Yema’s support for the Alpine Endurance Team has certainly not escaped your attention if you are a watch collector or a car race fan. The watch brand has kindly entrusted me with the collection of 3 watches issued to salute this partnership. I’m delighted to be able to present it to you, in “Jerry’s way”.
Two men. Two destinies.
Henry-Louis Belmont, founder of Yema, is born in 1912. He is 36 years old when he creates Yema, in 1948, in Besançon (East of France)
Jean Rédélé, the brilliant creator of the very first Alpine, is born in 1922. He is only 33 years old when he founds in Dieppe (North of France) la « Société des automobiles Alpines », on 1955, June 25th.
Two men, two destinies. Both of them are these kind of men who make history, most often without knowing it. Both of them proved to be innovative and daring entrepreneurs. Both of them created famous French brands which survived the economic or strategic ups and down of the groups that bought them.
Parallel lines are only supposed to intersect at infinity. Fortunately for us, in the case of Yema and Alpine, the junction took place much earlier.
Jean Rédélé was a brilliant rallye driver who won a lot of races with special version of the Renault 4CV, especially in the Alpes. It is the reason of his company name, when he decided to create it in order to build his own race car. The first Berlinette A110, a very light and efficient car, was designed in 1962 by the Italian stylist (no « designer » at that time) Giovanni Michelotti.
You liked it ? Don’t miss the videos selection at the end of this article
On his side, under the pen of Daniel Jacquinot, Yema produced in the late 60’s its first chronographs explicitly dedicated to car racing. The most famous are, on the one hand, the Yema Rallygraf Super, powered with a rare Valjoux 72, and, on the other hand, the Yema Rallye « Andretti », worn by the famous driver Mario Andretti when he won the Indianapolis race in 1969.
It’s now that both brands destinies mix each other…
Among the Yema Rallye collection, the « Formica » models, so called by collectors because of the special texture of their sub-dials, reminding the brown clocks end kitchen furniture which were very fashionable in the 50’s/60’s, have my preference… They ware also designed by Daniel Jacquinot in the second half the 70’s. Indeed, you have probably already seen these advertising of the Yema Rally Formica with, in the back ground a picture of an Alpine Berlinette. On the first advertising, Number 8. On the second one, Number 79.
Be patient… You will see the watch and the adds a few lines further on.
Was Yema the official sponsor of Alpine during these car rallies?
70’s Yema Alpine chronographs
The hypothesis of an official partnership the hypothesis of an existing partnership was fuelled in particular by the publication of photos by Yema fans who published on different forums pictures of Yema chronographs stamped with the Alpine logo.
The first one is a Yema Rallye « Andretti looks like » chronograph, but with white and red stick hands (probably replacement hands). Thank you, Matthew Hussey for this exclusive pictures! Here, Alpine logo replaces the usual Yema logo printed at twelve o’clock on the dial.
The other one is a second generation of the Yema Rallye, with a middle case designed by Jean Müller around 1978 (Pictures shared by Behar on Chronomania forum). An Alpine Logo is stamped on the dial, at 4 o’clock, and and other one on the caseback.
Two watches. A decade between them.
A rigorous approach leads to arise a first question as I haven’t seen any other Yema chronograph of this kind: are these watches authentic? Honestly it is very difficult to answer it. However I want to believe it, especially for the first one, whose Alpine logo presents signs of wear. I conclude that the logo is period. In the 70’s, Yema was not a collectible brand and I doubt that someone would have played to produce a unique fake dial.
I would be very interested to get more information or pictures of these vintage Yema Alpine chronographs, especially proving there as been more than one item of each. If you have any clue, please send me a message!
Now, if we consider that these watches are authentic, it is quite tempting to make the hypothesis of an official partnership lasting for a few years. Tempting… In fact, nothing is less certain as we’ll see a bit later.
Just for pleasure, here are pictures of two amazing vintage Yema Rallye Chronographs, the famous “formica” and the later “sous marine”, posing in company of a scale model of the Alpine Berlinette which won 1973 Monte Carlo Rallye:
In June 2018, I have had a very interesting discussion with two Yema collectors, Vincent de Fresquet and Benoit Treilhou on Le Club Yema facebook group. Benoit opened the thread by publishing a Yema advertising with a Nb 79 Alpine Berlinette picture in the background, asking wether someone could help to get more information about it. A bit later, Marie Vaillant, a former Yema Employee, published an other ad with a Nb 8 Alpine Berlinette.
The challenge was funny. Vincent and I took it up.
The three of us searched the web. We investigated in our own relationship network. I found Matthew Hussey and Behar watches on watch fan forums. Benoît got some hints from friends working at Renault. Vincent got some answers from Bernard Darniche, one of the five teams drivers engaged in the world rallies championship 1973 for Alpine, who won the rally with 147 points and 6 wins, far ahead Fiat, with 81 points and 1 win. At the end, a few questions are answered, but true mysteries remain. Let’s see that together.
- In 1973, Tissot is the official Alpine Partner and gives the drivers a Tissot Chronograph. I found the here after advertising which proves it without any doubt (read the ad text).
2. In fact, not only in 1974, but also from 1977 to 1982, Tissot has been Renault Alpine official partner in various competitions as the 24 hours of Le Mans or in Formula 1 (source : Tissot website). According to available pictures on the web, Tissot was again Alpine official partner for the 24 hours of Le Mans from 2015 to 2020.
3. However, Bernard Darniche, who was at the wheel of the Alpine N°1 entered in the competition, confirmed that the 1973 pilots were offered a chronograph by Yema. Which one was it? The formica dial one? The Sous Marine Alpine logo stamped one?
4. How is it possible that Alpine teams were offered Yema Chronographs while Tissot was their official sponsor?
5. Considering all these information, it is highly probable that the Yema advertising presenting an Alpine A110 in the background are based on local partnerships with private teams, perhaps even on the initiative of local YEMA distributors.
6. One thing is certain: the mystery remains… and, obviously, Yema has never been Alpine official partner before 2023!
The YEMA Alpine Endurance Team Collection
You are waiting for it. Here comes the review of the exclusive collection created to celebrate the partnership between the two brands.
YEMA Rallygraf Alpine Endurance Team automatic
The Rallygraf “Alpine Endurance Team” automatic “three hands” is apparently the simpliest watch of the collection.
Two details mark its membership of the YEMA Alpine endurance team collection.
Obviously, the first one is the signature printed at 6:00.
However my favorite is the emblematic “A” used as counter-weight for the seconds hand.
A simple three hands watch ? Look at this bezel…
Does this ring a bell?
The Yema Rallygraf bezel is no more no less than a re-issue of the 70’s Yema meangraf bezel, with its average speed calculation circular slide rule. At that time, Yema had the good idea to engrave the instruction for use on the case back.
Clear enough? Let’s try together
Step 1, input the data: place the covered distance printed on the sliding bezel in front of the elapsed time printed on the flange. In this example, two hundred and forty kilometers covered in two hours.
Step 2, read the result in front of the mark: in this exemple, the average speed is, without any surprise, 120 km per hour.
Class homework for tomorrow: knowing that John Doe has covered in the 40.93 km of the two special races around the Col de Turini in the Alpes-Maritimes during 2023 Monte Carlo rally edition in 25 mn, what has been his average speed?
A few more design details
Simple 3 hands watch? Maybe. However this watch won’t go unoticed on the wrist (please make no comment on my shirt condition…).
The Mecaquartz chronograph
Since its launch in 2019, the success of the Yema mecaquartz chronographs, inspired by the car racing universe, has not waned. Consequently, the Alpine Endurance Team Yema collection could not miss it.
Equipped, like its predecessors, with an Hybrid VK64 Seiko movement, chronograph displays the well known sub dials: on the left, the minutes, linked to the tachymetric chronograph hand. On the right, a 24 hours dial. This mequaquartz movement seems to me a nice wink at a time when there’s a lot of talk about energy transition and hybrid engines,
A few details give the chronograph the Alpine touch: electric blue color of the subdials and on the peripheral minutes scale, plus a color reminder at the tip of the tachymetric hand. And, of course, the Alpine Blue White Red Endurance team signature on the dial, completed by the Alpine logo on the counterweight of the chronograph main hand! Oh ! I was just about to forget the Alpine logo on the crown face…
Here after, a picture of the pilots team during the teams parade at Le Mans in June 2023. Logo Yema on the pilots suit and chronograph Yema Rallygraf on the wrist!
The YEMA Alpine A470 ltd edition
The automatic (Valjoux 7753 inside) YEMA Alpine A470 chronograph, of which production is limited to 470 pieces, is the undisputed star of the collection. Let’s just say it right away: I love it!
It’s name obviously refers to the Alpine A470, which carried the brand colors in the LMP2 category at the 24 hours of Le Mans in June 2023, or at the 6 hours of Fuji, in Oyama, Japan, in september 2023.
The electric blue of this watch dial is obviously its main seduction asset, with a blue gradient, from a deep blue on the periphery, to the very flashy blue of the two counters (I agree: the picture could have been sharper…)
The brand’s DNA and legacy are reflected in the singular shape of the central area of the dial, under the Yema logo, recessed from the main surface, and obviously reminiscent of automotive dashboards. The tricolour Alpine Endurance Team signature is a natural fit there.
On this A470 chrono, Yema innovates by inserting the two sub-registers in relief from the bottom. This particular design, combined with their luminous color, make them very present. The quite large hands stand out clearly. The design is truly effective, combining aesthetics with function.
The Alpine counterweight of the chronograph main hand, common detail to the entire collection, gives the watch a true personality.
Last detail on the dial, but not the less interesting. The applied hour marks are incrusted in the inclined flange. It’s a pleasure to focus on it.
Now, let’s have a closer look to the body of this “racing car”. The polished finishing of the middle case adds lightness to this rather thick watch (12mm without the saphire crystal). The reliable Valjoux 7740 has to fit in somewhere… Yema designers had the good idea not to keep the date, which is not a quick setting one in this movement. The curved lugs make this chronograph very confortable to wear. A detail which change every thing on a massive watch.
The circular brushed finishing of the bezel, on its surface makes the tachymetric scale easy to read. The double-dome sapphire crystal adds a warm vintage touch to the watch.
My favorite detail of the Yema Alpine A470 chronograph is definitively the striated pushers with their polished head, evoking the pistons of a combustion engin. I almost hear the amazing sound of the GK-428 Gibson engine that powers the A470 Alpine…
This focus on the YEMA Alpine A470 case design would not be complete if I forgot the signed crown and caseback.
One more word before we cross the finish line. The YEMA Alpine A470 chronograph is fitted with a qualitative and truly comfortable rallye leather strap, “made by a French straps craftsman” says Yema official website. In this matter too, the brand accomplished progress.
The Yema Alpine Endurance team collection is a great success, allowing everyone, whatever their financial means, to enjoy a taste of the excitement that reigns in the pit of a racing team.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Alpine A424 performs in the premier class of endurance racing, and wish it all the success it deserves. See you at Le Mans in 2024!
One last look before you go?
And don’t forget
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- And for more about Alpine saga, watch these videos
- Have a look at the Yema Alpine endurance team collection on Yema website