Following last year’s 18.01 Abyss Concept, a limited run of 10 prototype dive watches, Malaysian-based MING is back with its first production diver that improves on the concept. Steel gives way to titanium, there are a couple of case finishing options and it’s even thinner than before, but MING’s signature styling remains intact. If you’re not familiar with the brand, it’s already won in the Horological Revelation category of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in only three years of existence, so it’s certainly one to watch. The new MING 18.01 H41 expands on the brand’s smaller, dressier watch portfolio with a unique, very capable diver.
The MING 18.01 H41
MING recently updated its design language with the aptly named Design Language 2, first used on the 27.01 Ultra Thin dress watch with a more minimalistic approach. The 18.01 H41 takes this second generation design to the gym for a larger, sportier piece that represents a shift for the brand. It’s the first production piece with a seconds hand, diameter over 38mm and impressive robustness that even saturation divers can utilize. At 40mm in diameter and 12.9mm in height (46mm lug to lug), it remains unusually compact for a watch with a 1,000-metre depth rating. The case is grade 5 titanium, polished and brushed, with an optional all-black DLC coating with a gloss black lacquer dial. The 60-click, unidirectional stainless steel bezel (black DLC coated) has a detailed 15-minute scale, followed by a 5-minute notched pattern with decreasing prominence. All bezel markings are white Super-LumiNova X1 placed as a liquid epoxy.
A screw-down crown featuring triple gaskets helps ensure the depth rating, along with a 3.5mm thick sapphire crystal and solid caseback. The caseback is textured to help prevent it from shifting around underwater, but the rotating bezel has a smooth finish that forgoes the usual knurled edge – a bit of form over function. Moving to the dial, the cut-out chapter ring from the 27.01 is replaced by an applied ring of HyCeram – a blend of Super-LumiNova X1, ceramic and sapphire for a multi-dimensional glow. The black dial itself has a central section with a sunburst finish and an outer ring with a spiral, snailed pattern. The large silver dauphine hour and minute hands are predominantly filled with Super-LumiNova, and the lollipop seconds hand has a lume circle. This rare MING seconds hand allows divers to confirm that the watch is running while underwater.
The same movement that powered last year’s 18.01 Abyss Concept is here, a top-grade ETA 2824-2 that’s modified by Schwarz-Etienne to remove the date (no phantom setting). It has 25 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 40-hour power reserve. Functions are limited to central hours, minutes and hacking seconds. Adjusted in five positions, accuracy is rated at an average of +/- 4 seconds per day (allowable variance of +/- 15 seconds per day). ETA’s 2824-2 is arguably its best-known workhorse since 1982.
Two 20mm strap options are available, starting with a five-link titanium bracelet with a proprietary deployment clasp and interlock. It includes quick-release levers and curved ends that will fit all MING cases to date. A black rubber strap by Jean Rousseau Paris with a signed pin buckle and white stitching is also an option.
Prices for the MING 18.01 H41 start at CHF 2,950 for the two-tone model with rubber strap. The two-tone with titanium bracelet and black DLC with rubber strap both retail for CHF 3,250. The watches are Swiss-made and come with a two-year warranty. Pre-orders are already sold out, but there’s that second August 22nd shot – blink and you’ll miss it. Shipping is expected in November. For more information, visit MING’s website.
I have some opinions about MING, more about questionable sales strategies than the watches themselves. I am a fan of the quality and designs. MING is a Malaysian microbrand of only three years that outsources every component and with very few exceptions, uses the most common of ETA movements. However, it has never produced a model in any meaningful quantity, consequently selling out before pre-orders even finish. There are never available collections on the website, simply pictures of previous models that are permanently sold out. How is an enthusiast supposed to discover this brand?
The model discussed in this article is also sold out with a second pre-order scheduled for August 22nd. Even fewer watches are included in this second and final round, and bizarre timing means all of Europe will have to fight for one in the middle of the night. If you read our article about the aforementioned 27.01 model from May, you’ll find that it’s also unavailable. That was just three months ago. In fact, any of the brand’s watches you read about from this year or late last year, either on MONOCHROME or elsewhere, are unavailable. What?
In a statement about the 27.01, MING claims that it’s not a limited edition, despite only 125 being made for all of 2020. “Future runs are subject to us being able to source base movements.” That movement, the ETA 7001, is among ETA’s most common hand-wound calibres. Microbrand Farer had no problem sourcing them for the Stanhope, along with countless other brands, not to mention viable alternatives from other Swiss movement manufacturers (Sellita, Soprod, etc.) It seems to just reinforce MING’s insistence on artificial scarcity across the board. A bit arrogant for such a brand and a frustrating strategy for enthusiasts. But I digress…