I’m a simple man. Beluga caviar on a blini with some sour cream and I’m good to go. Failing that, a table water cracker, fromage D’Affinois and some strawberries. That’s my way of saying you don’t have to spend a fortune to buy a distinctive timepiece. But you do have to step outside of the mainstream. Case in point: the Yema Flygraf Pilot M1 Field Watch . . .
Don’t be fooled by the name. The Yema Flygraf Pilot M1 isn’t a German flieger. Sure, it’s a three-hander with white text on a black dial. But the historical watches it emulates were 55mm+ behemoths designed to be worn over a flight suit, further identified by a triangle flanked by two dots at the 12.
Lest they be mistaken for a teutonic tea saucer, contemporary German fliegers have downsized. But not as far as the 39mm Yema – especially after you discount the big ass bezel circumnavigating the Flygraf Pilot’s dial. By the same token, the Yema’s 12 triangle is unfaithfully small and entirely dotless.
Don’t get me wrong: I come to praise the Flygraf Pilot, not to bury it. You’d hardly expect a French watchmaker to produce a slavish copy of the watches worn by Nazi airmen.
I’m just saying that the Yema turns its back on the German pilot watch genre even as it embraces it. For anyone who prizes legibility par dessus tout, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing
To that end, the Flygraf is Yema’s only watch with Arabic numerals. The slightly textured matte black dial – “reminiscent of 1940’s Boeing military aircraft fuselages” – is as black as a starless sky. Given the temper of the times, let’s just say the white indices and hands are really white. The contrast is legibility personified.
The Flygraf Pilot’s thin, red-tipped second hand; baton-shaped minute hand, and stubby bowling-pin-shaped hour hand were inspired by cockpit instrumentation. The differentiation between them is instant and unmistakable.
The Flygraf’s hour hand does double duty, pointing to the 24-hour indices in the sunken inner dial. The feature’s especially (solely?) useful for math-challenged civilians who never got the hang of military time. Overall, the dial’s a perfectly executed exercise in practical minimalism.
That said, the Flygraf Pilot’s crown guards are relatively massive and the vertical brushed steel bezel is unapologetically brash – a potential deal killer for the faint of wrist.
In direct light, the ring o’ steel almost glows. But not with the same conviction that the indices light-up in the dark.
The Flygraf’s indices and hands radiate a fetching shade of blue-green from dusk to dawn. Low-to-no light time-telling is a done deal.
The aforementioned steel bezel is high polished on its sides, contrasting with the brushed case and lugs. The lugs are a bit deceptive; the 13mm thick watch sits on top of its caseback, leaving the lugs floating in air.
Thankfully, the watch’s leather-lined canvas strap keeps the piece lashed down with unobtrusive comfort and unassailable security.
Yema’s automatic Caliber MBP1000 shelters behind the logo-embossed screw-down caseback.
The French-made hackable engine delivers 45 hours of power reserve at a smooth-second-hand-sweeping 28,800 A/h. Not to mention blessing watch nerds with in-house movement bragging rights.
Strapped to the Timegrapher, the Flygraf Pilot ran six seconds fast per day – within the published specs (+/- 12 seconds per day).
Even more impressive: the Yema is water resistant to 300m. Pilot’s watch or dive watch? Yes! And elegant enough for daily wear.
Here’s the kicker: the Yema Flygraf Pilot M1 Field Watch costs $690. For a watch with such robust construction, legibility, accuracy and an in-house movement, that’s outstanding value-for-money.
There are only two issues: the Yema Flygraf Pilot M1’s caseback was screwed on asymmetrically and you have to send the watch to France for service.
On the positive side, Yema has excellent customer service and the money you save by not buying a pricier piece [eventually] buys you a plane ticket to L’Hexagone for escargots. What’s French for “another no brainer”?
Model: Yema FLygraf Pilot M1
Case: Brushed 316L stainless steel
Bezel: Vertical brushed steel bezel, polished bevelled sides.
Crown: Screw-down, vintage YEMA logo embossed
Lume: Super-Luminova BGW9
Movement: Automatic MBP1000 French in-house movement
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Power Reserve: 45 hours
Weight: 3.4 ounces
Water resistance: 30 BAR / 990 Feet / 300m
Warranty: Two years
Design * * * * *
Simple, elegant, robust. (Oversized brushed bezel a feature for some, a bug for others.)
Legibility * * * * *
Faultless. Cockpit-inspired hands a major bonus.
Comfort * * * * *
Not a flyweight, but the leather-lined canvas strap is an ergonomic delight.
Overall * * * * *
A superb value-for-money in-house automatic combining German efficiency with French savoire faire.
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Watch provided for review without additional consideration.