An essential piece of timing equipment since the earliest days of motorsports, it seems there was a chronograph for every driver, with each one favoring a particular brand and model. Formula 1 legends Derek Bell, Jochen Rindt, and Jo Siffert favored Heuer, and Jim Clark was often seen sporting a Gallet. Actor and racing enthusiast Paul Newman wore a Rolex Daytona that has become so synonymous with him that collectors now know it as the “Paul Newman Daytona.”
For those of us for whom a Rindt or a Siffert Autavia is just slightly out of reach, and a Paul Newman Daytona is utterly unobtainable, fear not—there’s still a way to get a chronograph with a bonafide motorsports heritage.
And for those of you who’ve been following us for a while, it should come as no surprise that it comes to us from Yema, one of our favorite lesser-known brand names.
Based in France, Yema is perhaps best known for the Yachtingraf, its line of regatta timers. These sporty chronographs with brightly-colored dials have become all the rage of late, and we're certainly not immune to their charms. But Yema also produced another line of colorful, creative, and well-built chronographs that deserve serious consideration.
Known as the Rallygraf, or simply the Rallye, there's no hiding what this watch is all about. The distinctive dial is unabashedly racing-inspired, from the dashboard-like registers to the offset racing stripes. Some variants even had checkered flags in the center, while others had a faux-wood finish reminiscent of old dashboards.
Beyond the dial, the Rallye is a watch with proportions as solid as its looks, with its 39mm straight lug case, fixed outer tachymeter bezel, and workhorse Valjoux hand-wound chronograph movements.
It seems that all of this was enough to catch the attention of a young Mario Andretti, who can be seen in several photos sporting what looks to be a Yema Rallye on his wrist in place of his usual Heuer Autavia. In fact, the gents over at Fratello Watches recently got in touch with Andretti and found that his was in fact a private-label variant (a Wesley’s) that he bought himself and still owns to this day.
With all the sharp looks that we love about 1960s chronographs and a dial that's as handsome as it is unusual, the Yema "Andretti" is a proper sports watch through and through. Whether you're a driver, an enthusiast, or just love the smell of burnt rubber in the morning, this Rallyegraf is hard to beat.
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