Hands-On – Yema Superman 500 GMT 39mm

The Skinny

  • 39x48x13.92mm
  • Stainless steel case
  • 500m water resistance
  • YEMA3000 – in-house caliber, automatic, 42-hour power reserve, date, GMT
  • Date of release November 2022
  • Price upon release $1,399 (steel bracelet)

About Yema, Quickly

Yema grows on me a little more with every new release. Its designs range broadly from the futuristic LED Kavinsky to the vintage-inspired Navygraph Marine Nationale dive watch. Yema’s designs are thoughtfully familiar while being unapologetically French. Yema has developed a design language unique enough that it’s unfair to classify the brand as a wishful homage tweaker, but I can’t help fall down the trap of direct comparison. I spent a lot of time, too much time, trying to assess if the Superman 500 GMT was comparable to a Steinhart Ocean GMT, for example, but in the end I think there is enough to set the Yema Superman 500 GMT apart from the crowd of accessibly-priced Rolex GMT Master homages.

Yema Superman 500 GMT

The Intriguing Bezel-Lock

The first time that I handled a Yema it was a vintage model with the curious the bezel-lock we find on this GMT. How quirky it seemed. Originally a safety mechanism on dive watches requiring that the bezel not turn during a dive, the locking mechanism has since become a signature Yema features, and I’m glad to see it on the Superman GMT.

The lock works by pulling out the crown, adjusting the bezel, and then resecuring the crown, thus pushing the lock against the bezel and securing it. Yema improved the bezel-lock for the 500 series watches. It now feels less floppy when the crown is out.

Yema Superman GMT 500

Some people find the bezel lock odd on any watch, and especially so on a GMT. However, it can always be removed and the crown stem adjusted to compensate. After all, on this GMT there is no need for it as the bezel is a twenty-four-click bi-directional that stays put without it. I prefer it because the bezel-lock says: This is a YEMA, not a GMT Master

Two Case Options, 39mm and 41mm

The Superman 500 GMT is available in both 39mm and 41mm case sizes. If found the 39mm easily wearable on my 6.75” wrist, and I mostly wear your standard-issue Rolex sports watches that hover around 40mm.

Both sizes feature a fully brushed case that help contrast the shininess of the glassy acrylic insert on the black & white colorway and makes the watch feel more utilitarian than a more polished dressy tool watch.

Yema Superman 500 GMT

The 500m of water resistance is overkill, making both sizes 13.92mm tall to the top of the crystal. However, the double-domed sapphire crystal accounts for 2.38mm of that height, making the Superman 500 wear much thinner than those numbers suggest. Yema does a great job of giving customers a proper dimensional picture of each watch on its website. This provides a layer of risk protection to support DTC (direct-to-consumer) e-commerce sales. 

The Bracelet

I enjoy YEMA bracelets. Yema quality control excels at maintaining the tolerances for the solid endlinks in relation to the case. I test this by the ease of using spring bar pliers to remove and install the endlinks. If this process is easy and the endlinks are snug to the case and lugs, Violla! The five-link brushed bracelet is comfortable and features two rows of polished links. Yema also offers the Superman 500 GMT on a leather ($1259) or FKM ($1429) strap. The lug width on the 39mm model is 19mm (as reviewed), while the 41mm model is 20mm.

Yeman Superman 500 GMT

Colors & Dial Details

As of late 2022, the Yema Superman 500 GMT was currently available in three colorways Red & Blue (Pepsi), Grey & Blue, and Black & White (reviewed). This is where the watches differ the most.

The Red & Blue and Blue & Grey aluminum bezel inserts feature lumed hour markings. The Black & White (reviewed) has a sapphire bezel insert that is lumed from below. I felt like a little kid playing with my ultraviolet flashlight thanks to plenty of Grade A BGW9 Super-LumiNova. 

Yema Superman GMT 500

One of the best decisions that Yema made was to paint the 24-hour hand black leaving only the triangular tip red. It’s much less disruptive to the dial this way. One line of 500 METERS red text and painted hour markers reminds you that the Superman 500 GMT has dive watch origins, and Yema classifies the multi-time zone, Superman as a dive watch in its catalog. Interestingly, possibly an oversight, the dial does read “WORLDTIME” and not “GMT” as Yema’s catalog indicates for the reference YGMT22A39-AMS. Which is it?

Yema Superman GMT 500

The Movement

In its three lines of lower text, the Yema Superman 500 GMT also reads “AUTOMATIQUE”. It is powered by the in-house YEMA3000 GMT movement. Based on the three-hand YEMA2000 base caliber, the YEMA3000 was designed at Yema’s workshop in France. The actual manufacturing of the Yema movements is outsourced but returned to Yema’s facilities in Morteeau, France for assembly into the case and regulation.

Notably, the YEMA3000 is not modified and rebranded Miyota or Selitta movement. That would put Yema’s in-house calibers YEMA2000 & YEMA3000 in “Category 3” according to Allen Farmelo’s “Modes of In-house Production“. Allen defines Category 3 as follows: proprietary movement developed and/or produced with outside partnership, but the Yema calibers here are, in fact, proprietary in-house movements. This is something that you will not find in most watches from independent brands at this price point.

Yema caliber 2000

In the dial-up position on the timegrapher, the YEMA3000 measured: +2s/d, 226° of amplitude, and a beat error of .01ms while running at a beat rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour. I’m not sure what more a consumer could ask for in this price bracket as I have found the factory regulation of Seiko’s 6R series movements atrocious. 

The Post-Pandemic Benefit of Caller GMTs

The caliber YEMA3000 automatic movement features a “caller” GMT complication, meaning the GMT hand jumps individually, rather than the hour-hand, which on a “flyer GMT” jumps.

There is a certain prestige to “flyer GMT” watches with local jumping hour hands. But today the romanticism that the wearer could fly far away on a moment’s notice is stifled by dirty airport bathrooms and in-flight coffee that tastes like aviation fuel.

Yema Superman 500 GMT

The post-pandemic business environment has changed work-related travel drastically for me. Travel budgets have been slashed and replaced with a never-ending schedule of virtual Microsoft Teams meetings, making a caller GMT more useful. I found it handy to set the 24-hour hand twelve hours early to account for the offset from New York to Shanghai. Later in the day I flip the GMT hand back six hours to keep up with the local operational schedule in Budapest.

That’s where I draw the line because trying to track three time zones simultaneously makes my head explode. 

Yema’s Got What Others Lack

Like most modern YEMA watches, France is proudly displayed on both the dial and caseback as prominently as you might find SWISS. France has strong roots in watchmaking and many Swiss watchmaking facilities are supported today by French employees who commute across the border to Switzerland. With modern global trade happening behind the scenes in the supply chain, contemporary watchmaking regionalism is more marketing narrative than truth.

Yema Superman GMT 500 Caseback

Meanwhile, in Japan, Seiko has been increasingly underwhelming while increasing its price point, and internationally most independent brands aren’t mature enough to pull from their past.

Yema offers something really compelling: a French branded watch with heritage, in-house movements, and some design cues that set them apart from the pack. I bought a Yema diver recently, and I’d highly recommend anyone seeking a mechanical GMT to consider the Superman 500 GMT. There’s a ton on offer here.