Maen and seconde/seconde/ Collaborate on their Second Manhattan

Just last week, Chris Antzoulis brought you a profile of Romaric André, the designer behind seconde/seconde/. At this point, most of you who will find this story will know all about Romaric and seconde/seconde/, so the usual introductory blurb explaining what this is, exactly, can easily be excised. It’s probably enough to say that over the last few years, seconde/seconde/ has become ubiquitous, collaborating with brands of all kinds and at all price points. It’s gotten to the point where much of the conversation around these collaborations is not actually about the collaboration or the design, but about the momentum of André’s brand. His watches, once rare and genuinely special, are now the subject of a seemingly weekly (an exaggeration, but not a huge one) limited edition. It’s impossible not to ask where we’re heading, and how we’ll get there. 


Maybe part of the answer lies in the latest collaboration (at least by my count – there could be a new announcement buried in my inbox that I haven’t seen yet). The new watch is André’s second collaboration with Maen, one of our favorite small brands producing watches that truly impress with their design and finishing, always priced well below what you would expect. Their first collaboration, a limited edition version of the Manhattan with a cocktail inspired dial, was issued last year and sold out immediately. It was (and still is) one of my favorite seconde/seconde/ pieces. It’s playful, a natural visual pun, and happens to be in a dial color and case design that I find completely aesthetically pleasing. 

The new watch, called the Manhattan Project, comes a year after Oppenheimer and finds André in a seemingly more contemplative mood. While virtually every seconde/seconde/ release to this point has been intended as humorous, Maen and seconde/seconde/ insist that the Manhattan Project is not. From their email announcing the project: On a serious note – Both seconde/seconde/ and MAEN want to convey that this is a serious piece and not meant to be ‘funny’. 

Is a more pointed and socially conscious seconde/seconde/ the next stage of the project? That in and of itself is an interesting thought experiment. The watch, a take on the Manhattan 37, is largely sterile, with the exception of a “radioactive” symbol taking the place of a traditional seconds hand, and the word “PROJECT” superimposed next to the “MANHATTAN” wordmark. The intent, according to Maen, is to symbolize “nuclear nothingness” and the “life-threatening consequences of the Manhattan Project.” The caseback features an inscription of the famous “Now I am become death…” line from the Bhagavad Gita, words that J. Robert Oppenheimer helped usher into our lexicon, coming to symbolize the gravity of what was accomplished at Los Alamos. 

As a watch, I’m drawn to this edition of the Manhattan in much the same way I’m drawn to every other Manhattan. I like the case shape, I like the bracelet, and I like the Geneva stripes used to finish the dial, which here are unencumbered by any additional design quirks. But I have to admit, the tone is throwing me off, and I find myself wondering if the “serious note” from Maen and seconde/seconde/ is actually meant to be serious. André’s great contribution to the watch industry to this point has been substituting a regular second hand on a vintage watch for one that looks like the Millenium Falcon (and also rhyming “Erard” with “horror”). It’s a little like when Jim Carrey took that role in The Truman Show and we were all suddenly expected to take the guy who played Ace Ventura seriously as an actor. We eventually did, but it was jarring. And the Manhattan Project piece still has the “vandal” aesthetic that seconde/seconde/ has popularized. Basically, I just don’t really know what to make of it. 

One thing that I know for sure, though, is that for a watch to be successful, by whatever metric you measure success, you have to like what you see when you check the time. I think if you tend to like the Manhattan, this version will hold some appeal from a purely aesthetic standpoint, as it really does feel like the watch has been boiled down its essence. The on-wrist experience should be exactly the same as other Manhattan’s, which is fantastic with a case measuring just 9.3mm tall. Like other watches in the collection, the Manhattan Project runs on a Sellita SW200 movement. 

The new Manhattan Project watch launches via the Maen website on Friday at 10:00 AM eastern and will be available for 24 hours. Delivery for those that complete their order in that time frame is expected in November. Maen

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.