HANDS-ON: The Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz is one of the best budget racing watches around HANDS-ON: The Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz is one of the best budget racing watches around

HANDS-ON: The Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz is one of the best budget racing watches around

Fergus Nash

Since I first wrote about the French brand Yema in 2020, they have come a long way in both their catalogue and their audience. New in-house movements, bronze cases, and expansion of their core ranges are all effects of their vast popularity and brand status beyond the micro. Although some of those new releases have been breaking into new price brackets, Yema still cater to those who loved their affordable and characterful watches such as the Yema Rallygraf. Staying with its meca-quartz movement and now in a choice of five colours, the Yema Rallygraf is rejuvenated as one of the best budget racing watches around.

Racing from the 1960s and ‘70s is often referred to as the pinnacle of motorsport for many reasons. The danger and instability of those experimental vehicles often led to a more exciting spectacle for audiences, and although the improvements to safety in recent decades have been fantastic we can’t deny that some people still yearn to romanticise that time. With the pit crews in overalls and the bosses in suits, the key identifying feature of that era were the watches, specifically the Swiss chronographs which were relied upon for accurate timing. Yema had a strong foothold at the time, and Mario Andretti even won the 1969 Indy 500 while wearing a Yema chronograph.

The case

The style of a retro racing chronograph is fairly well established now, and the Yema Rallygraf nails that look. The lugs are sweeping with clipped ends, and polished which gives them a distinct amount of charm for a sports watch. The bezel insert, colour-matched to the dial, is made from anodised aluminium with a matte finish that really captures the look of an original. In terms of sizing, the Yema Rallygraf is probably a little bit larger than an authentic vintage piece, but it’s still friendly to small wrists and looks suitably bold. It’s 39mm in diameter with a thickness of 11mm, and a lug-to-lug distance of 48mm.

The dial

The Yema Rallygraf in each of its new colour configurations takes on somewhat of a Panda theme, with contrasting subdials as well as a solid ring of colour around the periphery of the dial. The shape of the subdials, which consist of running seconds on the left and 24-hour indicator on the right, is inspired by the funky shapes of vintage car instrument clusters. The spacing is handled very well on the dial, which never feels too busy despite a lot of elements included. The top half has three printed logos, with Yema’s stylised ‘Y’, capitalised logo, and the Rallygraf script. The lower half bears crossed chequered flags to honour the motorsport roots, the name of France, and a symmetrically placed date window at 6 o’clock. The Rallygraf comes in the traditional Panda and Reverse Panda references with a black and off-white giving lots of vintage credibility, as well as the new colours in a racing green, bright blue and burgundy red.

The movement

Seiko’s VK64 is quite a divisive movement, as bridging the gap between quartz and mechanical calibers has brought both criticism and praise from both sides of the argument. However, if you want a smooth chronograph sweep without paying mechanical prices, then there’s really no better option out there. The Meca-Quartz technology uses a mechanical chronograph alongside a battery-powered quartz movement that not only sweeps the seconds hand for aesthetic purposes, but also so that you can measure intervals faster than one second.

The strap

Racing straps were designed with holes in them to help prevent a buildup of sweat, just like the perforation used in leather seats, steering wheels and gloves. Although this has a very practical origin, the look of the perforated leather watch strap has progressed into a sporty icon in its own right. These calfskin straps, colour-matched to the dial choice, are made in France. If you prefer metal, the Yema Rallygraf is also available with a steel mesh bracelet that offers great flexibility and fitment. Should you want to play around with aftermarket straps, the 20mm lug width gives you a lot of options.

The Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz pricing and availability:

You can order the Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz now from Yema’s website herePrice: US$369 (leather strap) / US$399 (mesh bracelet)

Brand Yema
Model Rallygraf Meca-Quartz
Case Dimensions 39mm x 11mm x 48mm
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 100m
Crystal(s) Mineral crystal
Dial Panda, reverse panda, blue, green, red
Lug Width 20mm
Strap Leather or steel mesh
Movement Seiko VK64
Power Reserve Approximately 3 years
Availability Available now
Price US$369 (leather strap) / US$399 (mesh bracelet)