YEMA and auto racing have been synonymous since the launch of the first Rallygraf in 1966. Mario Andretti wore one in 1969 during his first and only Indy 500 win. Since then, the watch has undergone many iterations—most recently the Rallygraf Panda released in 2021, and the Limited Edition Michel Vaillant collaboration in the same year.
The latest reference, which launches today, is the Rallygraf Meca-Quartz. Inspired by vintage race car dashboards of the era, the Rallygraf is a nifty retro bi-compax in five new colourways. It sports a hybrid meca-quartz movement, the VK64 from Seiko, and proudly bears the signature crossed checkered flags that have become tantamount to the model since the 1960s.
The VK64 provides an inexpensive way to experience the joy of actuating a mechanical chronograph through a module attached to the quartz movement beneath. The central chronograph hand, also controlled by this module, therefore functions with a smooth sweep and operates with a flyback reset. The calibre provides for two sub-dials, including a 60-minute counter and 12/24-hour register.
Functioning alongside the chronograph is the Rallygraf’s tachymetric scale printed around the bezel. The calibration was originally designed so that racing teams could calculate a car’s average speed over distance. The bezel insert has a matte finish in order to maintain the watch’s vintage aesthetic.
Each timepiece—like the blue and red references featured here—has been coloured in the bright tones of race car liveries. Four of the five models use a white dial to invoke the ubiquitous panda configuration. The fifth, a black reference, does the reverse.
The case of the Ralyygraf has been fashioned from 316L stainless steel and has been finished in a mirror polish. It measures 39mm in diameter and only 11m thick. It has smooth pump pushers and a nicely sized, knurled push crown which has been signed with the brand logo. The watch boasts 100m of water resistance.
The hands and hour markers are made from polished steel and have been treated with BGW9 Super-LumiNova. The lume is surprisingly strong and long-lasting for a chronogprah, let alone a watch in this price point. The dial is a sandwich-style with recessed sub-registers and a printed minute track around the outer edge. There is nice depth overall with an angled, white rehaut separated from the rest of the dial by a coloured chapter ring. The chronograph hand sports a nice touch of red at the tip.
The Rallygraf can be purchased with a Milanese mesh bracelet; however, the brand also offers a colour-matched leather rally strap (featured here), locally sourced from a manufacturer in Franche Comté. The strap is strikingly similar to the colour used in the watch. It is also supple and does not need any breaking in out of the box.
|Case||316L Stainless Steel|
48mm Lug to Lug
20mm Lug Width
Tachymeter Scale on Bezel
Embossed Case Back and Push Crown
100m Water Resistance
|Dial & Crystal||Double-Domed K1 Mineral Crystal|
Date @ Six
|Movement||Seiko VK64 |
Hours (12/24), Minutes, Seconds,
/w Central Chronograph
|Strap||Leather Rallye Strap /w Stainless Steel Hardware|
or Mesh Bracelet
YEMA Rallygraf Meca-Quartz
Mario Andretti, who won 111 races over his long and illustrious career, only took the checkered flag once at the Indy 500. That day, on his wrist was a Wesley’s Rallye Chronograph. It was a watch designed and built by YEMA. Oddly, Andretti, who owned many watches—most of which were gifted to him by brands—actually purchased the Rallye Chrono himself. That watch featured a hand wound Valjoux 7730.
On the 50th anniversary of Andretti’s big win, YEMA recreated the watch—updating only the sapphire crystal and the automatic Valjoux 7753. It was limited to 1969 pieces.
The same design language is present in these latest Rallygrafs, from the case size and silhouette, to the tachymeter and “panda-eye” sub-dials.
If there is one thing YEMA always does right, it’s the dome. The Rallygraf crystal is no exception. At 2mm thick, it’s tough and lovely to look at. Nonetheless, a small part of me would have been happier to know it was sapphire, or even a vintage-inspired acrylic. But at this price, beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more value-packed chronograph with a similar racing pedigree to the YEMA Rallygraf Meca-quartz. With five colourways from which to choose, there is a little something for everyone. It’s well-made and full of vintage charm–not to mention fun. This one fits seamlessly into the YEMA tradition, checking all the hallmark boxes. And it looks good, too.
The YEMA Rallygraf Meca-quartz retails for $369USD. For more information, please visit the brand website.
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.
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One thought on “Off the Cuff: YEMA Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Chronograph”
Great read Robi, outstanding watches and a true value in todays market‼️