Hands-On With The Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Alpine Endurance Team
What do you think, is there a need for more vintage-inspired racing chronographs with accessible price tags? Well, brands like Nezumi Studios and even Seiko think so. With the prolific use of the VK series of hybrid meca-quartz movements, brands are also offering us a chance to appreciate thoughtful design and finishing for less. I’m all for it and am still enjoying surfing the retro wave, especially with this Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Alpine Endurance Team piece.
Even if I, as a watch writer, see a lot of retro-tastic wristwear, for the average Joe on the street, this might still be a fresh approach and a welcome diversion from his Apple Watch. It seems that wrist computer serves as the gateway drug to real watches for many Gen Zs. Luckily, the Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Alpine Endurance Team is simply a good everyday watch, whether you love retro or not.
A fresh, French approach
We all love a real backstory, and Yema has it in spades, being a bona fide French watch manufacturer with varied, value-based offerings. Retro is very much the name of Yema’s game, and it’s one of the remaining storied French brands. Despite some weird moves like occasionally launching a new model on Kickstarter, this is no fly-by-night micro. Just like the Superman divers, the Rallygraf series is a great brand calling card, instantly recognizable by the odd-shaped registers and a superb €399 sticker price. You’ll find an ETA-based chrono with a Zorro-mask dial at just over €2,100, so there’s a vintage-feeling Yema even for the meca-quartz skeptics. Being a convert, I’m happy with the peace of mind that the Seiko VK64 offers daily.
The Alpine connection
If you’re a petrolhead or a reformed one like me, you’ll recognize the speed-focused Alpine “A” as the seconds-hand counterweight and the discreet logo above 6 o’clock with a small tricolor flag underneath. Alpine has its F1 team partnered with Bell & Ross, while Yema is one of the main sponsors of Alpine’s Le Mans-racing Endurance Team. It’s an evocative connection, today Renault’s racing arm, and started as the offshoot of Renault Alpine road rally cars like the A110 in the ’60s. This was a French rear-engined Porsche beater and a legendary pocket rocket with its sweeping design and minuscule size. And it was always in blue.
Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Alpine Endurance Team: first-impression blues
The Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Alpine Endurance Team editions come in three colorways, including creamy panda and reverse-panda variants. But this blue one caught my eye as I recognized the French racing color and it fit the Alpine connection so well. It is also one of the most refined car or racing tie-ins I’ve seen this year because you have to actively look for the clues to find them. The dashboard vibe of the oddly shaped registers has that just-so-’70s quirk factor and crisp legibility. Their blue tone matches nicely with the outer minute/seconds track, which has delicate rectangular indices crossing onto the white center with a longer version at 12. The 6 o’clock date feels right for a change, and there’s a blue tip on the second hand. Sartorial details never disappoint in French horology, and this is proof positive.
Does the Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Alpine Endurance Team have what it takes?
From the stock images alone, it was hard to tell. But after having the watch as a French-speaking house guest, it’s a “oui.” In photos, it can look slim and a bit stretched. Reality, however, reveals a compact charm. What strikes you from the side view is a plus for any watch — lug tips that curve down at least 2mm lower than the case back. Bravo! Combined with a 48mm lug-to-lug length, this 39mm case has a sweetheart fit. The compact three-part design is 11mm thick and a chunky 13mm with the domed crystal. The mid-blue vented rally strap might be a tad on the fat and short side, but it’s a great match to the blue details. It also doesn’t need any break-in period and feels immediately at home on the wrist. As a bonus, the watch works equally well on a brown vintage-style two-stitch strap.
Will the polished case scratch up more than its brushed competitors? Yes, and maybe I’d like some more well-defined beveling. On the other hand, this evokes late-’60s racing chronos. We know the polished nature of those cases, so this has a sweeping period charm. It also works rather well in contrast to the matte finish of the tachymeter bezel with its small but sharp print. Sure, I will never use the bezel in real life, but this is still a great everyday sports watch that leans hard into retro charm. Dare I say, the Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Alpine Endurance Team even has enough glitz to make it a suit companion. It’s an understated, evocative collab piece and a chic French connection to the racy ’60s. With a 100m depth rating, it will also handle a day at the beach if you put it on a rubber strap.
Are you strapped in and ready to race, Fratelli, or are you more for retro desk divers? Either way, let me know what you think of the Yema Rallygraf Meca-Quartz Alpine Endurance Team in the comments.