All Aboard With The YEMA Navygraf Marine Nationale
With four new watches to commemorate an iconic partnership, the French watch brand YEMA is sailing in the right direction.
Founded in 1948, YEMA is no stranger to the world of sports. From diving to car racing to aviation, YEMA watches are made to endure the hardest of environments while staying extremely precise, accessibly priced, all while keeping their signature vintage look and feel. At Watchonista, we have tested more than one of YEMA’s models. Like, for example, when we interviewed race car legend Mario Andretti. More recently, we were lucky to try the timepieces now accompanying the young recruits of the French Navy.
YEMA and Marine Nationale
After partnering with the French Air Force in 2020, the French Navy (Marine Nationale in French) was the next logical step. The French Navy, also called "La Royale," is one of the oldest naval forces in the world, having been established in 1624. And, after the United States, it is the second-largest maritime force.
It is a fitting partnership as YEMA is a French brand, and you can't do anything much more patriotic than outfitting the wrists of your country's forces. This partnership is also the perfect selling point for the skeptics who still doubt YEMA's reliability.
To celebrate this new partnership, YEMA launched not one but four new timepieces, all meeting the different requirements of these maritime professionals.
The Navygraf Marine Nationale
The Navygraf, initially launched in 1966, was created with the world of water in mind, meant for sailors as it was. The good news is that you don't need to be a member of the French Navy to own one of these timepieces, as the new Navygraf Marine Nationale is now available to the general public for pre-order.
The new timepieces were created with every attention paid to the details. The matte navy-blue dial proudly features the official logo of the Marine Nationale at 6 o'clock, and upon closer inspection, you can spot the anchor stripes on the crown. While the timepiece meets all the requirements of the French Navy, it keeps its reliability and vintage looks, staying true to the French brand’s DNA and delighting long-time YEMA fans.
While the Navygraf Marine Nationale will be available in a 39mm stainless steel case with a unidirectional diving bezel and powered by either an automatic or quartz movement, the brand is also releasing the YEMA Navygraf Marine Nationale GMT. A limited-edition of 1,000 pieces, the GMT also comes in a 39mm stainless steel case but has a bidirectional bezel that features a 24-hour GMT graduation.
For the ladies (or men) who like smaller watches, the brand also added a 34mm quartz timepiece to the line-up with a K1 mineral unidirectional diving bezel and a steel mesh bracelet.
The timepieces definitely look and feel like they can withstand life on the sea. The collection is not too thick (12.5mm for the automatic and 12.85mm for the GMT) and water-resistant to 300m (200m for the quartz models) while still being exceptionally comfortable to wear. It's worth noting that the timepiece also comes with the official Marine Nationale Parachute strap and a special collector box.
What About Tudor?
You might have heard that Tudor has also secured a partnership with the Marine Nationale. For vintage fans like me, the long-time partnership between Tudor and the Marine Nationale conjures images of the Tudor Marine Nationale Submariner. So, while news of that partnership is cause for excitement in the watch industry, I honestly believe it doesn't diminish the importance of YEMA's partnership announcement. We asked YEMA's Marketing Director, Anibal Martinez, how the two brands would navigate concurrent partnerships. He told Watchonista:
"In the last 30 years, or so, most tool watches designed for the French military were private initiatives from the Army personnel; that is, a bunch of military colleagues approached watch brands to propose a custom design they would pay for themselves. The French Air Force / Navy are usually OK with this, provided no watches are sold publicly. YEMA regularly received such requests from French military personnel. We guess it's the same for other watch brands.
“Nowadays, the French Air Force and Marine Nationale have released their own public label. From now on, any watch brand wishing to collaborate with the French military will require a license. To obtain such a license, brands need to meet specific requirements; it's not an easy exercise; we have been working on this project for almost two years. Marine Nationale has retained Tudor and YEMA as official watch brands.
“The choice of Tudor is evident from a historical point of view. YEMA has been retained because of its long-standing partnership with the French Air Force, the fact we are a French watchmaker, and because we are at a different price point than Tudor, which makes sense from a catalog perspective. It is to be noted that both Tudor and YEMA have engaged themselves to sell these models at a discounted price to French military personnel.
“The aim is for the military to wear watches. The Marine Nationale appointed a high committee that imposed strict functional specifications requirements. They actively collaborated with us during the design phase as well, validating every stage until prototyping. For the story, we are about to release the first official GMT Marine Nationale tool watch. Their high-committee insisted on the importance of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) for their personnel."
The watches are now available for pre-order on YEMA's website and are priced from $349 to $1,049.
(Photography by Simon Wernovsky)