A few months ago, we introduced you to a brand new, Malaysian-based brand called MING and their debut timepiece, the MING 17.01. Designed by famed watch photographer Ming Thein, this break-out watch sold out almost immediately (thanks in no small part to its US$900 price tag.) Impressively, just a few months later, Ming and his team have already unveiled their second watch; the MING 19.01. With a radical design, a Swiss Made movement and an extra zero on the price tag, this new timepiece has definitely gotten the watch world talking. Read on for all the details.
MING X Schwarz Etienne
By way of a quick refresher for those who missed all the hype surrounding the first MING watch, the brand’s creator and namesake, Ming Thein, is a well-known commercial photographer based in Malaysia. His client list includes brands like Koenigsegg, Nissan, Maybank and the City of London. In the watch world, he’s worked with companies like Jaeger-LeCoultre, Van Cleef & Arpels, Maitres du Temps, Richemont and the Swatch Group.
Together with five other watch enthusiasts from around the world, he established the MING brand, with the lofty goal of bringing back a sense of excitement and discovery to watch collecting, whilst at the same time creating watches that are accessible to a wider audience. The company’s first watch, the limited production MING 17.01, set a very high bar from a design and quality standpoint but at a surprisingly low price, and sold out almost instantly.
An example of movement by Schwarz Etienne, with tourbillon and retrograde second
For their second timepiece, MING has collaborated with one of the best, under-the-radar Swiss watch manufacturers going around: Schwarz Etienne. Readers of MONOCHROME will no doubt be familiar with this integrated manufacturer already, as we have written about them extensively. If you’ve got some time, I would particularly recommend reading Xavier’s introductory article to the brand, as well as the technical perspectives on hairsprings (here and here.)
Established in 1902 by husband and wife team Paul Arthur Schwarz and Olga Etienne, the company was revived in the mid-2000’s by businessman Raffaello Radicchi. Since then, it has begun to produce its own in-house movements in collaboration with its sister companies E20 innovations (one of the few makers of hairsprings in Switzerland) and TMH (Tradition Mécanique Horlogère).
Close-up with the Schwarz Etienne movement found in the MING 19.01
The underlying idea was to produce a modular family of calibres, always with the same base, that would allow for the introduction of additional functions. The first calibre was the manual-wind, twin-barrel MSE (an exclusive variant of which powers the MING 19.01 – more on that in a second). This was followed by the ASE (Automatic Schwarz Etienne), with a micro-rotor replacing one of the two barrels, and then the ISE (Irreversible Schwarz Etienne) with its micro-rotor and oscillator exposed on the dial side. In 2016, the brand introduced an evolution of the ISE, regulated by a flying tourbillon (TSE Tourbillon Schwarz Etienne), which features in the new La Chaux-de-Fonds Tourbillon Petite Seconde Retrograde timepiece.
The MING 19.01
Given the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the MING 17.01, I think it’s fair to say the follow-up timepiece from the brand was pretty hotly anticipated. Still, I’m not sure anyone expected what’s come next. I think I can say without exaggeration that the design of the MING 19.01 is quite simply unlike any other time-only watch on the market. Whether it’s radical look will appeal to all buyers is another matter entirely, but one can’t help but applaud the MING team for resisting the temptation to be conservative and follow the same tried and tested path as pretty much every other comparable brand.
The key foundational elements laid out in the MING 17.01 are still present but have all been taken one (or several steps) further. The round case, with its mirror-polished and finely-brushed surfaces, is still made of grade 5 titanium, although now it is slightly larger and thicker at 39mm x 10.9mm (versus 38mm x 9.3mm). Most of this added thickness can be attributed to the generous use of sapphire on both sides of the case, or as Ming so eloquently describes it, “a thin titanium band holding the two deep-box sapphire crystals together.” The distinctively flared lugs meanwhile appear even more exaggerated (with some claiming they look too ‘sharp’ now), and the crown has also received some extra attention.
The real show-stopper visually though, is, of course, the graduated sapphire dial, something I do not recall seeing on any other mechanical watch (please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong – always happy to learn). As you can see, it is a deep opaque blue in the centre before steadily becoming fully transparent at the edges to allow some of the movement’s baseplate to be seen. It’s quite striking really, although I can imagine some people may not like the lack of a traditional dial with indices, etc. I wouldn’t go far as to say legibility is an issue, but this is definitely a watch you glance at to get a ‘sense’ of the time, as opposed to down to the exact minute. To help with this, there is an outer chapter ring of sorts which is broken down into six 2-hour segments.
The design of the hands is similar to those on the MING 17.01, however, this time they are skeletonized and treated with Superluminova X1. There is also an opaque ring inside the bezel, which has been loaded with Superluminova X1 too, and this projects a soft glow onto both the dial and the crystal markings in low-light conditions. How this will work in practice in terms of helping you read the time is less clear but there’s no doubt the visual effect is very cool. As a final aesthetic touch, the straps for MING 19.01 are made by Jean Rosseau in Paris and retain the quick release mechanism shown in the first model.
Turning the watch over, a sapphire caseback reveals the impressive Schwarz Ettiene movement inside. A modified version of the manual-wind MSE made exclusively for MING, it is called the MSE100.1. The two large barrels are clearly visible and combined they provide over 100 hours of power reserve. There is no power reserve indicator to speak of but the barrel covers have been skeletonized to give something of a visual indicator of the state of wind of the watch.
The movement architecture is slightly different to the original and all the bridges have been skeletonized before receiving a two-tone anthracite beadblast. The anglage is quite impressive and speaks to the quality of Schwarz Ettiene’s work. The Schwarz-Etienne for MING Cal. MSE100.1 is made entirely in-house, including the hairspring, and has been tested in five different positions over the course of a 250-hour test program.
By now, I would be very surprised if you hadn’t already at least heard murmurings about the new MING 19.01. Although it was only revealed a week ago, it’s already created a lot of contentious discussions online, thanks largely to the significant disparity between the pricing of this new model and the original 17.01, which was very much an ‘entry-level’ watch. The reasoning behind this is that the MING 19.01 is the flagship timepiece of the MING brand and has been designed, manufactured and therefore priced as such. Ming himself, explains it thus;
“…the 17.01 was designed to be an honest watch that brought a lot of the features valued by collectors to a more accessible price point, [but] the reality is there were a lot of things I wanted to do that I simply couldn’t because of production cost restrictions. This is not the case with the 19.01, which was designed without compromises and to be something very special in a world that’s already got a lot of very special watches.”
It’s an interesting move to say the least and one that I believe is motivated by a genuine passion and desire to do something different, whilst delivering real value at the same time. At the same time, the MING 19.01 will be initially offered at a pre-order price of CHF 6,800 up until the 31st of December 2017 and then CHF 7,900 thereafter, which puts it in direct competition with some major names and models. There’s no doubt that’s a big hill to climb but at the same time, I do believe, like the MING 17.01 before it, the real worth of this latest model will be found in the finer details. Not to mention the fact it offers a proprietary manufacture movement that is ripe for modification in future models.
Whether enough customers will feel the same way remains to be seen but again, I can’t help but admire Ming and his team for their willingness to blaze their own path and try and create something truly different. Whatever it costs. Available to pre-order now, please visit ming.watch for more information.
Technical Specifications – MING 19.01
- Case: 39mm diameter – grade 5 titanium, polished and brushed – sapphire crystal on both sides – rigid case without spacer rings -water resistant to 50m.
- Movement: Schwarz-Etienne for MING Cal. MSE100.1 – hand-wound – 100-hour power reserve – time-only.
- Strap: 2x calf leather straps by Jean Rosseau, Paris, with quick release bars
- Reference: 19.01
- Price: CHF 6,800 (pre-order before 31 Dec 2017) – CHF 7,900 thereafter