When you are a watch amateur like me, having the opportunity to disassemble and reassemble a brand new caliber is always a great pleasure. A mixture of excitement (what am I going to discover?) and apprehension (what am I going to break?).
When the caliber in question is part of a watchmaker’s bold strategic move, the pleasure is coupled with a feeling of consciousness about what is at stake for those who designed it, produce it, and “incidentally” invest their money in it.
Moreover, when the brand in question is one you are familiar with its history and heritage, and the brand entrust you its latest caliber for an independent review, a smell of gratitude is floating in the air (do you ear the background violins melody?).
OK. Let’s come back to earth. I am well aware that I am part of the brand’s marketing strategy. I know this. They know I know this. This is the game. However I will not shy away from my fun and I am very happy to share this review with you.
But what is this all about? Today I have the pleasure to reverse engineer and review the new YEMA 3000 GMT caliber that equips the Superman Bronze GMT for which there was a successful Kickstarter campaign back in October. YEMA has communicated a lot on the improvements made to its first generation caliber MBP1000. That’s a peace of luck: I have one such caliber that has been lying around for a long time in one of my drawers. Perfect for a detailed side-by-side comparison.
Several things motivated me to perform this review: First, the official announcements made by YEMA. Secondly, the extended interview published at Horlogerie Francophone, a very friendly french Facebook group, and thirdly, a recent videoconference I had with Nicolas Bailly (YEMA’s recently appointed Technical & Quality Manager), who was kind enough to give some of his time to clarify my questions. I take this opportunity to thank him.
Here we go!
The YEMA 3000 GMT back side
YEMA communicates to have improved certain components aiming at making the caliber more accurate and reliable. Let us review these improvements one by one.
The oscillating weight design
You do not need to be a great watchmaker to notice that the design of the Geneva stripes has slightly evolved along the inscriptions and the logo. We are talking here about a simply aesthetic change. The thinner lettering and the “Maison Horlogère Française – Calibre YEMA3000” illustrates the brand’s ambition to make of this new caliber, as well as its second-generation YEMA2000 caliber, a major lever of growth.
The oscillating weight is easily disassembled thanks to its central screw. Right below we find the first bridge that supports the rotor. The cogwheels of the two automatic winding mechanism reversers are also revealed.
I am a little divided about the pearl pattern, the decorative pattern consisting of small circles (pearls) applied to the surface of the bridges by grinding. Nowadays this pattern has become somewhat standard for generic calibers equipping watches with exhibition case-backs, which seems to me more of an aesthetic technique to visually uplift the caliber’s overall perception. On the other side, it reflects the brand’s desire to offer a movement with an attractive finishing. We will get back to this subject later on.
The reversing wheels optimization
The self-winding mechanism is visible on the back of the bridge.
On the left, the two reversing wheels which have been improved for this second-generation caliber. When the rotor weight rotates clockwise or counter clockwise, the right-hand reverser function is to always turn in the same direction, winding the barrel by means of the two transmission wheels that are visible on the right side of the picture.
The reversing mechanism is a small, quite technical component, made up of two cogwheels laid out against a non-return ratchet. The flush fitting design of the components are visible on above picture.
Is this improvement visible to the eye? Yes. I was however happy that Nicolas BAILLY confirmed my assumptions. Have a look:
On the left, under my X10 inspection lens, we can see the YEMA3000 GMT reversing wheel Vs. the MBP1000 one to the right. The improvement in the quality of the finish, the ratchet one in particular, is clearly visible. This is enough to significantly improve the performance of the automatic self-winding mechanism as well as the power reserve when the watch is laid flat on the bedside table at night. By the way, in what position do you place your watch when it is off your wrist? On the edge ? On its crown? On its case-back?
At this stage the caliber is starting to reveal its core components, its heart: The balance wheel and the hairspring, mounted on the balance-cock bridge. The other important bridges are also visible. Their cut-out is rustic, but clean. Even though is not fully visible in this picture, the variety of finishes (polished screws, sunray finishing on the crown wheel, the brass look of the ratchet and the circular-grained finishing of the bridges) as a whole is pleasant to the eye. Overall, the YEMA3000 GMT finishing seems of a superior quality than the one of the MBP1000, especially under a magnifying glass. I believe this is not just a random aspect but the brand’s attention to small details.
The airspring regulator improvement
The airspring regulator is the device for adjusting the watch’s movement. By moving to the left or to the right the regulator index (see the white arrow), you lengthen or shorten the active length of the hairspring: Shortening the hairspring results in the balance wheel oscillating faster. Loosening the hairspring will make your caliber to beat a bit more slowly. To be more specific with an exemple, you can see on the above picture that the setting of the right regulator leads to shorter effective length of the airspring and, consequently, a faster beat of the balance wheel than the setting of the left one.
Just for fun I will let you play the “spot the difference” game… which I recognize I lost. I had to request Nicolas Bailly’s insight to better understand the exact improvements made on this component. He explained to me that YEMA redesigned the central core (where the jewel takes place) in such a way that the racket hold is firmer and the setting made by the watchmaker more stable over time. The accuracy setting of the caliber is therefore more reliable. I tested it. It looked firmer to me indeed.
You will have noticed that the shock absorber is a Novodiac® type. If you are interested, a comparison of the types of shock absorbers can be found on the Incabloc.sa website
The first exclusive YEMA caliber
Under the rotor, I discover a meaningful small detail that deserves to be mentioned. For the first time in the brand’s history (at least to my knowledge), a bridge plate is engraved with the YEMA logo! As a fan of the brand, I almost shed a tear. According to YEMA this engraving will be visible for all calibers delivered only as from February 2021, which is probably due to stock management
Let’s now have a look at the other side of the caliber !
The YEMA 3000 GMT front side
The GMT complication
Here’s what’s right under the watch dial. First, we can see the wheel auctioning the GMT hand. This is the first time that I have taken a GMT movement apart, so I’m very curious to understand how it works.
I take off the GMT wheel. Right below we find the bridge which protects the timer’s components. Again, the overall finishing forms a nice contrast against the hour wheel brass. After all, I start to like this pearl pattern…
Within the first picture below, we can see the timer components found under the bridge. The second picture is for my own pleasure, a nice perspective. The outer rim is formed by the ring which leaves enough space under the dial to accommodate the moving parts (date disc wheel in particular).
We can now identify the different components and play again the “spot the difference game” between the YEMA3000 GMT and its older brother the MBP1000.
The calendar wheel improvement
This wheel pushes forward the date disc, the setting jumper holds the date mechanism in place, a simple “V” shaped blame which fits between date disc cogs. This time I easily manage to spot the differences. Shall we have a look? On the left, the YEMA3000 GMT, on the right the MBP 1000.
You can see that the YEMA3000 GMT calendar driving wheel lever goes deeper into the date disc cogs. As a result of it, the date disc is carried forward in a more accurate way. This technical improvement combined with an improved date jumper bending (pointed out by Nicolas Bailly), facilitates a smoother and more precise date jump. By the way, I appreciate the new date disc calligraphy that Yema has been using for some time now.
The calendar and GMT hand corrector
With this review, I’m glad to discovered how the quick set date mechanism is modified by the addition of a GMT function on the movement. On the left, the YEMA3000 GMT quick set date mechanism GMT, on the right the one of the MBP1000.
Let’s proceed from right to left. The calendar corrector wheel is composed of a lower part, a cogwheel, and an upper part in the shape of a 3-blade propeller, which pushes forward the date disc. On the left picture, a third component has been added. The fine cogs of this new component allow setting the GMT hand.
At this point, it seemed much easier to make a video. I reassembled everything except the bridges in order to make visible the whole mechanism.
In case you are discovering a mechanic caliber for the first time, you might ask yourself “what’s the purpose of the holding bridges when everything seems to be holding perfectly in place? The answer: To avoid what cannot be seen on this video i.e. all components that were not held by a screw felt apart!
The setting lever jumper
Let now have a look at one component that has remained same and that is the source of discussions on forums and Facebook groups: The setting lever jumper.
The setting lever jumper is the part that allows you to change the watch setting function by pulling on the crown. On the MBP1000 caliber and the second-generation ones 3 positions are possible: Disengaged setting, date setting (and GMT hand for the YEMA3000), hour minute setting.
Here are pictures of this component, in each position:
If you own the first no-date models produced before September 2020 (Navygraf, Superman Heritage Bronze), you have probably experienced the “ghost-date” phenomenon i.e. an intermediate date position, which was of no use since the date was not visible on the dial.
The good news is that from now on, a 2 or 3 positions crown will be proposed depending on your watch model (date, no-date). End of the useless noch! In itself, this isn’t really a revolution but this clearly illustrates YEMA’s desire to adapt its caliber to future no-date models while honouring the expectations from their customers, who raised this critical point several times, and who, let’s not forget, also have in reference watches equipped with ETA or SEIKO movements on which the problem does not arise.
Are you still reading? I’m always afraid to be too long or too technical for those who discover watchmaking… and too much of an amateur for the season experts who could ask for more 😉
You will find below the only official document I borrowed from YEMA, two exploded diagrams of the new YEMA3000 GMT caliber without which this article would not be complete.
The YEMA 3000 GMT: a bet on the future
There are a couple of ways to approach a caliber like the YEMA3000 GMT:
- By emphasizing its weakness or what it lacks compared to its competitors. This is necessary, in order to achieve progress and meet customer expectations.
- By emphasing its potential, to look at the future
Aside from a higher-quality level of finishing and a few technical details I mention in this review, it will take a much higher knowledge and watchmaking skills I do not possess to come to a much objective and factual assessment of the quality of this new caliber, so my conclusion is to be interpreted as a modest and cautious one.
Some areas for possible improvement are obvious. For example, the Novodiac® shock absorber characteristic of standard grade calibers, could be replaced by a higher quality one. However, such an improvement comes at a cost which would probably be passed on to the customer’s wallet, or might diminish the company’s margin and therefore its ability to reinvest in R&D.
Strenghts & Perspective
If we rule out those French brands and the small French independent watchmakers that propose high-end calibers (you will find some of them by following the links proposed on my blog), to my knowledge YEMA is today the only French brand that has taken the strategic decision and financial risks involved in the development of its own caliber. It also shows the company’s willingness to invest in the future, betting on a long-term vision. Through their press releases, YEMA clearly shows their ambition to position the YEMA2000 and 3000 calibres as the French option to “standard grade” movements. As a reminder, the standard grade refers to the ETA scale of 4 finishing (Standard, Elaborate, Top and Chronometer). Maybe one day YEMA will offer its movement to other French brands as an alternative to the usual ETA or SEIKO equivalents, who knows! I bet they will! In all cases, I applaud the dynamism of the brand and I admit that this move awakes my patriotic feelings 😉
A little scoop authorised by YEMA who will officially communicate about it soon: YEMA has started a collaboration with a renowned French watchmaker, Patrick Augereau. You just have to search like me on the web to find out that he was, among other things, engineer at CETEHOR (please read my article on the AIRAIN Type 20 Chronograph to know more about CETEHOR) and former researcher and designer of a lubrication-free escapement for Audemar Piguet in 2006. Patrick Augereau will assist YEMA’s watchmakers in future technical improvement of their third generation caliber.
More good news: William Germain, Brand’s Director, whispered in my ear that YEMA is studying the feasibility of producing all caliber components in France, which represents a double challenge. First, they need to find high-skilled manufacturers in France which is not that simple, most of these ancillary providers closed down after the great French watchmaking crisis of the 70s and 80s. Secondly, they will need to find a way to maintain production costs and attractive selling prices to be in line with the mid-range positioning of YEMA.
All this announces an exciting and promising future!
If you enjoyed reading this review, please check out the other articles published in my blog. Feel free to follow me on Instagram to be alerted for future reviews. You can find more photos of the YEMA3000 GMT in the gallery below.
Watch enthusiasts know very well that time flies and cannot be caught up. So take care of yourself!
PS: you will find below original text, written in French (much easier for me) to download…. Special thank to the “little fairy” who helped me to translate this ambitious review to English)