Diving into the design details of Baltic watches down to half a millimetre with founder Etienne Malec Diving into the design details of Baltic watches down to half a millimetre with founder Etienne Malec

Diving into the design details of Baltic watches down to half a millimetre with founder Etienne Malec

Zach Blass

Editor’s note: Back in January, many of you joined us in our Time+Tide Discovery Studio in Melbourne to celebrate our tenth anniversary. It was a week full of celebrations, events, and even three exclusive launches from three of the most respected microbrands in the game: Furlan Marri, Baltic, and Studio Underd0g. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to join us down under. While guests were privy to live interviews each event day, our founder Andrew McUtchen took the time to sit down with each of the three founders of the brands to have an even more in-depth discussion. We first shared Andrew’s conversation with Richard Benc from Studio Underd0g and then his conversation with Andrea Furlan from Furlan Marri. Last up, but certainly not least, Andrew and Baltic founder Etienne Malec chat through all things Baltic  – collection and design synergy, past milestones, things to look forward to, and, of course, our Baltic x Time+Tide Hermetique ‘Night Mode’ collaboration.

We encourage you to watch the full video above, but an abbreviated transcript, edited for clarity, can be found below.


Andrew McUtchen: So last night or through your party, how was the vibe for you? Because we filled this room with Baltic fans. Baltic watches everywhere.

Etienne Malec: Very positive for sure. People I never met before. It’s an honour to be able to meet all those guys and have a fun time, drink some beers, and talk watches.

AM: Okay, let’s get right into it. Describe Baltic in three words.

EM: Enthusiasts, vintage-inspired, and affordable. Done.

AM: How many years have you been going?

EM: It’s been nearly seven years now, quite a long journey.

AM: You’ve been around the block, and the good thing about that is that you have gotten to work with some great people in the industry. Tell me about the most famous person you’ve worked with in the watch industry.

EM: I got to meet one of my heroes of the industry Jean-Claude Biver – and his son Pierre. And it was cool because you know I used to read all interviews and I was pretty surprised that I was invited to their home for dinner. So it’s pretty cool. They have such a wealth of experience. They’re just a fountain of knowledge, so it’s quite insane to be able to spend time with them.

AM: How long did it take you to hit your Kickstarter target when it all began?

EM: I think it took something like 35 minutes at that point. So, on the first day, we did EUR 307,000 our pledge goal was EUR 65,000. So yeah, that was definitely a good day that I never expected.

Baltic MR01 Salmon desktop
Baltic MR01 Salmon

AM: Now, you know I love this question. What’s been the most successful sales window?

EM: Our MR 01 launch, which was a bit of a surprise. Because I never actually could imagine that it would be as successful at launch as it was. And I thank you all for that. Because for me that was quite a bold move – Breguet indexes, micro-rotor – it’s not something that you expect to be a high-volume selling watch. At Baltic, we design our watches just because we like them, and we wish that other people will like them in return. We don’t trend chase. That was the most successful one, amounting to nearly EUR 3M turnover in a span of two days.

AM: We are in Australia. We are in Melbourne and the Australian Open is currently being held. If Baltic, Furlan Marri, and Studio Underd0g are the Novak, Nadal, and Federer of the microbrand world which one would you like to be? Who would you say you think you are of those three?

EM: The retired guy [laughs] which is Federer. I would like to be Federer because he is so stable. He doesn’t have any, you know, peaks. He is very calm. I like his vibe.

AM: He’s a very nice person.

EM: Have you ever met him?

AM: Yes. I flew from Melbourne to New York to interview him for seven minutes and then I was meant to fly home right after. But after the seven minutes were up, he said, “So what else are you doing in New York?” I said, “Nothing. I’m going home now.” And he said, “Have you flown here to interview me for seven minutes?” And I said, “Yes.” He then told his PA to scratch the schedule and that I could have as long as I needed to talk with him. He said, “If you’ve come here and you’ve agreed to come for seven minutes of my time, you can have as much time as you want.”

EM: That’s amazing.

AM: I was lost for words because I had to get all my questions signed off beforehand. So, I didn’t have any other questions written down. I just had a brain fade, my dream is coming true. So, I said, “What are you wearing?” And it was a new old stock Rolex Daytona from his birth year, okay, that they took him into this vacuum-sealed archive and said, you can choose any watch you like from your birth year, and he got a birthyear Daytona – insane. They had gifted that to him on his birthday because he was such a good testimonee for Rolex. And then he spoke very candidly about Rafael Nadal and how if Nadal had not come up at the same time he would not have been in the record books. That the competitive rivalry between Nadal, and the budding rivalry with Novak who was beginning his journey, this was 15 years ago, kept him sharp. This is why having you three brands here together is so special because I believe you’ve made each other better as well.

EM: For sure.


AM: Speaking of dreams coming true, if your dreams come true for Baltic where are we in five years?

EM: I want to seek to have better visibility beyond the watch enthusiast world, to be able to be exposed to people who don’t necessarily know everything about watches. This is quite hard. To reach across into the mainstream. We like to be enthusiasts, and we like to stay enthusiastic about watches, and this has been the root of the energy we put into the brand. So the first objective is to bring in a broader audience while also being able to get a little bit deeper into innovation and try new things.

AM: What is the one thing that you want people to know about Baltic?

EM: That it is cool. That it’s just cool.

AM: That’s the best answer yet [laughs]. But what is one bit of misinformation about the brand that you want to clear up now?

EM: That’s a good question. You know, we’ve been always transparent about where all the components are made, but we need to overcome, a little bit, the fact that if it’s not a Swiss brand, you know, that it might be a little bit worse or with diminishing quality. So, we have to fight those cliches at the end of the day.


AM: So what is the skill? Because we have Richard Benc, a designer. Andrea Furlan, a designer. Etienne Malec, not a designer. What is the skill that you bring that has made Baltic a household name to watch enthusiasts?

EM: I guess it is my instincts. The ability to pull the string in the right spot, to be a navigator, and guide things in the right direction. We do make a lot of mistakes. It’s important to make them, but, still, we have to put the company in the right direction and I feel I’m trying to make the best choices possible to best move forward.

AM: Baltic is largely a direct-to-consumer brand. So, why are you in the Time+Tide Discovery Studio? Why did you choose us as a global retailer?

EM: Because, firstly, you’ve been always a trustworthy partner with us. You’ve always communicated about the brand. And, well, the one big issue with direct-to-consumer is the lack of a physical presence. Sometimes there are misconceptions about watches that you cannot see in hand. It’s important to have the watches in a place where people can handle them as well so that they may fully understand what they consider essential – for example, proportions and colours.

AM: Too true. Now, what would you say is different about Time+Tide compared to other watch media in your eyes?

EM: I like how Time+Tide gets straight to the point. No, bullsh*t, no bullsh*t.

baltic prismic purple

AM: Tell me the most exciting thing that is coming down the pipeline from Baltic. Tell me something special. What do you have coming that you can tell us?

EM: Other than the perpetual calendar? We are still working on being able to open that to the public as well. We have two very cool projects coming this year, one I’m actually wearing on my wrist which is called the Prismic. This is the purple dial configuration. The Prismic is a 36mm three-handed watch on a mesh bracelet that rests flush against the case.

AM: I have to say I saw the renders of this watch, but, as we discussed, you can only fully appreciate it ‘in the metal’.

EM: Yeah, this is something very different. We are very obsessed with the idea that all our collections need to be coherent and aligned. So, historically we have the same shape of a case across collections where you can put a bracelet or strap from one model onto another model from our collection without having to buy another one because they all fit. With the Prismic it’s going to be different in terms of design. It’s something else. Yeah, that’s something we wanted to try. So I hope it’s going to be well received as well.

AM: How would you describe the Time+Tide Discovery Studio as someone who’s just visited in person for the first time?

EM: It is a very cool space, very spacious with a lot of different brands. But I also think it’s very cozy and you can definitely have a good time trying different watches here.

Baltic x Time+Tide Hermétique Night Mode toolkit

AM: Okay, let’s get into our collaborative watch – the Baltic x Time Tide Hermétique Night Mode. How did this watch come together? I think I came up with the name, right?

EM: Yes, you did.

AM: I love this name because it fits perfectly. Do you know how there’s dark mode on your phone? Well, you can take a standard Hermetique and just flick the dark mode button to the side and this is what you get. So, talk me through it.

EM: So it’s based on the Hermetique collection that we did last October. This is the same watch but with a first-ever black dial. We did not do it initially because we wanted to have some colours. And I think this is very much the stealth mode take on a Hermetique – or, rather, Night Mode. What is better than a black military-inspired watch inspired on your wrist? It brings something quite special and simple as well.

Baltic x Time+Tide Hermétique Night Mode dial

AM: There are some details in this watch. I want to bring everyone’s attention to and they are so nuanced and so hidden in this watch. You know when there’s a box crystal, sometimes it casts a little prism which becomes a circle on the dial – but it’s not that. There’s actually a mirror ring that is… How wide is it?

EM: I would say around half a millimetre.

AM: Okay, so, a .5mm thin, a filament of a mirrored ring inside this dial. You need to tell people why you bothered to do that because this watch is complete without it.

EM: The first reason is we love a sector dial, there is something unique in the way you read the time – it’s clear, segmented. So, this is something that we wanted to keep with that one. Although, we wanted to bring details new details into the dial. So, the other new details are indeed this sector shiny one in metal that we put into it because it brings reflection it brings something a little bit shiny on a matte dial. Then there is the blocky SuperLumiNova applied for the hour numerals. It’s about creating shadows and reflection because the dial for me is all about reflection. The three-dimensional lume plots give a sense of depth that you don’t see often. I feel this is very important to have a very, you know, intense sense of detail in the dial.

Baltic x Time+Tide Hermétique Night Mode crystal

AM: The last one is rather obvious. Where’s the crown? I keep looking at this thinking where is the crown? It disappeared. Is this referred to as an integrated crown? Recessed crown?

EM: We say both actually, recessed crown or integrated crown. Because the crown sits within the lines of the case it makes the watch very comfortable.

AM: Thank you again for coming. Baltic in Australia, we have a long and exciting future together.

EM: We’ll come back for sure.

Baltic x Time+Tide Hermétique Night Mode pricing & availability


The Baltic x Time+Tide Hermétique Night Mode will be exclusively available to purchase in the Time+Tide Discovery Studio in Melbourne. Price: A$1,200 / US$800 / £600 / €700.

Brand Baltic x Time+Tide
Model Hermétique Night Mode
Case Dimensions 37mm (D) x 10.8mm (T) x 46mm (L2L)
Case Material 316L stainless steel with black PVD coating
Water Resistance 150 metres
Crystal Double-domed sapphire
Dial Matte black, railway minute track, stainless steel reflection ring
0.5mm-thick Super-LumiNova C3 X1 “super indexes”
Syringe hour and minute hands, lollipop seconds hand, coated in Super-LumiNova C3 X1
Lug Width 20mm
Strap(s) Black/khaki FKM Tropic-style rubber straps, black PVD pin buckles
Movement Miyota 9039, automatic
Power Reserve 42 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds
Availability Discovery Studio Exclusive
Price A$1,200