After quite a long hiatus, this week we are back with the latest “Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy!” Today, we will be revisiting French watchmaker Yema and one of its latest vintage-inspired releases, the Superman Heritage 63 Limited Edition. The new watch, which was unveiled last summer, made quick waves among Yema enthusiasts for its quirky vintage styling, recalling the early days of dive watches and in particular channeling the early Superman models, first released in its namesake year of 1963. The vintage ad below showcases a model from the early 1960s on which the modern watch is based – though this one was released under the the LeJour label, which was Yema’s brand in the U.S. market during the mid-20th century.
Focusing in on the model, we find that the case of the watch has a solid construction, with the upper section hosting the bezel, middle, and caseback. The steel it uses is brushed throughout, and its lugs are almost triangular in their construction, with distinct, flat edges at their tips — a style matched by the guards protecting the screw-down crown. Surrounding the domed sapphire crystal is a slim black bezel, also made of sapphire, which protects an aluminum insert. The unidirectional bezel features a straightforward 60-minute diving scale, but its most notable trait is in the bezel-lock mechanism on its side, which is unlocked by unscrewing the crown. This device is by and large the most distinctive feature within the Superman collection — modern or vintage — and adds a unique albeit somewhat dated charm, recalling the mid-20th-century when Blancpain had sole rights to the unidirectional bezel and other brands needed an alternative method for securing their dive-time scales.
On the dial of the 63, we find a very unusual, funky arrangement that channels the experimental designs of its predecessor’s era. A black background plays host to the luminous green accents throughout — first on the applied trapezoidal hours markers, punctuated at three of the quarter-hours with a futuristic Arabic numeral, and again on the “shovel” hand configuration characteristic of the vintage Superman line. Other details to note on the dial are the subtle date window, which opts for a metallic beveled edge for its outline, as well as the red-and green-tipped seconds counter which add another aspect of retro flair.
Inside the new model is the Sellita SW200-1, a fairly common and reliable automatic movement. The caliber features 26 jewels, beats at 28,800 vph, and hosts a power reserve of 38 hours. The movement is protected via an engraved and numbered solid caseback, which helps provide the watch a solid 300-meter dive rating (or 990 feet), matching that of its ancestor.
Comparing the modern edition to its vintage counterpart, we find several key similarities that showcase the historical charm of the watch. Foremost we see this in the sizing, with the modern edition feeling particularly “vintage-y.” My wrist over the past few months has grown more accustomed to modern divers, typically sized at 42 mm and above, so it was a nice change having something a bit smaller to wear for a while. The dive lock, while plainly outdated in terms of its usefulness, does nonetheless add an extra layer of intrigue and places the modern watch firmly in the design spirit of the original model.
Moving to the dial, we again find the step-for-step influence, as it opts for the same overall design scheme as the original, even staying true to the green-colored lume — which, while historically accurate, may be a turn-off for some collectors, who are likely more accustomed to plain white or faux patina. Finally, speaking to the level of detail Yema has paid to the dial, the metallic beveling on the date window also seems to be a feature found on the historical watch, which explains its use here.
For all the obvious similarities between the vintage and historical models, there are also some clear differentiating factors between them. Foremost, the modern watch’s case construction is solid, which cannot be said as much for previous Superman models I’ve handled. Yema has paid particular attention to the construction, opting for a well-finished, brushed case; making the extra spend in the use of sapphire crystal on the bezel and a domed sapphire over the dial; and providing an equally solid construction for the matching steel bracelet, which feels secure on the wrist. The dial’s subtle changes are also foremost in overall quality, but also include subtler features like the changed dial descriptors on the bottom half of the dial and the use of the red-dot seconds pointer, of which I’m unclear as to whether it was used in vintage editions.
The only detail that feels out of place on the modern model is its lack of a red dive clip, which seems to pop up in a few vintage Superman materials (like the one above, via FratelloMagazine). Some writers and collectors have remarked the clip was originally painted red on the vintage models and that all surviving models lack paint due to wear, however I have as yet been unable to identify any vintage editions of the Superman with red clips or even remnants of red. Thus, it’s my best inference that the red coloring of the clips in the vintage ads likely worked to highlight the unique feature on the watch (which in its historical context was a brand-specific, unique feature), rather than display its actual color. I could be wrong, though it would seem odd the brand would opt to not paint the clip of this version of the watch red, seeing as its one of their most historically faithful reissues to-date.
For someone looking to add a Yema to their collection, they might have a tough choice choosing between the 63 and the original Superman Heritage model unveiled a couple of years ago, as the style on the original (above) seems more versatile as a daily wearer. Yet, while that watch shines for its versatility, the new 63 shines for its quirkiness; the latter watch is unusual, funky, and designed to channel a particular era. Inevitably, its design will appeal to a much smaller — though perhaps also more motivated — consumer group.
The new Yema Superman Heritage 63 Limited Edition is currently available for pre-order directly through Yema, with shipping anticipated to begin in December. The watch will be limited to 1,000 editions in both the 39-mm and 41-mm size. It retails at $1,149 on both a rubber tropic or smooth leather strap and slightly higher, at $1,199, on an H-style metal bracelet that comes with a secure lock and divers extension. Yema is also offering an even more exclusive version of the watch on a scale-style metal bracelet, limited to 500 editions and priced at $1,249.
To learn more, you can visit Yema’s website, here.