As often as possible, I like to cover small and start-up watch brands. I know how difficult it can be to obtain media and consumer attention as a fledgling company. And I also appreciate how smaller brands can push designs in innovative ways untethered from design constraints required in larger and more historical brands. Most notably I think back to RGM and its early-20th-Century-inspired pieces like the 151-COE and Nezumi’s 1960s- and ’70s-inspired Voiture chronograph.
The most recent to catch my eye has been the Stockholm-based brand Maen. The name (pronounced “mun”) is an old-Dutch spelling for “moon,” and for the brand stands as a double symbol: firstly, it references the moon as a symbolic timekeeper — a sentiment that takes shape in the brand’s first quartz moon-phase watches. Secondly, the name is a reference to the Dutch ship Halve Maen (or half-moon) which first brought European cartographers and surveyors to Manhattan Island in 1609.
The Swedish brand was founded about two and half years ago by Dutchmen Sebastiaan Cortjaens and Jules van Helvoort, and their most recent release is the Hudson Automatic. The name of the watch— like the name of the brand — is a reference to the English captain of the Halve Maen, Henry Hudson (for whom the Hudson River is named). It is the company’s first mechanical timepiece, and in the wake of the incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign launched to fund it, it has received wide attention in the media circuit for its creative design. The style of the watch takes inspiration generally from vintage divers of the 1950s and 1960s, and more specifically from the Rolex Milgauss Reference 6451, though the piece is undoubtedly modern and original in its design.
The Hudson Automatic is offered in both 38- and 42-mm case sizes, with a number of options for dial colors and accents, though the general design scheme is the same for each. Mounted on an Oyster-style riveted bracelet (with an extra NATO-style strap, as seen above), the polished and brushed steel case is a classic diver design with elongated lugs, an enlarged screw-down crown, and a narrow unidirectional bezel. The bezel comes in a simple black-and-white accenting for most options, but is available with a vintage-style red triangle at its top for the black-dial models. The white, black, or blue dial sits below a domed sapphire crystal, and is bordered by a curved black or white chapter ring. Each applied rectangular hour marker is filled with Super-LumiNova, with a double marker at midnight and a small “MAEN” logo sitting beneath it. The watch also has the option for a subtle date window at the 3 o’clock position, with the unique hour and minute hand configuration and lollipop seconds indicator sweeping over it.
Inside the watch is the automatic ETA 2824-2, which features a 38-hour power reserve, and protecting it is either a solid or sapphire case back, depending on the option. The movement is well known for its reliability and has been used as the base movement for many of the watches we’ve covered in this series, including the Mido Mulifort Datometer, the Rado Hyperchrome Captain Cook, the Junghans Meister Pilot, the Tudor Heritage Ranger and the Tudor Black Bay 36, among many others. The Hudson Automatic is still available at a reduced price through Maen’s Kickstarter campaign running through May 31, and will begin shipping in early September. After the campaign it will become available for 499 euros, or about $590, exclusively through the brand’s online store.
The new watch isn’t based on any specific vintage dive watch, but there are many historical influences throughout its design, especially in the 38-mm, black-dial option. This was the model I was able to go hands-on with a few months ago, and from its compact Oyster-esque case with elongated lugs, narrow red triangle topped bezel, and lollipop seconds hand, the ‘50s and ‘60s influences were apparent throughout. These elements are reminiscent of early Rolex and Tudor divers like the Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538 and Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7924 (both nicknamed “Big Crown”), but also of the Rolex Milgauss 6451, from which it takes more direct inspiration (pictured below). The final obvious vintage note is in the contrasting white chapter ring, a relatively common trait among divers from the 1960s and ’70s.
Yet for the similarities and inspirations, the Hudson Automatic is surely a uniquely modern watch. Mainly, this is seen in the many options Maen allows for the consumer — while the 38-mm black dial option does host many vintage influences, and each of the models do as well to some degree, few historical divers from the era of inspiration were using 42-mm cases or white-and-blue dials. The dial is also quite modern, with its applied rectangular numerals and soon-to-be hallmark hands that I’m unsure how to describe (Rocket-ship style? Laser gun-inspired?). Its features allow the piece to strike an appealing balance between vintage inspiration and modern innovation.
In its parallels between contemporary and vintage influences, the Hudson has already become a Kickstarter success for Maen and is likely to grow in popularity. And between its relatively accessible price, outsized quality of production, and interesting design that is unlike many other watches on the market today, the brand’s first mechanical piece offers a good value to consumers of both vintage and modern timepieces.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare the Omega Seamaster Railmaster to its historical inspiration, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.