The people want vintage-styled, vintage-sized, high-quality Swiss mechanical chronograph watches, and they want them at rock-bottom prices. (Oh, give them “panda dials” too, please.)
Watch brands across the industry are doing their best to answer these calls, from the likes of Hamilton’s Intra-Matic Chrono to the new El Primero A384 Revival from Zenith, but the price part is where it gets tough, as chronographs tend to be significantly more expensive than their simpler three-hand counterparts. This, however, is where direct-to-consumer microbrands like Maen have a distinct edge, and the brand’s new watch seems to pack a lot of the value and specs watch fans want into its 38mm package.
Classically styled along the lines of, say, a Heuer Autavia, the Skymaster aims to offer just about all the cues vintage chronograph fans are looking for. Many people will welcome the moderate 38mm case diameter (50m water-resistant), and Maen has managed to keep the thickness to 12.9mm, including 2mm added by the “box-style” domed Hesalite crystal. Sapphire is generally considered the premium material choice, but it adds to the cost, especially in these more complex shapes, and Hesalite has the added benefit of conveying a vintage aesthetic.
Maen further gets props for resisting the temptation to use the warm colors that suggest a vintage vibe or actual faux-aged elements. The five versions available at launch basically hit almost every traditional style you could want, with several “panda” and “reverse-panda” dial styles, including a blue dial, and even a sportier gray one with pops of red and orange.
The engine of choice is the Swiss ETA 2894-2 automatic chronograph movement with around 38 hours of power reserve that provides the pleasingly symmetrical 3-6-9 sub-dial layout, which characterizes the look of many vintage chronographs — and it’s even the top-of-the-line Elaboré Grade version and displayed through sapphire crystal at the case back. Maen was also savvy enough to omit a date display.
Swiss mechanical chronographs under $1,000 can generally be considered a good value, but this young upstart is offering a lot for well under that price for the Kickstarter launch. Final prices will surely increase. In steel on a leather strap, each version will have a launch price of around $718 without European VAT, and the watches will be on Kickstarter September 1, 2019.
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