HANDS ON: The Yema Urban Field combines a premium feel with vintage vibesFergus Nash
Although the French brand Yema have never stopped producing watches since their inception in 1948, their lapse into relative obscurity during the ‘80s-‘00s has to qualify them among the best brand revivals of the 21st century. Professional divers, racing chronographs, and even space-faring pilot pieces are classics of the Yema catalogue, but the Yema Urban Field brings together the company’s decades of watch knowledge in a sweet, time-only package of genre-defying aesthetics.
Yema’s approach to the design of the Urban Field was inspiration from military field watches, combining elements of multiple time periods between the 1930s and 1980s. They suggest that these are meant to be simple, sporty watches with good legibility that can also be dressy when the need arises, but to be honest that’s not how it comes across to my eye. I see the Yema Urban Field as a brilliant evocation of the early 1960s, with “Mad Men meets space race” written all over its retro-futuristic features.
Starting with the element which imparts the most character, Yema are renowned for crafting dials with a perfect balance of functionality and looks. Although there isn’t a single part of the dial which doesn’t add something to the overall effect, there also isn’t anything which has been made unnecessarily difficult to read. The minutes track is printed in a negative to the dial colour with bold blocks, and the numerals alternate between stylish numerals and definitive shapes for contrasting orientation. Those in conjunction with the needle-thin dauphine hands and the central crosshair are key to the midcentury design vibes, reminding me of some vintage watches from the likes of Hamilton.
The backdrop of these dial features can’t be underestimated either, with a deliciously grained texture that adds more than a touch of refinement. The gold dial with black printing is my personal favourite and captures best the 1960s spirit I receive from the Yema Urban Field, but the personalities brought in by the white, black, blue, and green dials are all also just as valid and attractive. The areas of white printing use Super-LumiNova BGW9 for a reliable blue after-dark glow.
The case of the Yema Urban Field isn’t very special in its own right, but in service of the watch as a whole it’s exactly what’s needed. The finish is entirely polished, with the case’s curvature sitting nicely in that space between dressy and sporty. Good proportions are partly what Yema are most famous for with their modern range, and the Urban Field leaves nothing to chance by offering two different case sizes. There’s a smaller 37.5mm size for a closeness to vintage accuracy and a 40mm size for larger tastes, with lug-to-lug lengths of 45mm and 48mm respectively. This affords quite a lot of versatility for people who prefer different sizes either for stylistic or physical comfort reasons, as the larger version could still fit nicely on a smaller wrist.
Although all versions of the Yema Urban Field will come packed with the Urban leather strap, made in France and cross-hatched with contrasting stitching, choosing a bracelet will affect the overall style and price that the watch commands. The Bonklip bracelet has a deep and complex history with the British armed forces in particular, adorning some military-issued watches for approximately 50 years. Its rolled links and easy-adjustment system are intrinsic to its character, as are the straight end-links which give it an endearing retro flair.
The premium option at a US$150 increase is Yema’s contemporary take on a beads of rice bracelet that still feels like the genuine vintage article. It does away with the constraints of flat links on the outside of the beads, and instead has them seemingly floating in unison as the polished surfaces glamorously play with the light. Its fitted end-links contribute to a much more luxurious presence, with a secure butterfly clasp. Regardless of the case size you choose, both lug widths are 20mm for infinite aftermarket options too.
Adding to the vintage experience of the Yema Urban Field is a hand-wound movement. This gives the dual effect of creating a winding ritual for the owner, as well as offering an uninterrupted view of the beautiful display caseback. Yema have opted to use the Sellita SW210-1b, whose 4Hz beat rate and 42 hour power reserve doesn’t shock, but the élaboré grade makes for tasteful decoration and a +/-7 second per day accuracy.
The Yema Urban Field pricing and availability:
The Yema Urban Field is now available for pre-order on their website, with orders to be shipped from the end of June 2023. Price: US$1,099 (bonklip) US$1,249 (beads of rice)
|Case Dimensions||37.5mm x 45mm x 7.8mm / 40mm x 48mm x 7.8mm|
|Case Material||Stainless steel|
|Dial||White, black, gold, green, blue|
|Strap||Leather, beads of rice or bonklip bracelet|
|Power Reserve||42 hours|
|Availability||Available now for pre-order|
|Price||US$1,099 (bonklip) US$1,249 (beads of rice)|