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Review: The Maen Brooklyn 36

If you are genuinely looking for a cheap alternative to Rolex good looks and build quality, you’ve absolutely come to the right place. No mucking about, I’ve got the watch you’re looking for. In fact, I’ve got a watch that’s better than what you’re looking for.


If you go on the Maen website, you’ll read a whole pile of blurb about visions, industry and solutions, but I’m here to tell you that the reality of the brand is a lot more simple and a lot less corporate buzzword: founder Sebastiaan has realised a sneaky hack to getting the watches he wants by making them and selling them as a business.

How do I know this? Well, for one, he told me, but hold on—I’m not that naïve. The most telling clue to Maen’s ulterior motives is the watches themselves. I recently enjoyed the Maen Manhattan 37, a watch that aped the rarely seen Vacheron Constantin 2215, a watch that only people who wouldn’t be offended by the term “nerd” would know about.

Seb couldn’t afford one, so he made one, and he’s paying for it by making more so we can all buy them too. It’s a brilliant idea, because you can be assured that the quality of the watch is going to be good enough not simply to appease a margin, but the brand’s owner himself. He’s not going to wear one if it’s a bag of horse apples.

And he’s done the same again with this Brooklyn 36 Triple Calendar. It’s a watch that shares its outer shell with the vintage Rolex Datejusts of yesteryear, with a few little tweaks under the hood. You know, once again, it’s the watch Seb wants to wear because it’s not a very saleable 39mm, it’s a much smaller, and once again much more nerd-friendly 36mm. It’s the difference between spec’ing your car in acid yellow or resale grey.

Here's the biggest difference: when Seb has a new watch, he doesn’t send me a press release. He fires across a giddy, excited email about his latest creation and asks what I think of it. Me being a miserable old worm, went straight to the one bit I didn’t like. “The crown’s a bit weedy,” I told him. “Oh,” was his reply. A week later he sent me an updated design for the new crown. In case you’re wondering, the crown on this prototype isn’t it. That’s why it’s pretty weedy.

For people like me who talk nonsense about watches, this is an altogether unfamiliar experience. Watch brands don’t care what I think. They sell watches regardless of whether or not I’m involved somewhere along the chain. With Maen, it’s different. It makes my little feelings all warm and fuzzy, because Seb genuinely cares what I think. And I like that. He’s not the only one, but he’s one of very few.

He cares what you think, too. Chances are, if a few people think he could do better, he can, and he’d benefit doubly so by listening. One, he’d have better watches for himself and two, he’d have better watches for us, too. He made the Manhattan in 37mm—historically accurate, you see—and people wanted it a little bigger, so he’s on it. It’s almost like he’s a human being—even if he is Dutch—and not a Swiss android programmed to write marketing copy.


So, the Brooklyn 36, what’s it like? Well, it’s small, that’s for sure. 36mm is not a big size. But it’s a cool size. It’s the right size for people who don’t feel weird about wearing a pink shirt or carrying a bag around. It’s the ultimate shareable size, so if your purchase needs approval by the boss, you can offer a 50% timeshare on it as a sweetener. It’s a size that might feel a little small now, but mark my words, in a few years’ time it’ll be the size everyone wants.

So, I’ve already denigrated the crown for being a weak-willed excuse of a thing, but that’s really where the criticism ends. When you borrow the stylings from one of the simplest and best-proportioned watches to have ever existed, it’s going to look great. Brushed lugs with polished sides blend into a jubilee bracelet that’s so familiar it gives you déjà vu.

What’s remarkable for $600, however, is the detailing. Those polished case sides aren’t vertical cliff faces like a Tudor’s, they have a gentle bulge to them that feels incredibly satisfying to hold and even more so to see. The bracelet end links fit so tight the seam looks drawn on in pen. The double deployant clasp links together with a medallion-like logo element, a detail that Patek Philippe’s celebrated 5711 successor still doesn’t match.

It's these details that really make me believe that these watches are made to be worn by the brand’s founders first and sold second. And we haven’t even got to the best bit yet. Inside is a Miyota calibre that delivers more than just the date: it’s a triple calender. That adds day and month, with the latter controlled by a hidden pusher above the crown, which itself turns one way to change the date and the other the day.

It’s this addition that matures the Brooklyn 36 from simply a Datejust homage to something a bit more special, and it’s with the dial that’s really celebrated. There are a lot more cues from vintage Oyster Perpetuals here, from the sharp, thinly lumed hands to the polished baton markers. There’s even little lume plots seated in the recessed minute track, coloured off white for the full effect without being over the top.

It's this kind of execution that’s most impressive. Another example is the sub dials, which aren’t simply printed on. They’re recessed, finished with a mottled texture and have the numbers within seated in three-dimensional relief. These are details so tiny most people probably won’t notice, save for the overwhelming feeling of being a thing of quality.

Never mind the idea of this being a cheap laugh whilst you wait for your Datejust to get delivered, this is a genuinely enjoyable watch to wear and use in its own right. It’s one of a few watches that’s made me think twice about the status quo, filling me with hope for the possibilities if Maen and brands like them continue taking this approach to making and selling watches. So maybe the blurb about visions, industry and solutions isn’t all just corporate buzzwordery after all. Maybe I’m still a miserable old worm and maybe Maen really mean it.

What’s your take on Maen and the future of affordable watchmaking? Are you excited or nonplussed?

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