This week we return to the French-based Yema and one of its most recent releases in the Rallye Andretti Limited Edition — a homage to one of the brand’s most famous historical designs now a part of its Motorsport Rallygraf Collection. The new piece commemorates the watch worn by racecar driver Mario Andretti during his unlikely victory at the 1969 Indianapolis 500. Funnily enough, while Andretti has modernly endorsed the watch, the original Rallye he wore was a private label model (that is, produced by Yema, but without its branding) which our friends at Fratello Magazine discovered straight from the horse’s mouth early last year.
The new watch is a faithful re-issue of the original Rallygraf model worn by Andretti in the late 1960s, using a 39-mm polished steel case, simple pump pushers, signed crown, and black tachymetric outer bezel. Underneath the domed sapphire crystal is the homage face styled after a racing dashboard as seen by the distinct white and black sections. Here you’ll notice the applied hour markers and white racing-style minute ring on the outer edge, a 6 o’clock date window, and two sub-dials for a 30-minute counter and running seconds.
Other interesting details are in the two left-side racing stripes, and double checkered flags towards the center indicating a racecar driver’s victory. Indicating the time are two simple hands for the hour and minute, with an arrow-tipped pointer for the chronograph seconds. Inside the watch is the automatic ETA Valjoux 7753 movement, equipped with ball-bearing winding and capable of a 44-hour power reserve. The new watch will be limited to 1969 editions as to further commemorate Andretti’s victory, will be priced at $2,699 through Yema, and begins shipping this month.
The French-made watch, as was the brand’s intention, is a faithful reissue of the original model worn unbranded by Mario Andretti. From the case of the shape— which has become increasingly popular in this nostalgic era of watches— with its vintage-style racing strap and pump pushers, to the retro dial with its racing stripes, historical hour markers, and oblong sub-dials— the only clear discernable difference to the untrained eye is likely the cleanliness of the modern watch due to more recent modern manufacturing. Yema has made significant efforts towards the vintage details of the watch, even using an aluminum bezel for the tachymetric scale over the contemporarily preferred steel or ceramic. In fact, this bezel detail likely makes the piece more fragile, but nonetheless adds to its interesting features.
Nonetheless for its accuracy to historical designs, they don’t call this series Vintage Eye for nothing. Besides the increased precision seen due to modern manufacturing — most noticeable in the increased texture of the dial, domed sapphire crystal, and sturdier looking pushers and crown — the watch also features a commemorative engraving over the utilitarian flat surface used in the past, as well as an automatic ETA Valjoux 7753 movement over the manually-wound vintage Valjoux 7730. Yet, when taken as a whole to the historical faithfulness of the design, these features are relatively mute and act only as slight modern advancements and commemorations rather than significant differences.
For longtime readers of this series, the last and only other time I wrote about Yema was after rediscovering the brand last summer with the Superman Héritage dive watch: a just over $1000 diver steeped in history and featuring a unique and attractive design unseen in any other watch in its category. The Rallye Andretti — while not nearly as affordable — does much the same, offering a real piece of watch history in its production, and further offering a pristine aesthetic for a relatively rare piece to find in the vintage collecting world. Just as the late-1960s production model was purpose-built for racing, so too is the 2019 model purpose-built for collectors, a fact which might not spark passion throughout the world of watches, but will undoubtedly excite a significant section of Yema enthusiasts.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we take a look at the Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage and compare it to its historical inspirations, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.