Hands-On Yema Navygraph Marine Nationale Automatic

The Skinny

  • 39 x 47x 12.15mm
  • 300m water resistance
  • YEMA2000 time-only auto-winding (proprietary, assembled in France)
  • Steel Bracelet and Parachute Strap  
  • $849 USD

Marine Nationale Watches

The Marine Nationale (MN) is the French Navy, which includes a diverse and international array of legendary SCUBA squads. Watches made for the MN divers are highly collectible, and a few of those watches have been reissued over the past decade. Tudor seems to steal the spotlight for vintage Marine Nationale watches, and I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Other Brands like Arin, Casio, Beuchat and Yema are just as much in that mix.

This watch is an official timepiece of the Marine Nationale, and was designed in partnership with the MN. To be clear, however, the Marine National does not currently issue the Navygraph to those serving in the French Navy. Members of the Marine Nationale service man or woman can get a 50% discount code from their base’s store that can be used on Yema’s website, so there’s an official connection of sorts, but these are not, strictly speaking, military issue watches – though the original Navygraph was.

Yema Navygraf MN Marine Nationale Watch

The Case

Anytime that I hear “39mm”, I want to know more. Due to the detailed diagram of the case on Yema’s website, I had a sense of how the Navygraph would wear before receiving the loaner, and my expectations proved correct, which doesn’t always happen.

Image: Yema

The Navygraph fits much like my 39mm Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight or my Rolex Explorer II (Ref 16570). The lugs are proportionally on the long and slender side, tapering quickly from 39mm down the flank of the case to a slender 19mm between the horns. Yema chose to drill the lugs all the way through for easy strap changes and positioned the holes low to accommodate single-pass military-style straps.

Yema Navygraf MN Marine Nationale Watch
The case profile is reminiscent of a submarine hatch.

Yema does not hide the cylindrical housing of the dial and movement on the Navygraph as, say, Rolex does with the Oyster-case design. The exposed housing is emphasized by the unidirectional bezel’s similarly vertical design. The overhang of the bezel makes for excellent grip.

The flat sapphire crystal keeps the watch to a height of 12.15mm for the mechanical version, though Yema also offers a quartz version that is only 11mm thick. I suggest not dismissing the slimmer quartz version of the Navygraft MN, especially at just $399 USD. I even wonder if the quartz version might be the cooler watch, though I’ve not handled it.

Yema Navygraf MN Marine Nationale Watch
Yema, Saphire Crystal, 30 Bar, France, All Steel, Automatic, Navy, Since 1626

While Yema’s case brushing felt consistent to the touch throughout the Navygraph MN. The caseback is closed and features the Marine Nationale anchor logo. Yema is sure to remind us on the caseback that the Navygraph is rated for 30 Bar / 300m. 

The Dial and Bezel

The Navygraf Marine Nationale in-hand here is the second generation of this model from Yema. The most noticeable aesthetic difference in the second generation Navygraf MN was a cleaner navy blue and white colorway instead of the previous model’s fauxtina. I dig it. The styling also matches the present-day Marine Nationale uniforms quite well. The Yema Naygraft MN is a true navy blue that looks black in low light. It’s very dark, like a wool pea coat.

Yema Navygraf MN Marine Nationale Watch

Taking it one step further, Yema used a gold script typeface on the dial for ‘Navygraph’. This is indicative of a ship’s badge in traditional naval heraldry, and reminiscent of the gold piping found on many Navy uniforms in France and the USA. At six o’clock, the Marine Nationale is unapologetically displayed with the anchor logo loud and proud. That anchor pulls visual focus and, thus, sets the vibe of the watch, so keep that in mind. The decision to forego the date window was wise, given the business of the text on this dial.

Yema Navygraf MN Marine Nationale Watch
Yema pulls the design together

The painted hour indices match the white hands. Yema treated both with Swiss Super-Luminova® BGW9. I found it to be just OK in low light, lacking real pop, likely due to lower quantities applied when a metal marker frame isn’t there to hold more lume. At the base of the hands, navy blue takes over towards the pinion and quiets down center of the dial in a good way.

Yema used glossy blue paint over flat white to give the navy blue bezel that vintage bakelite (plastic) look. It’s a fitting treatment that has the same nostalgic appeal as the script ‘Navygraph’ in gold on the dial and the lack of metal marker surrounds. All told, it’s a convincing vintage vibe without resorting to fauxtina and other gimicks.

The Movement

I think Yema’s proprietary movements deserve our attention and admiration. The mechanical automatic YEMA2000 caliber can confidently be compared to the specs of the ETA 2824-2 (Sellita SW200-1) and Miyota 9105. Though ETA and Sellita offer high-grade versions of their movements that will pass COSC certifications, most are on par with the YEMA2000.

Movement CaliberPower ReserveDaily RateMax. VariationAdjustment Positions
YEMA20042 hours-/+ 10 s/d-/+ 25 s/d4 (DU,6H,9H,3H)
ETA 2824-238 hours-/+ 12 s/d-/+ 30 s/d2 (DU,6H)
Miyota 910542 hours-10 ~ +30 s/d-10 ~ +30 s/d4 (DU,6H,9H,3H)

The YEMA2000 is a true no-date movement, unlike the previous MN version that had the phantom crown position for setting the date and, I assume, still housed the date wheel. I experienced -7 seconds per day performance, which is impressive. The power reserve lived up to its specification of about 40 hours. 

Yema assembles and regulates its in-house movements in France, but the subcomponents are sourced elsewhere. Unlike Sellitas, ETAs, and Miyotas, Yema in-house parts may be harder to source if needed for service. The first version of the YEMA200 caliber has been in production for about a decade, and components such as the hairspring regulator and reversing wheels have been improved along the way. That’s a good thing, except it may cause confusion decades down the road, should that be a concern.

The Bracelet and Strap

I love steel bracelets and Yema did not disappoint with the Navygraf. The H-link design for the bracelet is very 70s and refreshingly not another Rolex/Oyster knock-off. In fact, Yema’s stylization leans more Japanese than European, with hints of Seiko diver design like the H-link pattern creeping in. A lug width of 19mm used to make finding straps difficult, but more options are available at 19mm today than ever before. The Yema bracelet tapers down to 16mm at the clasp.

Yema Navygraf MN Marine Nationale Watch Bracelet
The Yema H-link bracelet is very 70’s Seiko

The enlinks are solid and are easily removed for strap changes. The Yema clasp does come with a divers extension that feels a bit flimsy when it’s open. I would have liked to see Yema’s efforts go upmarket with a quick micro-adjustment feature in the clasp as opposed to the dive extension. (Editor’s Note: For SCUBA use, an expansion clasp is a must, and micro-adjustment is generally useless. – Allen) Links are added or removed with a pin and collar system. There is a bit of flair caused by the lack of space between the endlink and the first link. It’s a minor concession for snugly connected bracelet links.

Yema Navygraf MN Marine Nationale Watch Bracelet
The dive extension is hidden in the clasp

A parachute-style elastic strap is included. Yema did not send me one of these straps for review, but if you are familiar with Erika’s or the Watch Steward, you get the idea. Historically, Marine Nationale divers would fashion their own straps out of elastic parachute belts. The elasticity of these make-shift straps made it possible to slip the watch on and off easily for daily wear with also being able to fit over a wetsuit without resizing. It’s a nice touch to include the strap.  

Misjudged Inclusivity

Yema offers the Navygraf Marine Nationale watch in a “Femme” model. At the time of publication, the Femme MN is the only women’s watch in the Yema catalog. Yema didn’t “shrink it and pink it”, but they might as well have. The Marine Nationale Femme is sized-down to 34mm, houses a white bezel insert, and ships on a shiny Milanese mesh bracelet with a white leather strap as the extra option, instead of the traditional MN-style parachute strap. Hmmm….

Yema Navygraf MN Marine Nationale Watch
Yema Marine Nationale Femme Image: Yema

I find it hard to stomach that the first women’s official military watch in the history of the Marine Nationale needs to deviate so far from the larger version, and that it does so with what are traditionally considered feminine design cues. This smaller women’s model only emphasizes the fact that these are not military issue watches, even though they are “official.”

The feminization of the smaller model also begs a number of relevant questions about gender that have plagued militaries ever since women began to serve. Also, might a male soldier not possibly prefer the smaller model with the white-bezel? There are valid reasons to stop categorizing watches according to gender and letting the customers decide what they prefer without having to confront gendered categories.

This is a Great Watch For The Money

Anything comparable from Seiko is now well north of $1000 and anything Swiss with comparable Sellita/ETA movement will be more expensive. Yema will never have the international appeal and accepted status of a Seiko or Rolex, but for those of us who collect many watches, or those who want to be different, or those who simply don’t care about brand status, Yema divers are, objectively speaking, really excellent choices at a good price point. And the niche historical place Yema holds as having one supplied real mil-spec watches to elite divers of the Marine Nationale only adds depth to the brand. In a crowded market, Yema has, with the Navygraph, truly distinguished themselves among so many brands that fail to do so at all.

Yema Navygraf MN Marine Nationale Watch
On the author’s 6.75″ wrist