Yema Sous-Marine YMFH0303
This is a cross-post from Fnord. Yema asked that it be posted there, for better visibility, but the review is definitely appropriate here too.
A few weeks ago, I got an unexpected email from Jeffrey Tabaka of Yema Watches. He offered to loan me, free of charge, any sub-$600 watch on their site for a review here on Fnord! A welcome first, that. As part of the deal, they're offering 25% off if you use discount code fnord25. Please note that I get nothing out of this, so hopefully I'm not too biased here. (See the editorial policy page for my stance on freebies and paid content.)
Background on Yema
A few years ago (2005, roughly), I was a regular on SCWF (Seiko and Citizen Watch Forum) and saw frequent references to the Yema Seaspider, which had an unusual movement, the Seiko 4S15. At that time, Seiko owned Yema, so this made sense, but the 4S15 is a very nice movement at a time when it wasn't sold in Seiko-branded watches, leaving a large gap in their product line. Needless to say, watch geeks snapped up the Seaspiders as fast as they could find them, and to this day they carry a price premium when sold. Until now, that was about all I knew of Yema. Co-writer James Stacey reviewed a quartz Yema recently for WatchReport, under the same deal, so they're coming back.
So Yema is a resurgent brand, recently repurchased and under new management. French in origin, their current lineup uses Miyota and (likely) other Japanese movements, in what I'm thinking are cases from HK or China. Well made stuff, though, and I'm getting ahead of myself a bit.
Offered the chance to review almost any of their watches, (very few are over $600, though there is one ETA 7750-based chronograph for a few thousand) the mechanical divers were to me the most compelling. I chose the model YMFH0303.
- Size: 44.0mm by 17.0mm, 19.2 at the bezel lock. 1cm crown.
- Weight: 245g
- Water resistance: 300m
- Movement: Miyota 8215
- Bracelet/strap: Oyster-style, 22mm non-tapering. flip lock, Push button, Micro adjustment, solid links and end links, signed sliplock.
- Lume: Superluminova
- Materials: 316L, PVD plated
- Crystal: Not specified, likely mineral.
- Price, availability and discounts: $615 list, $461 with 25% discount.
(Not pictured) Simple cardboard box with fake carbon fiber weave. Shrug.
Case, caseback, crown, bezel
The case finishing is a mix of brushed and polished, though it's not obvious due to the PVD coating. Here's a shot of the left side of the case, which is nicely smooth and even:
It looks quite nice. There's no (non-destructive) way to tell how well the PVD was applied, so I can't comment on wear and durability. Sorry about that.
In this incarnation, Yema added an inner cyclops lens over the date at 4:30, which I mildly dislike. Most of my cyclops-phobia has to do with how it makes reading the time difficult, and at least here it doesn't do so. In this picture you can see the effect quite strongly:
The bezel is quite interesting. 120-click ratchet, aluminum insert, bezel pip, minute gradations up to 15: all normal. What's unusual is the crown lock, where an L-shaped bracket holds the bezel in place via friction when the crown is screwed down. Here's a closeup:
I like the nice wide (1cm) size & the blue stripe in the middle; easy to use which is important - the crownlock means you have to do so to adjust the bezel.
I'm not sure how well this will work in practice, and it seems like the bits of metal above the bezel will catch on sleeves and such. Call me a skeptic on this feature, though I could be wrong. It's certainly different, so if you're buying this as a fashion item that'd be a plus. Once released, the bezel is firm, precise and easy to move, nicely knurled.
It's of note that the crownlock tops out at 19mm; at the very least a super-tall watch. The watch proper is already 17mm, so subtle it aint.
I adore what they did here with the caseback simple stainless steel ring, and a cool grey-tinted window, with a laser-etched Yema logo. Really cool for some reason.
Works especially well with the 8215, which is not a movement to win beauty contests.
Look closely and notice that there are no minute markers on the dial:
That, to me, makes it a lot less useful, though with a bit of practice you could read it accurately. On the positive side, it does make for a nicely uncluttered dial.
The bracelet is a strong point. Solid links, well finished, comfortable and well executed.
I like that they have the features often skipped on cheaper watches: micro-adjustments, pushbutton release, solid end links, divers extension. Machined and not stamped.
The Superluminova does pretty well here:
Initial brightness of 0.025 lux, decent but not spectacular. Heres a comparison to the very best, the Seiko SBDX001 'Marinemaster':
From that you can see that the Seiko is brighter and lasts longer, but for $1800 youd kind of expect that. The Yema does OK here. (See Measure luminosity and Build a UV watch illuminator, the raw datafile are online at github.
Movement & timekeeping
The Miyota 8215 (much more info on that page) is a solid, reliable timekeeper and will run for many years. My MicroSet timer is borked, so anecdotally I can report solid chronometer-grade timekeeping for the two weeks in my custody.
So what do I think of it?
Overall, it's a solid beater (which is a term of praise, not perjorative). The 8215 will survive just about any abuse, the lume is good, the PVD is well-applied and the bracelet excellent. I don't like the cyclops or bezel lock, but on a summer watch they're minor complaints. At $460 with discount, it's a decent value for a mainstream brand, though not as spectacularly cheap as some of the boutique brands. It could use sapphire and anti-reflective coatings for the price. I'm a bit sad to have to return it, actually, as it's fun to wear.
On the wrist, this is a large, heavy, tall watch. With the protruding bezel lock, it catches on sleeves and is thus best worn with short sleeves or similar. The all-black look is eye-catching and non-blingy; a good watch for the badass or wannabe. Did I say that out loud?
As I said, its quite tall.
Unsolicited loan, as explained above. My thanks to Yema for the loan!
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