Off the Cuff: YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue

In the early 1970s, YEMA began equipping the French Air force with a dive watch. This might seem a bit pessimistic on behalf of the nation’s flyboys, but the watches were intended for a specialized group within the Search and Rescue branch: the Aviation Rescue Swimmers. The watch in question was YEMA’s historic Superman, reference 24.11.17. This marked the beginning of a decades-long collaboration.

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Microbrand Watch Review
The new Limited Edition YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue @calibre321

The latest watch in this relationship with the Air & Space Army is the YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Limited Edition—a contemporary reissue of that first timepiece. Only 1000 examples will be produced, and it will be available this September. The pre-order began on July 14th (Bastille Day).

The Aviation Swimmers are known colloquially as the “Splash Squad,” and their primary job is to rescue Air Force pilots downed at sea. They travel to crash sites via Caracal and Puma helicopters and often work in hostile conditions where direct marine rescue is not possible. Today, the squad numbers approximately 50 airmen who are stationed in the four corners of the globe.

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Microbrand Watch Review
Primarily polished case @calibre321

A tough job requires a tough watch, and the Superman FAF is certainly that. The prototype featured here is 316L stainless steel and measures 39mm in diameter (though a 41mm version is also available), 48mm lug to lug, and has a 19mm lug width. It is 13mm thick, as well, due in part to its double-domed sapphire crystal which alone measures 2.6mm in breadth.

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Microbrand Watch Review
YEMA’s iconic bezel-lock system @calibre321

The screw-down crown and caseback are uniquely emblazoned with France’s Air & Space Logo and will come engraved with a unique number between 1 and 1000. The watch also has YEMA’s ubiquitous bezel-lock system and is rated to 300m of water resistance.


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Unlike most watches in the Superman line, the FAF is primarily polished, but with its drilled lugs and dive bezel, make no mistake, it is every inch a tool watch.

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Microbrand Watch Review
Stylish tool watch @calibre321

Other than case finish, the FAF differentiates itself from other models in the Superman line through its dial. Excepting the text—which is now printed in French—and a small change in logo, the FAF reissue is a faithful interpretation of the 24.11.17, right down to its unique u-shaped hour markers. Even the black bezel insert and matte white printing have been covered with a sapphire glass to emulate the glossy bakelite bezel of the original model. The indices, along with the archetypal handset and shovel-shaped seconds, have been treated with BGW9 Swiss Super-LumiNova for a strong and constant glow in the dark, or in the depths.

Interestingly, YEMA has opted for the Sellita SW200-1 this time around—rather than its in-house YEMA2000. The Sellita, of course, is a workhorse in its own right, vibrating at 4Hz with a power reserve of 38 hours. The benefit, I suppose, is that of easy servicing almost anywhere in the world.

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Microbrand Watch Review
Powered by the Sellita SW200-1 @calibre321

For a bracelet, YEMA has opted for its standard H-Link with a modified, polished centre link. It comes with a signed and milled clam-shell clasp, diver’s extension, and four increments of micro-adjust.  As an option, the watch is also available on an FKM Rubber Viton band, or a custom blue NATO strap.


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Specs

Case316L Stainless Steel
39mm Diameter
48mm Lug to Lug
13mm Thick
19mm Lug Width
300m Water Resistance
Signed (/w Air Force Insignia),
Screwed-Down Crown
120-click Uni-directional Bezel
w/ Locking Mechanism
Embossed Caseback
Crystal & DialDouble-domed Sapphire
Matte Blue Dial
Original U-Shaped Markers
BGW9 Super-LumiNova
MovementSellita SW200-1
26 Jewels
28 800bph
Date at 3 o’clock
38-Hour Power Reserve
Strap316L Steel Bracelet
/w Signed Clasp and Diver’s Extension
Options: FKM Viton Band/NATO Strap

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Microbrand Watch Review
Attractive dial with vintage-correct indices @calibre321

Of Interest

Since 1948 YEMA has built tool watches destined for numerous endeavours, including the fields of motorsport, aviation, and sailing. Its workshops are just a stone’s throw from Switzerland’s La Chaux-de-Fonds region, nestled in the town of Morteau in France’s Jura Mountains. Today, YEMA is managed by a third-generation watchmaker’s family.

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Microbrand Watch Review
Attractive, slim profile @calibre321

However, it has been an Official Partner of the French Air & Space Force since the 70s. In an effort to commemorate this part of its heritage—and to honour the veterans of the French forces—12.5% of all sales from the Superman FAF Search and Rescue will be donated to the French Veterans Foundation (FOSA).

Quibbles

Buyers with small wrists (less than 7 inches) should be aware that despite the use of female endlinks, the drape of the FAF bracelet artificially extends the actual lug to lug measurement. While the visual continuity is attractive, the issue could be resolved by using a bracelet that fits within the 19mm lugs. In addition, the clasp–albeit milled with a diver’s extension–is relatively simple.

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Microbrand Watch Review
The new Limited Edition YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue @calibre321

Final Thoughts

I find the Superman case–with its relatively slim profile and aerodynamic shape–to be one of the most attractive diver silhouettes on the market. The bezel lock system is functional, but also visually appealing. The mix of brushing on the bracelet, next to the polished case, somehow works here. And though the clasp is not my favourite, it does have the practical inclusion of a diver’s extension–something that many dive watches do not, rendering them ultimately useless for diving.

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Microbrand Watch Review
The new Limited Edition YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue @calibre321

But the real star of the show is the dial and bezel combination. The matte blue used on the Superman FAF is unusual but so perfect next to the shimmering black of the sapphire-capped bezel. The unique applied indices are also a highlight, and the BGW9 positively glows. With a tried and true movement, 300m of water resistance, and a stunning domed crystal, it is hard to ignore the lure of the Superman FAF Search and Rescue. When you consider the history, the fact that it is a limited edition, and that a significant portion of the proceeds support a worthy cause, the FAF becomes almost irresistible.

The YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue is available for pre-order now from $1149USD-$1249USD. For more information, visit the brand website.

YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue Microbrand Watch Review
The Limited Edition YEMA Superman FAF Search and Rescue @calibre321

About the author

Brent Robillard is a writer, educator, craftsman, and watch enthusiast. He is the author of four novels. You can follow him on Instagram.


Off The Cuff articles are full-length, hands-on reviews of the watch (or strap…) in question and represent the opinion of the author only. All photos are original, unless specified otherwise. If you would like to have your watch reviewed on this site, contact us here.

Please understand that using any links to products on this site may result in us making money.

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