It might seem like a cliche, but big watches can wear smaller. Sometimes, though, this flips back the other way, and this time, it’s a compliment. By introducing the Maen Skymaster 38 MKIII, the Swedish brand proves that a 38mm case diameter can feel more substantial than you’d think. And that suits the accomplished evolution of Maen’s vintage-tinged chronograph to a tee.

Today, vintage-inspired watches are simply the norm for many brands, especially when it comes to panda dials and their reverse brothers. And why not? Sure, with the Skymaster, there are a plethora of options to choose from. But for me, nothing beats a clean-cut reverse panda, and the Maen Skymaster 38 MKIII also has a few surprises up its retro sleeve.

Introducing The MAEN Skymaster MkIII

Maen Skymaster 38 MKIII: First impressions

The Skymaster 38 MKIII is substantial for a 38mm watch. It wears more like TAG Heuer’s 39mm Carrera vintage reissue but with better ergonomics. For a 38, it has a generous 47mm tip-to-tip span with a gentle, curving transition from the case flanks to the lugs creating wrist-hugging comfort. At 13.4mm thick with vertical case sides, it feels chunky, but that measurement includes the sapphire box crystal. In black and white with polished lug tops, the Skymaster 38 MKIII gives off a similar vibe to a Sinn 103 or 104. The feeling is one of a reassuring heft and solid build. Weighing 140 grams on the bracelet, the term “tank-like” comes to mind. I’ll get back to the bracelet later, but to me, the package has a premium feel, and I feel an instant connection with it after snapping the clasp.

A sharp dial and some of my favorite details

I’m a dial man. I always have been, and the Skymaster 38 MKIII doesn’t disappoint. Textured, grainy dials are challenging to get right, but here, we have a nice and understated texture that errs on the side of elegance. The legibility is good, and the now-deeper recessed registers have a crisp silver-white tone with circular graining, offering a just-right vintage look. The rectangular applied markers have a nice twinkle of polish at the end, and despite the lume’s small-scale vintage application, it’s clear and lasts well into the night.

The only surprise is the rehaut seconds track, which, under the box-type crystal, is not visible when looking straight down at the dial. In fact, I discovered it after half a day on the wrist. However, as with the other dial markings, the print quality is superb in its classic monochrome. The case finish is accomplished, with no bevel on the outside of the lugs but a sweet angle where the insides meet the end links. Now, while amid this review, let’s pause and have a look at the evolution of the Skymaster 38. We covered the first edition back in 2019, debuting on a leather strap, so let’s compare the two.

The inspiration for an evolved chronograph

This watch takes inspiration from the Douglas DC-4 Skymaster, and its traveling credentials are assured by the clever 12-hour bezel. Instead of aluminum as before, the bezel insert is now glossy ceramic. It’s a modern touch, yes, but I’d happily sacrifice vintage purity for a tougher nature. And frankly, the ceramic matches well with the Skymaster’s polished elements, and it adds a bit of elegance. The 38mm diameter remains, while the thickness has gone from the ETA 2894-powered original’s 12.9 to today’s 13.4mm. This makes it a marginally larger-feeling watch, but with the wrist-hugging design, it’s all good, and it will go under a cuff or a sweater. In fact, the thickness suits the Skymaster 38 rather well as it has become more ergonomically curved during its post-2019 evolution.

Introducing The MAEN Skymaster MkIII

The increase also feels worth it for the sweet winding action of the Sellita SW510 M b Top Grade movement. It’s a finely detailed 4Hz caliber with some neat Côtes de Genève, perlage, and a generous 63-hour power reserve. Compared to shots of the first Skymaster, the pushers here protrude significantly more, which is a feature I always enjoy. Now they ooze functionality while being in balance with the case size. They click assuredly, feeling Leica-like in their tolerances, and the reset function is quick and accurate. Like most Sellitas I’ve handled, this movement runs slightly fast. But it still seems within solid accuracy norms, and I’ve been getting an average of +7 seconds per day.

Introducing The MAEN Skymaster MkIII

Bracelet goals

When choosing which prototype Skymaster 38 MKIII to have a closer look at, I had two options for bracelets. Now, I can profess to Maen’s Jubilee-style bracelet being rather good, have tried it on the Brooklyn 36. But this Omega-like five-row steel affair, also present on the Hudson, is my fave. I enjoy the fact that it differs from a classic vintage Jubilee, bringing a more modern vibe to the table. The polished intermediate links have been executed very well, and the end links have their pivot points well within the lugs, letting them hug the wrist well. Not to mention, there are exceptionally tight tolerances for a small-brand effort. The clasp snaps shut with a solid click, and you’ll get four useful micro-adjustment holes to boot.

Final thoughts and a surprise partnership

This is only a prototype, and Maen promises better-defined finishing of the brushed and polished sections for production models. Trust me, the case looks good in this proto-state, so Maen’s perfectionism bodes well for the future. The question to ask yourself is whether the Skymaster 38 MKIII is worth a near doubling in price compared to the debut model. Then again, that is a moot point unless you’re a hardcore Maen collector already. And even if you are, you might still want to add one. Compared to other brands using Sellita SW510 movements, the reduced debut price of this MKIII at €1,595 (excluding VAT) is not bad at all. For some perspective, the new Farer Chrono-Contempo sells for €1,995, while the Sinn 104 is almost €2,400 with a Concepto movement.

That puts the Skymaster 38 MKIII in line with or even below the prices we expect these days, and it’s tempting with eight regular variations on offer. There’s also one more priced at €1,800 (also excluding VAT) which is the collaboration with Watchfinder in the image above. This is WF’s first collab ever, and it digs deeper into the world of tropical dials and Newman-esque register markings, but I do like the steel bezel and warm dial paired with Maen’s Jubilee alternative. So, if you’re in the market for a tough-looking retro chrono with refined details, you’re spoiled for choice with nine options. They are available for pre-order from Maen now and should begin shipping at the end of June 2024.

Dear Fratelli, are you suffering from retro fatigue, or do you have room for more ’60s-style chrono-cool? Let me know in the comments while I wind up the Sellita SW510.

Watch specifications

Skymaster 38 MKIII
Textured black with silver-white registers, brushed and polished applied indices, and Super-LumiNova X1 Old Radium lume,
Case Material
Stainless steel (316L) with ceramic bezel insert
Case Dimensions
38mm (diameter) × 47mm (lug-to-lug) × 13.4mm (thickness with crystal)
Box-shaped domed sapphire
Case Back
Stainless steel with sapphire display, screw-in
Sellita SW510 M b Top Grade — manual winding, 28,800vph frequency, 63-hour power reserve, 23 jewels
Water Resistance
10 ATM (100m)
Stainless steel five-row bracelet
Time (hours, minutes, small seconds), chronograph (12-hour and 30-minute counters, central seconds), 12-hour unidirectional bezel
€1,595 (at launch) / €1,679 (normal price), ex. VAT