Review: Maen Manhattan 37
The ultimate home run for a watch-buying member of the public is to find a watch that looks great, is high quality and doesn’t cost very much. That’s what Swedish brand Maen are pitching with the Manhattan 37. Let’s see if they did it.
By this point in time, we’re all getting a teensy bit bored of watches that look like that one watch that came out in 1972. Eight sides, an integrated bracelet, textured blue dial. It’s all a bit like reruns of Dad’s Army on Sunday afternoon TV. We’ve been there many times, done that a lot, and worn the t-shirt full of holes.
But lest we forget, we keep on watching. That’s because, like Captain Mainwaring’s constant blunders, it never gets old. It’s like complaining that we did Christmas last year, and the year before. It’s timeless. Makes sense to me then that any watch brand not throwing its hat into the ring on this part-of-the-furniture look is just letting their ego get the better of them. The people want it. Give it to them.
That’s what Maen has done, but instead of going straight for the jugular with a Royal Oak-not Royal Oak, they’ve hit their pitch into left field. I think that sports analogy works. I’m going with it. Remember how, after Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe both succumbed to the popular vote and released the Royal Oak and the Nautilus in 1972 and 1976? And how Vacheron Constantin begrudgingly followed suit with a watch in 1977 it couldn’t even stomach naming?
Well, turns out that was the brand’s second attempt. The first was made in 1975, before Patek Philippe, with the 2215. If you were to take a brief look at it, you’ll notice something about it. It’s the complete spit of the Maen Manhattan 37. Or rather, the Maen Manhattan is the complete spit of the Vacheron Constantin 2215.
The story goes that Maen founder Sebastiaan Cortjaens really wanted a 2215 but found them becoming increasing harder—and more expensive—to get. So, he made his own, under his own label. Whether that’s scratched his itch remains to be seen. It should have soothed it at least, albeit temporarily. That’s great for Sebastiaan, but the overarching benefit for you and I is that we can buy one too. But should we?
You know how when you do a job for yourself, you put more effort in? That’s the impression I get with the Maen Manhattan 37. Maen’s other watches are very nice—we’ve had one in before—but this one is just bit … extra. You really get the sense that Sebastiaan wanted to enjoy the watch personally.
How exactly does that materialise in the watch? Let’s start with the dial. Like the Vacheron Constantin’s it’s vertically striped and very satisfying to look at. The striping is refined, not coarse, and in some lights it’s so subtle you can barely see it at all. Blast it with lights, however, and it lights up like a wavy, blue Christmas tree.
Speaking of blue, it comes in four different colours, blue, black, silver and salmon—no green yet though—and you can choose with or without a date window. The Swiss Ronda R150 movement still has the date position on the crown either way, but for everything else you’re getting, it’s a cross I think most of us are willing to bear.
The hands and markers are loosely inspired by the Vacheron Constantin’s although there’s more family resemblance here to the rest of the Maen collection, especially the hands. It’s a nice way to give it just a bit of separation from the original so it isn’t just an out-an-out copy. Given how under-the-radar the 2215 flies, I think that’s fair. Even I had no idea about it before this, so there you go.
The linked bracelet is comfortable, the deployant clasp better than the old 5711’s—although that’s not hard—but really what sings about the Manhattan 37 is the overall attention to the finish. The case, bracelet and bezel have a crisp, polished bevel that’s frankly, better than the original’s. I know half a century separate the two, but facts are facts.
The size, at 37mm, might sound off-putting, but being rectangular with a bit of a cushion to it, it’s just right. In fact, it’s perfect. It wears, so, so well, and is a testament to the judgment of the watchmakers back in the 70s. It’s an impactful look made all the more refined by not blowing it up to a ridiculous size. Pretty much anyone can wear it, and that’s a good thing.
I tell you what, I am constantly blown away by what’s possible these days. I watched a thing about Unreal Engine 5, the game engine, and how you can build acres and acres of forest or cityscape or whatever you want and it all just loads instantly. It’s one of those rare moments where you sit there and think, “The future really is now.”
Ironically, the ancient technology of the mechanical watch right here in the Maen Manhattan 37 incited another of those moments. This is a Swiss made watch—says it right there on the dial, and you can’t say it unless it’s at least 60% true—with a Swiss movement for $600. Yeah, there are cheaper watches with that Ronda R150 in it, but when you combine it with a package as well-executed as this, it makes it hard to believe it’s even possible.
Hats off, honestly. Credit where credit’s due. I don’t know what kind of margins the guys at Maen are running, but I’d doubt if they’re anywhere near close to industry standard. That’s just me speculating, because the only other way I can think that this watch is possible for $600 is by either making it in China and lying about it—which the Swiss government don’t tolerate and carries hefty penalties—or by inventing some incredible new machinery that brings higher precision for less cost.
I’d say it’s a mix of all of those things. Swiss made only needs 60% by value, so makes sense to do the rest as affordably as possible. CNC machinery is improving in quality and affordability. And I also think Maen have pushed the quality at their own financial penalty.
The net result is a watch that people like Sebastiaan, who have been displaced from the watch they want, can truly enjoy. It’s not so much a cheap fix for cash-strapped customers—it’s actually, genuinely, a great watch.