Hands-On: the MAEN 39 Ultra Thin

Thinness in a watch, real thinness, the type that requires the word “thin” to be in the name, is almost like a complication unto itself. This is not an original observation, but I think it bears repeating, especially when a watch is impressively, almost hilariously thin. The new MAEN Manhattan 39 Ultra Thin fits neatly into this category, taking every aspect of the popular 37mm version of the watch up a notch. To me it feels akin, almost, to the Lorier Hydra SIII released last year. Not because it has anything specific in common with that watch, but because it represents the manifestation of a type of watch enthusiasts have been dreaming of at an accessible price point for years. 

Before we get too deep into the wearing experience, let’s start with the numbers. The tale of the tape, for the MAEN 39 matters in a way I’d normally brush off. The 39mm diameter is just slightly larger than the original Manhattan. In truth, when you have the watches side by side, they look very similar. Part of this is because 2mm in this dimension is just not a whole lot of real estate on a case that’s elongated toward the bracelet sides, and part of it is a visual trick of the eye. 


Hands-On: the MAEN 39 Ultra Thin

Stainless steel
ETA 7001
Yes, hands and markers
Integrated steel bracelet
Water Resistance
10 ATM
39 x 47.8mm
Lug Width

Where the differences between these watches really become apparent is the case height – it’s very easily noticed once you have them on your wrist. The original Manhattan, which uses an automatic movement, measures 9.3mm tall. That’s thin, obviously, by any reasonable standard. But the new 39mm version is in another league altogether, measuring an impressive 6.9mm tall thanks to the use of the manually wound ETA 7001 caliber. That’s basically a 20% reduction in case height. It’s significant, and makes the smaller watch feel almost stout in comparison. 

Wearing a watch that’s this thin is, at first, a strange and almost disconcerting experience. With other ultra thin watches I’ve had an opportunity to handle, they can feel almost too thin. It’s hard to convince yourself that the case won’t snap in half while you’re wearing it. These watches often feel fragile and delicate – it’s hard to imagine something mechanical could actually work and still be so thin. 

But that’s not really the case with the Manhattan. It feels solidly built, and for a watch that has such little actual depth, the case construction and finishing still provides an almost architectural feel. The hard angles of the case give way to a softer bezel with crisp transitions between a polished outer facet and brushed top surface. It’s visually complex but still very approachable, and I like it for all the same reasons I like the 37mm version, but it fits my 7.5 inch wrist even better with the slightly larger diameter. 

Over these last few years of intense interest in integrated bracelet sports watches, we’ve seen many small brands introduce their own versions of watches in this genre, all trying to capitalize in some way on the sporty but luxurious wearing experience of a Royal Oak or a Nautilus. Some watches actually come pretty close to simulating the feel on the wrist, even if they can’t touch those higher end pieces in the realm of finishing and overall refinement. I think with the Manhattan 39, MAEN has taken the belt, producing a watch that is genuinely impressive as an ultra thin while coming in at a price point that’s honestly shocking. 

The retail price of EUR 999 for an integrated bracelet sports watch coming in under 7mm thick would have been unheard of just a few years ago. The fact that this watch exists and that it levels the playing field in a meaningful way for this extremely niche style of watch is an unexpected but welcome development (integrated bracelet sports watches are well understood and fairly common, but ultra thin integrated bracelet sports watches are quite a bit more specialized).

While the case is definitely the star of the show here, MAEN’s dial work is also worth noting. They’ve ported their unique Geneva Stripe dials from the 37mm version to the 39mm, and while it’s probably not for every taste, it does provide a unique texture experience. Rather than a more customary stamped texture, the Geneva striping here is accomplished the same way it would be on a movement, providing the wearer with a fuller view of one of the more ubiquitous movement finishing techniques. In changing light, the dial takes on an almost iridescent quality.

I’ve been a fan of MAEN for a while and continue to enjoy discovering their watches. I reviewed their Brooklyn 36 Triple Calendar earlier this year, and found a lot to like in terms of its build quality and relative value. But the Manhattan 39 feels like it’s in another category. It provides a wearing experience, for a mechanical watch, that is nearly impossible to find outside of a handful of very high end luxury watches. And while the overall level of finishing is naturally not that of a watch retailing in the five figures, it’s certainly up to the impressive standard MAEN has set with their previous efforts, and very good indeed for around $1,000. I’m not even someone who would describe myself as a major fan of integrated bracelet sports watches, but I came away from my experience with the MAEN 39 Ultra Thin impressed and excited to see what this still young brand has planned for the future. 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.