Part 2. Diving in the 80’s… and a little later.
In lines that follow, you will read about the YEMA Navygraf 3 and following. And most of all, about the Navygraf technical evolutions threw years. To draw full benefit of this article, maybe you should read Part1. Diving in the 70′s first.
The YEMA Navygraf 3
The YEMA Navygraf 3 | R4 043 6 Quartz
At the very end of the 70’s, Jean Müller designed the YEMA Navygraf 3. Everything is new in this watch, excepted the locking rod and the thick crown shoulder that have been kept.
The idea of a bezel that can’t be torn off is still there. But the two holding plates of the beginning are replaced by 4 lateral claws. The Navygraf 3 bezel is now unidirectional, leading to a better reliability of the watch in diving situation. The weak point of this bezel is its diameter. Smaller than the case, it makes it difficult to handle. The case is indeed 38mm wide (without the crown), while the bezel is only 37mm. The lug to lug distance is 44mm
The YEMA Navygraf 3 is, like its elders, 990 feet waterproof.
I owned two version of this watch (see below). The difference stands in the two lines inscription on the lower part of the dial. On the first version (left), the depth inscription, printed in red, stands on the bottom line. On the other one, it climbs on the first line. Red and white colors are also reversed.
I had put the final point to this retrospective and was just a few days before publishing it when, coming out from “nowhere”, a Yema enthusiast posted on FB a picture with a dial I had never seen. Instead of “Navygraf”, the dial was printed with “Navigraf”, with an “i”. Proof, if it was necessary, that there is always something more to discover. Here it is:
I don’t have any explanation to this dial. Strange isn’t it ?
All these models are equipped with the same quartz movement, the France Ebauche FE 8121.
Simultaneously, YEMA adds a diving extension to the stainless steel strap. A detail much appreciated by divers that are able to wear the watch upon their diving combination without any other adjustment.
The YEMA Navygraf 3 | 53 043 6 Automatic
What a surprise when I discovered this watch on the most famous watch forum FAM, of which I am a long time member! A Navygraf 3 automatic!
For years I had been convinced that YEMA produced the Navygraf 3 exclusively with a quartz movement. This watch is the only one I have ever met and I thank its owner for allowing me to reproduce these pictures. We both discussed about the probability that this watch was really produced or not. The dial looks authentic. Who would loose time to print a false dial for a watch that doesn’t have a high reputation on the collection market? The caseback has a reference quite coherent with the rule presented at the beginning of this article. 53 (for the movement), 043 for the middle case, 6 for the solid stainless steel. In a nutshell, both of us don’t have enough information to decide what to believe whether this watch is a prototype or a watch made of spare and “exclusive” parts.
This will remain a mystery for me but I think, however, that this watch it is worth mentioning here.
The YEMA Navygraf 3 | T9 043 6
1982. The phenomenon of concentration experienced by the French watchmaking industry since the beginning of the 1970s gives birth to Matra Horlogerie. YEMA changes ownership. The founder of the company Henry-Louis Belmont retired, leaving his place to his son, Henry-John. He himself leaves the group in 1985/1986 after a few painful years. Jean Müller follows suit. He also leaves the company and hands over to Janek Deleskievicz who has been working alongside him for 2 years.
The main change for the Navygraf 3 is its movement. The watch is now equipped with a quartz Shiojiri (Hattori/Seiko) Y112 7010.
However the above illustration points out an interesting detail: from the left to the right, see the change in the brand visual identity. On the left, the now old “modern” logo with the capital letter Y in hollow print, the first watch of the serial. In the middle, same dial with the red “quartz” mention and the new brand signature, without any logo. On the right, same visual identity, all letters in white and depth in meters. All of them have the same reference on their caseback.
And for the first time… women have their dedicated dive watch in the YEMA collection, with the 31mm YEMA Navygraf T5.052.6! I love it.
The YEMA Navygraf 3 T9 043 6 also existed in a black case. The logo on the dial is still the capital letter Y in hollow print already mentioned. This watch was presented on the 78e International Jewelry Show (see below). Extremely rare. I never had on in hand and just found one picture of it on the web. Here it is.
I have to precise that didn’t have the opportunity to see the caseback of this watch. Consequently I have no formal proof of the reference. I deduced it by cross-checking information and in particular by its presence on the poster of the 1984 Bijorhca International Jewellery Show (see below).
Yes… Again… Unfortunately, I don’t earn any money on these advertising breaks. I should have negociated better…
The following publication is an invitation to visit on the YEMA stand, at the 78e BIJOHRCA (International Jewellery Show in Paris). It shows the Navygraf 3 “black case”. I also draw your attention to the “YEMA 1000 m” presented on the bottom right. Probably the last dive watch designed by Jean Müller for YEMA, it is the most waterproof watch ever produced by the brand.
I don’t know whether the special branded “scratch” black strap ever existed. But it increases the “tool spirit” of the watch. This black version of the Navygraf 3 was still in the catalog during the 80e BIJORHRCA. It’s quite surprising that there are so few existing models for a watch that has remained in the catalog for many years.
The YEMA Navy
Despite a few illustrious watches, such as the YEMA North Pole of Jean-Louis Etienne, designed under the direction of Richard Mille who worked at Matra Horlogerie at that time, the Matra experience is a failure. In 1988, the main part of the watchmaking activity is sold to Hattori Seiko, which creates the C.G.H (Compagnie Générale Horlogère), in order to distribute products of the brands Seiko, Pulsar, Jaz, Lorus, Lassale and YEMA.
The Yema Navygraf remains a reference in the dive watch collection, with a few design changes on both hands and dial. The watch name printed on the dial is shortened and becames “Navy”, ref RT 0436 TR.
I met two kind of inscriptions on this dial, one of which with a red “quartz” word. A nice and welcome touch of color. I don’t know which one was the first edition.
The document below is quite funny. It presents a YEMA “Navy” under the name of “Navigraf I”. Number 1? And with an “I”, not a “y”, please. Again? “Who am I really?” could ask the watch on her psy couch… History seems to repeat itself. However, for a good understanding of the rest of this retrospective, let’s call this watch the Yema Navygraf I “CGH”.
The YEMA Navygraf II “C.G.H”
The coming Navygraf is very different. Almost everything has been changed, the locking rod excepted.
The most interesting detail here is the bidirectional bezel, and the way it is fixed to the case middle. We’ll come to that point later. This watch has been produced with two different inserts, one of which was engraved with the name Nayvgraf II, the other, not.
Second particular point that is worth pointing out is the strap that can’t be separated from the case, due to its fixed riveted bars.
The screwed caseback in engraved with the reference Y 90 N 16 for the model with the “Navygraf II” bezel. The watch is referenced Y1057 on the leaflet below. Probably its true commercial reference. The other one has a T 90 N 16 reference.
It is again the reliable quartz Shiojiri Y112 A 3 jewels that animates the watch. As the YEMA navy was referenced “Navigraf I”, this one is called Navygraf II by the design team. No proof of that, but this is in any case the best rational explanation I have imagined.
Commercial Break again? Ooooh yes…
Don’t try to call +22.214.171.124.63.63 to have your old Navygraf T 90 N 16 repaired. No one will pick up the phone (Yes. I checked!).
The YEMA Scuba Diver line
In 1994, YEMA presents a new dive watch collection baptized the “Scuba line”. The case remains the same as the previous Yema Navygraf “3T” line and Yema Navy, but the no name is printed on the dial. However, a new inscription appears for the first time: “professionnel”. We will understand the reason of these novelties in the following part.
A Seiko/Epson Corp. VX42E 0 Jewel give life to the watch. The YEMA Scuba collection includes two models for man (VQOT766 N and VQOT766 B) and two models for woman (XA0B66 N and XA0B66 B). The last letter in the watch reference is for the dial color. “N” for “Noir”/Black, “B” for “Blanc”/White.
The Scuba is the first “Navygraf” with an engrave YEMA logo on the crown.
This Navygraf Scuba has got one of the typical 6 holes Seiko caseback and a slightly engraved Yema logo.
The “new” YEMA Navygraf line
Both the following Navygraf appeared in the first half of 90’s. They were part of the same collection as the Scuba, and, like it, waterproof to 300 meters. It is funny to notice that, despite their name, they don’t have the so characteristic locking rod, while the “professional” Scuba has it.
Of course, you didn’t missed the colored logo, first introduced during the “Seiko Period”. The caseback is also very characteristic of the YEMA/Seiko” period, with the waterproofness indication in the middle. Quite logically, this watch has a screw-down crown.
Commercial break! (I swear. It’s the last one.)
On the ad’ below, you will immediately identify the YEMA “Scuba” in the center, but also, in the upper left corner, the YEMA Navygraf YE 140 and on the right middle edge, the blue bezel of the YEMA Navygraf YE 141… A good way to confuse generations of collectors!
The C.G.H ceases its activity in 1996 and separates from the YEMA brand. In 2008 Louis-Eric Beckensteiner tries to revive the brand by creating YEMA Maison horlogère française 1948. But it is dropped by its main shareholder, the Asian distribution group Peacemark, in the middle of launching the collection that should bring YEMA to the forefront of the international watchmaking scene. This is the end of YEMA. The end ? … Not quite…
Part 3: years of technical enhancement
From its first appearance in the catalog until today, the YEMA Navygraf has been constantly modified and improved.
From one model to the next, the technical changes are mostly invisible. Their main purpose has been to improve the bezel locking system or to offer alternatives. They are inseparable from the evolution of the case. A good example of the adage dear to designers: the use makes the shape.
The initial patent 2.370.307
As we have seen at the beginning of this retrospective, the 1976 Navygraf patent 2.370.307 consists in a new way of maintaining the bezel, with two screwed holding plates. But the bezel remains free to move in both directions. The only resistance to rotation is brought by the friction between the teflon ring and the bezel.
The locking system evolution
The patent 2.402.898 brings a real improvement by introducing the bezel-lock. Its lateral displacement indeed makes it possible, thanks to a little slope, to make go up a small ball which comes to crush against the flat bottom of the bezel and thus prevents it from rotating. An O-ring at both ends of the rod ensures that it slides and stays in place. It also prevents the introduction of sand or dust that could interfere with the proper functioning.
However, the original shape of this locking device designed by Jean Müller and YEMA’s technical team is far from optimal. It is indeed easy to understand that the reverse force exerted on the ball tends to make it go down the slope and to move the stem in the unlocking direction.
Over the years, YEMA designers have improved the system by adding horizontal segments to the slope. They made the device easier to handle and the locking more reliable. I hope that the following little sketch will be eloquent enough.
The bezel evolution
Second improvement, linked to the bezel-lock evolution: from the Navygraf 3, the bezel becomes unidirectional, with 60 clicks. Notches appear on the bezel bottom. A flat locking spring prevents the bezel from rotating. This new feature, combined with the bezel-lock, definitively prevents the bezel from moving during the diving session.
As you can see on the picture below, the notches shape also changed to teeth. But I didn’t feel strong difference in the bezel manipulation and was not able to determine what this change brought new.
The bezel non-return spring evolution
On the first Navygraf 3, the bezel non-return spring is maintained in place by 4 points of welding. This operation has two disadvantages: (1) it is expensive because it requires a specific intervention (2) in case of spring breakage, its replacement also becomes complicated.
On the next one, the end of the spring is simply bent and fits into a hole provided for this purpose. The two disadvantages mentioned above are thus eliminated.
You may also notice that the crown tube has been shortened and simplified. This probably means an evolution of the crown I didn’t think to check when I had the opportunity.
The bezel insert evolution… and a little more
The image below shows the graphic evolution of the bezel marking in order to improve its readability and to better meet the needs of divers.
The Navygraf II insert is engineered in bakelite resin. The Navygraf 3 insert is a classical aluminium one. An interesting innovation is made on the YEMA Navygraf Scuba: the bezel insert is made of of Arnit, a very resistant fiberglass reinforced high range plastic, engraved with electroluminescent lacquered inscriptions.
This photo also highlights why the bezel of the Yema Navygraf 3 and subsequent models are difficult to grip due to its smaller diameter than the case. The designers could have compensated for the loss of diameter due to the side claws with an outward overhang of the higher part of the bezel.
Maybe you have been snoring for a long time now, due to the unusual length of this article… Time to wake up! Haven’t you seen one watch is missing? Here it is… In fact, I had not this Navygraf in my possession when I took the previous pictures. In think it’s no need to describe the different parts. You know them quite well now. But there are two main changes that are worth looking at.
This watch is a real attempt to “do things differently”.
The first change is the shape of the end of the anti-return spring… that is not “anti” anymore. It allows for bi-directional rotation of the bezel, while still ensuring proper positioning of the teeth in front of the ball. The second change is the profile of the case and the way the bezel is fixed. As you can see on the photo montage below, the idea is to hold the bezel by lateral screws. Once tightened, they pinch the case on the sides and secure the bezel to the case.
On paper, the idea was attractive. The reality is less pleasing. Either you tighten the lateral screws too much and the bezel doesn’t turn, or you don’t tighten them enough and the bezel doesn’t hold. I think the stability of the screw adjustment was provided by a little shellac, or something similar.
Also, the shape of the bezel, with the only rough edges being the screw heads and a few extra lugs, makes it very difficult to handle. This is probably the reason why this system was abandoned when the YEMA Navygraf Scuba was created.
Part 4. Rebirth
In 2009, Pascal Bôle, owner of the french watchmaking Ambre group, decided to buy the YEMA brand that was for sale. It’s a long and rich story I will not tell here. Ten years later… the Navygraf is back on stage! A rebirth that can be summarized in 3 images:
These new Navygraf are equipped with the last generation of automatic YEMA 2000 movements. From the first Navygraf Heritage on the left to the latest Marine Nationale edition on the right, you can guess the inspiration for the dial (Navygraf “I” for the left one, and Navygraf Scuba for the middle one).
Don’t miss the brand new “Marine Nationale” collection available on line on www.yema.com. After the French Air Force for the Superman, the partnership with the French Navy for the Navygraf is very coherent. There are several models in the range, including a GMT in limited edition and a very successful watch for women.
What will be the next one?
I can’t resist to share with you my own idea of what could be the next Navygraf, as I submitted it for fun to the FB Yema Collabs’ Community in 2020 (already!):
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Special Thanks: this retrospective would not be the same without L. Guénachaud; LJB; Hommemega; Marie-Pia Auschitzky; Batilou; the_rolexrialist; Jamelino_insta; G. Gabanou; L. Bédouin; Diverwatch92; A. Bourgeois; M. Hübner ;Al manach; C. Béru; Greg_Esp and YEMA.
They lent me their watch, sent pictures, gave to me clues and pieces of information… Thank you all! Sorry if I forgot YOU (let me know!).
Take care and see you soon on Clock Me Tender!