Superman is that elegance I hinted at earlier, the curves of the case, the way the case moves from lugs to crown guards so easily and cleanly and just how thin the watch feels on the wrist.
Remember this watch can go 300m deep without missing a beat. Most 300m watches at this price point are brash and chunky with an emphasis on being a tool. This Superman is just the opposite, it has elegance, charm and discerning style. If you’d told me this watch was 100m water resistance I would have nodded and said it makes sense. But it’s far more capable than that, which makes it so much cooler.
And finally, the last reason why I’m a big fan of the watch is how under the radar its personality. ‘If you know you know’ came to mind when wearing the watch. On the surface, it’s simply an elegant diving watch with a black on black dial and bezel design that is clearly made very well. However if someone knows the history of the brand, all of the little design touches that have real meaning to them the watch becomes infinitely more interesting.
Watch specifications can be perceptive. Although the watch is technically 13mm tall, it wears far less than that. This is a seriously wearable, slender and considered piece. The lugs are nice and prominent as well. As we’ve said a few times over the countless watch reviews, although the size of every watch is judged on case width it truly isn’t everything when it comes to proportions. The lug to lug distance has an equally important visual value and should always be considered. I haven’t seen the 41mm option but if you normally wear 40 - 41mm watches, the 39mm option will be perfect for your wrist.
There is one main aspect that the Superman did lose a few points for in my eyes and that's the case's fully polished finish. Does this assist that elegance I've hinted? Yes. And is the original Superman seen at the start of the review also polished? Yes again, but I’d love to see the Superman 39 sport a brushed case with polished edges and facets rather than the full polish we see. The bezel lock was the final aspect of the watch I noticed a lot when using it. For many, the bezel is there for style. It is simply apart of the design and appeal of the watch. However I like to use these old school pieces of technology as much as possible so when I found myself having to unscrew the crown to move the bezel, it felt like there was an unnecessary barrier in my way. But all things considered, this is minor and the lock system is such a part of the watches design language, that if this was in my collection I think I could let that slide.
Watch Straps for the Yema Superman
The Yema Superman comes in with a lug with of 19mm. This can be an issue, however, we have a solid range of 19mm straps that will suit the vintage style of this watch really well. This is a range that always grows with our popular straps so be sure to check out the site to make this Yema (or any 19mm watch) your own today…
Genuine Vintage Bond by Geckota
This is the combo to go for if you're looking to extract the historical importance of this watch. Once the Vintage Bond with polished hardware is fitted to the watch the re-issue feeling of this watch just jumps out. Channel your inner Bond and grab yourself a Vintage Bond today...
Radstock Racing Style Genuine Leather Watch Strap in Vintage Dark Brown
The Radstock Racing Leather Strap in Vintage Dark Brown is the strap I wore the Yema on the most, and can you blame me? This newer strap to the site is a match made in heaven for the Yema with a beautifully soft top grain leather featuring unbelievably soft leather for the lining and the precise perforations just adding enough of a hint at this watch's history. I’m really enjoying perforated straps at the moment, and the Radstock Racing is ideal for vintage sports watches (or ones that take inspiration from past eras!).
Painswick Watch Strap with Quick Release Spring Bars in Distressed Grey
The final choice is the Painswick Leather in Distressed Grey and this choice is the perfect option for daily wear. Grey is simply as versatile as the Superman is. It can be smart or casual incredibly easily and the distressed adds some lovely texture to the combo. A favourite choice.
Things we would change
Now we’ve been pretty positive about the Superman in this review, but there are a few things that if given the chance, we would change…
The choice of bracelet - the bracelet of the 39mm Superman matches the thickness of the case perfectly. But the quality lacks. The buckle is stiff, the links are sharp and feel clunky and occasionally the bracelet pulls on arm hair. There is also a mixture of finishes going on with the strap and end links against the polished case which does stand out. The bracelet option seen on the 41mm, however, looks perfect. It’s the same as the original in design and to me, is the only bracelet to offer the watch on.
The bezel lock - I was unsure whether to add this as it’s such a part of the watches history, story, brand and design. But just from a practical point of view it loses marks for me. Maybe if the watch was only 150m, the bezel lock could be present for aesthetics.
The polished case - I mentioned this earlier, but for me, the polished case just feels too much. Is it likely to be a more commercial success if it’s polished? Probably, but I’d like to see it nice and brushed. Although if you agree, you could always go for their new Superman French Air Force Steel Limited Edition which is a real stunner.
Final thoughts on the Yema SupermanSo it’s not going to come as a surprise to you to hear I’ve really enjoyed wearing the Yema Superman. It’s a watch that has managed to cram in historical importance, with a high level of practical use into a well-proportioned case, all while looking elegant and classy. To this, we say tres bien to this fantastic French brand. Their range of watches covers everything from diving, motorsports as well as space and aviation. There is plenty of great stuff available from Yema, and I'm eagerly waiting for the next package from Yema to arrive at the WatchGecko HQ...
The Yema Superman 39 featured here costs 1,099 euros. We’d like to thank Yema Watches for sending this watch in for review. They also offer this watch with a quartz movement for 390 euros with a military style strap or rubber strap or an option with raised indices a blue sunburst dial and the other bracelet for 1,199 euros. Be sure to check out their website here for their full range of great watches.