Last week, YEMA released the newest iteration of their iconic Superman diver–the Superman 500. First produced in 1963, the watch–which was designed for diving professionals–has undergone numerous changes in size and dial configurations over the years. In the 1970s, the timepiece was adopted by the French Air Force’s Helicopter Rescue Divers. Of late, the entire brand has undergone a renaissance of sorts and the Superman, with its emblematic case and bezel-lock system, have been at the heart of that rejuvenation. The Superman 500, while largely recognizable to its brethren, represents a step forward–not just in styling this time–but in technology, as well.
Featured here is the black dial 41mm reference, though the watch is also available in what the brand has dubbed, “Mysterious” Blue, and true to recent trends, both colourways will also be offered in a 39mm configuration, as well. At first blush, the Superman 500 appears quite similar to other models in the line. It makes use of the brand’s YEMA 2000 calibre, developed in house. It’s a 4Hz, 29-jewel movement, originally crowd-sourced on Kickstarter, now in its second generation. The first 200 watches–almost sold out at the time of this publication–will be individually engraved from 001 to 200.
The first change you will notice is an aesthetic one. The Superman 500 has a mirror-polished case, which is a departure from the more “toolish” versions that have come before it. While I am a fan of the brushed, utilitarian look, this new, classier version certainly brings something different to the table. The next deviation is the bezel to dial ratio. In order to achieve the 500m of water resistance advertised in its name, the Superman 500 has undergone a crystal redesign. The sapphire dome, still 2.6mm in thickness, is actually shorter than previous models by .3mm. However, it is wider in turn by .6mm. This gives the impression of a more slender bezel. Otherwise, the upgrade is a technical one and does not alter the Superman “look.” The dome still provides ample attractive distortions at the edges of the glass.
The caseback has also been altered in order to achieve the bump in water resistance. It has been beefed up from from 1.5 mm to 2.2 mm in thickness. While we are on the topic of the caseback, it is also worth mentioning that the YEMA coat of arms has been bolstered with a deeper embossing.
However, the most welcome upgrade would have to be the bezel clamp. A Superman would not be a Superman without the archetypical bezel-lock system. And yet, over the last six decades since its inception, a common criticism has been that while functional as a way of locking the bezel when diving, it is not always practical while in the water. In the past, unscrewing the bezel clamp was synonymous with opening the seals, and, as such, would allow water to enter the watch. The new design establishes better stability in the crown tube, but also makes it possible–with the addition of a 3BAR seal in the unscrewed crown position–to make use of the bezel-lock system while on the surface of the water. New micro drilling under the bezel itself now also allows for more accurate alignment and a smoother rotation.
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The new dome design provides a high degree of readability during the day. But in the dark–or in the depths, as the case may be–a bountiful application of Grade A Super-LumiNova on the hands, indices, and the luminescent pip at 12 o’clock, has you covered. The shovel-shaped seconds hand–a characteristic the since the 1970s–remains unchanged.
The YEMA Superman 500 has three strap options: vintage leather, fitted rubber, or a stainless steel bracelet. The bracelet is brushed, with central polished links and clamshell clasp with diver’s extension.
|Case||316L Stainless Steel|
19/20mm Lug Width
Screw Down Caseback & Crown
/w Bezel Lock
500m Water Resistance
|Dial & Crystal||Domed Sapphire Crystal|
Black or “Mysterious” Blue
Grade A Super-LumiNova
|Movement||YEMA 2000 In-House Calibre|
Date at 3 o’clock
42-Hour Power Reserve
|Strap||Available on Vintage Leather, Fitted Rubber,|
or a Stainless Steel Bracelet
YEMA Superman 500
In another departure of sorts, the Superman 500 sports French text on the dial. The words “Automatique” and “Metres” appear just above the six position. The caseback, too, is entirely in French. It is both quaint and dignified at the same time. The history of French watchmaking–and French dive watch making in particular–runs deep. YEMA, at one time the largest exporter of French watches, has played a large role in that history. One might say it is “high time” they laid claim to it.
The bracelet will probably not be everyone’s favourite. Unlike the case, it is largely brushed. It is also a little quirky. However, it certainly exudes a vintage vibe. The clasp on the other hand, is quite simple for a watch of this calibre. I’d like to see a push-button release, at the very least.
While the Superman 500 is a forward-thinking watch in technological terms, it is also respectful of its past. Up close, you can see that efforts have been made to slightly age the lume in the markers and hands. The black dial is also moderately patinaed. Overall, the design is cultivated and graceful. It has the intimate feel of a vintage timepiece, but the robust build quality of a contemporary watch. When you consider what you are receiving for your money–an in house calibre and iconic design from a brand with heritage–it is not difficult to shell out $1049 to $1219USD (dependant upon your strap choice). And if you already own a Superman, or two, there is enough here to differentiate the Superman 500 from other watches in the YEMA stable. With its high polished case, the Superman 500 makes a strong bid to be your go to dress diver, as well. But frankly, I wouldn’t be afraid to put that water resistance rating it to the test, either.
For more information, please visit the brand website.
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