Yema × Fans Project Needs You! Is the French producer opening Pandora’s box? by Tomas RosputinskyFebruary 10, 2020 MIN READYema × Fans Project Needs You!
An idea that wouldn’t be possible a few decades ago. But with the speed and creativity of today’s market, it was only a matter of time before a brand allowed its followers to design a new watch.
I’m not saying it hasn’t happened before. More and more brands are receptive to collaborative projects. You needn’t look far to find examples of brands working with companies, military factions, and high-rolling individuals to create a special range of watches. But it is still rare to see an established brand opening itself up to the masses. That’s exactly what Yema is doing. The brand is asking the general public to submit design ideas for its next model. This kind of idea will not sit well with everyone. Haters would ask why a brand would have a bunch of creative directors if they don’t know what their next watch should look like? But the lovers will embrace the design team’s open mind and ability to engage with the brand’s audience.
Is Yema crazy?
I like opening sensitive topics. It presents an opportunity for discussion. This enables us all to see our industry from a different perspective. That can only be a good thing as navigating it as a producer and a consumer becomes ever harder. It is the responsibility of brands to be open to new ideas. That doesn’t mean every brand has to pursue (or even agree upon) the same path, but brands in this day and age need to be receptive to change.
Look at Omega’s collaborative approach to the popularity of the SpeedyTuesday movement…
Sure, it is unlikely that Rolex will follow Yema’s lead (so entrenched in the ways of the Crown as they are), but you don’t need to look far to see incredibly high-profile brands experimenting with engagement in different ways. Just look at Panerai’s response to the Paneristi. Even better, look at Omega’s collaborative approach to the popularity of the SpeedyTuesday movement. Fifteen years ago the idea that we’d be able to bring the Ultraman back would have seemed crazy. And yet here we are. Welcome to an era of unprecedented possibility.
Well planned start
It is important to highlight that the Yema × Fans project is not rushed nor impulsive. The French watch producer (check out the brand’s remarkable heritage) has long listened to the public as part of its development strategy. They even created a platform for it. It is called Yema CoLabs which also has an identically named invitation-only Facebook group that now has around 1,400 members. Facebook is always buzzing with activity when Yema posts its latest design creations. Fans are allowed to post their ideas on new Yema designs and give others the opportunity to tear them apart from praising them. Thankfully Facebook allows automatic translation from French, so you can all enjoy the spicy comments.
Yema × Fans project
Last year, many Yema CoLabs group members submitted their own design ideas on what they would like to see in production. Some were just sketches, while some were quite solid digital graphic visuals. The Yema team shortlisted four designs they considered to be the best. The winners will be decided over two rounds. The first round is happening at the moment, with nine international watch media journalists voting and narrowing the selection down to half. Choosing the winner from the last two designs standing will be down to the community.
Four competing designs
As Fratello Magazine was honored to become part of the nine-person media jury to select the final two designs put up for the public live-or-die battle, we’d love to introduce you to each of the watches submitted. Here are our immediate takeaways:
Yema Sous-Marine GMT
Raphael Chardon is a 56-year-old car salesman and self-made amateur watchmaker that started by disassembling old Mortinas to understand the watch movement. After repairing a few Supermans and Yachtingrafs, he fell in love with Yema. The inspiration for his creation can be found in vintage Sous-Marine models and their seductive typography. Rafael didn‘t want to design a robust tool watch or sports watch, but what he calls an “urban” watch. The 39mm steel case is highly polished. A going seconds sub-dial left space for central GMT hand with a creative GMT track. Am I the only one that feels a bit of a Laurent Ferrier flair here?
Jean Buchser is a high-flying lawyer and a passionate watch and pen collector. Fascinated by the rich diving history of Yema, his contribution is a colorful remix of the iconic Superman. He suggests a black tropical dial, an in-house movement with no-date, and a washed red aluminum bezel insert that throws in some warmth.
Yema Yachtingraf Riviera 300
Arnaud Branchereau is a 52-year-old scenographer that was taken by the daring Yachtingraf when he saw it on the wrist of a doctor during an examination. That was 30 years ago. Since then, he has bought and sold many of them. Arnaud used to design motorbikes and his design submissions are all very lively. The final one came with a matt white dial and blue steel bezel.
Yema Pearl Diver
30-year-old Marin Ravenel has been a hard-core Yema fan for over a decade now. Turning into a vintage watch nerd at the age of 20 was even more unusual 10 years ago than it is nowadays. He craves for a neo-vintage watch reinterpretation with a strong modern touch mirroring the brand heritage. He likes symmetry, as can be seen on the black steel bezel. As Marin is not a fan of numbers, his dial and bezel show only markers and symbols. While the other three designs opt for sapphire, Marin wants to see his creation covered in a domed plexiglass crystal.
All four entrants seem like positively spirited professionals, successful in their respective fields. The experience of the entrants shows in their entires. It goes to show that an idea executed at the right time can go far. But which is your favorite? Which two would you select for the finals? Please feel free to comment on the article below with your choice. Learn more about the Yema project here.
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About the author
During the day time, Tomas is an entrepreneur in the advertising, automotive and IT software industries. At night he turns into a watch enthusiast searching for quirky movements or vintage pieces with strong stories behind. Tomas was born and bred… read more
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