Even though it often feels like the dive watch market is saturated (sorry…) with options, if you’re after a diver with true heritage going back to the glory days when these watches first became popular, your options are surprisingly few. Rolex, of course, but who can get one? Blancpain is another option with real diver bona fides, but the Fifty Fathoms requires deep pockets. Omega, Tudor, and Doxa are other brands worth considering, and I’m sure many readers will chime in with personal favorites like Aquastar, but continuously operational brands with truly iconic divers are few and far between. One that is often forgotten is Yema, the French brand responsible for the Superman, which traces its roots all the way back to the early 1960s. It has a distinctive design with a locking bezel, and like most classic watches, hasn’t changed all that much over the decades. The newest version of the Superman, the Superman 500, features subtle changes that might fly under the radar unless you’re keenly aware of them, and is worth checking out if you’re after an alternative to the diver mainstays.
The Superman is very much the prototypical skin-diver, made to be wearable by just about anyone either underwater or topside, and not necessarily as a tool built for professionals. The Superman 500 is available in 39mm and 41mm cases, and both feature the typical long lug design and are relatively trim, measuring just 13.4mm thick in both diameter options. The bezel locking feature is naturally still here, but it’s been redesigned by Yema with the promise of smoother operation via “micro-drilling” in certain areas of the case below the bezel to ensure precise alignment and a smooth rotation. Visually, there isn’t much evidence that it’s changed at all, so like other updates to the watch you’d probably classify this is a small design tweak as opposed to a wholesale rethinking of the watch’s aesthetic.
Yema is also promising increased smoothness in the area of crown operation thanks to a new crown tube that also allows for better feedback and action when moving the crown to its different operational positions. New seals and gaskets allow for 30 meters of water resistance with the crown unscrewed, which isn’t a trivial function, as the bezel is only operational with the screw down crown unthreaded. Yema imagines this will make it easier for divers to reset the timing bezel ahead of a dive while in or very near the water, and ought to provide plenty of additional insurance against water damage for everyone else.
We also get a new crystal and a new caseback. The crystal sits lower to the dial and is wider, for better legibility at an angle, and the case back is thicker, for increased water resistance (500 meters, if the name of the watch didn’t give it away). Again, these are changes that will be virtually invisible to most users, but offer tangible benefits in a real world wearing experience.
The Superman 500 runs on Yema’s own movement, the Yema 2000 caliber, here without a date complication. This latest generation of the Yema 2000 offers increased shock resistance over its predecessor, a power reserve of 42 hours, and a daily average rate within +/- 10 seconds per day.
There will be two versions of the Yema Superman 500 available at launch: a standard black dialed variant, and a limited edition of 200 pieces with a dark blue dial. Both are quite traditional in their layout, with large circular hour plots filled with lume and minimal dial text. This, I think, is exactly what you want if you’re considering a watch in this category, which I think of as not exactly a vintage throwback, because it’s always been like this, but simply an old school dive watch.
The retail price of the Superman 500 ranges from $1,049 to $1,249 depending on your strap choice (leather, rubber, or a stainless steel bracelet), and it’s available right now through the Yema website.