A few months ago, I found myself in Singapore sitting across from Ming Thein, founder of MING Watches. In my hot little hands was the MING 19.02 Worldtimer, a somewhat polarising watch that has generated plenty of discussions. The fourth model from the Malaysian start-up, it offered us the first real indication that MING wasn’t going to be just another niche brand making distinctive-looking, time-only watches. Arguably the MING 17.03 GMT had already hinted at this fact. But with a Sellita movement and a retail price below CHF 1,650, it wasn’t quite the same shot across the bow of Swiss watchmaking as the 19.02. With its Worldtimer, MING is making a bold statement. And people – meaning collectors – seem to be responding.
To find out why, I spent some time looking at the MING 19.02 Worldtimer in more detail; wearing it on the wrist, playing with the world-time display, even taking the straps on and off. Here’s what I learned.
Measuring 39mm x 11.2mm high, the case sits nicely on the wrist. It’s not an ultra-slim watch but you can definitely wear it comfortably with a cuff. Most of the case thickness can be attributed to the deep box-sapphire crystals. There’s one on either side, held in place by a reasonably thin, grade 5 titanium band. This adds a lot of depth, which is particularly appreciable on the dial side. As with MING’s other watches, there are no spacer rings to ensure rigidity.
The bezel and lugs are polished, while the case is finely brushed. The shape of the lugs is quite distinctive but thankfully they are not as sharp as they might appear in the photos. I can’t speak for everybody, but I did find the watch comfortable both on the wrist and in the hand.
Dial and Hands
What initially attracted me to the MING 19.02 Worldtimer was the minimalist design of the dial. It’s clean and understated but there’s still plenty going on to draw the eye. The foundation is, of course, the gradient sapphire dial, which starts off clear at the edges before transitioning to a sombre black at the centre. According to MING, a unique lacquer process is used to achieve this deep reflective lustre, which is almost enamel-like in appearance.
It contrasts really well against the pink gold-coated movement visible beneath, although I know not everyone is a fan of the colour scheme used. Personally, I think if the movement had been left uncoated the dial wouldn’t pop in the same way it does, causing it to lose that initial wow factor.
Hours and minutes are displayed centrally by skeletonized hands treated with Super-LumiNova X1, which point to an outer chapter ring that is laser-etched into the sapphire crystal. A central crosshair has also been added to make it easier to read the time. For legibility in low light conditions, there is a luminous ring inside the bezel that projects a soft glow onto the dial.
The world-time indication is also equally understated. Static city names are printed under the sapphire to create a seamless display, while a masked section on the gradient sapphire dial allows for a rotating titanium 24-hour disc. The city selection is somewhat non-standard, which is down to founder Ming Thein’s eclectic tastes. The appearance of ‘KUL’ (Kuala Lumpur) on the ring pays homage to MING’s birthplace.
Turning the watch over offers a real visual treat. Visible through the sapphire caseback is Schwarz Etienne’s in-house, micro-rotor automatic movement, the ASE220.1. The 24-hour mechanism is integrated into the baseplate but functionality is somewhat limited, meaning you can’t jump the hour hand forwards or backwards independently once you arrive at your location. Instead, you have to adjust everything. It’s not a big deal but the added functionality would have been nice.
The configuration of the movement is unique to MING, which says more about the brand’s relentless focus on the details than anything else. It’s also quite nice to look at. The bidirectional winding micro-rotor is made of sintered tungsten and the single barrel offers a healthy 70-hour power reserve. There is no power reserve indicator, which is a bit of a shame. There’s no doubt it would have ruined the visual aesthetic to put it on the dial side but one on the movement side would have been helpful. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker, plus the signature MING skeletonized barrel cover allows you to visually assess the state of wind.
From a decorative point of view, the movement has been matte-blasted with a 5N pink gold coating, making it really ‘pop’. The partially skeletonized bridges add a sense of depth, which is further accentuated by the hand-polished anglage. As with the 19.01, the movement is adjusted in five positions and tested for an extended period prior to delivery. Again, the attention to detail is evident. Yes, it’s an outsourced movement, but you can see MING’s influences and input everywhere.
The MING 19.02 comes with two calf leather straps handmade by Jean Rosseau, Paris, and signed steel buckles. Changing between the two is easy with no tools required thanks to the simple quick-release mechanism. You can also purchase additional Jean Rosseau leather straps from MING if you want to customise the look of your watch further.
Price and Warranty
The MING 19.02 Worldtimer retails for CHF 10,900 if you pay by bank transfer (CHF 11,900 by PayPal) and new orders are expected to ship from the end of Q1 2020. This price includes worldwide shipping, with tracking and insurance. It excludes any taxes and import duties imposed by the country of delivery, however, so be mindful of that.
It’s good to see that MING has also increased the warranty on this watch to 2 years. This better reflects the quality of the construction of the case and movement and also gives potential buyers more peace of mind.
There’s no question, the MING 19.02 Worldtimer is not for everybody. Quite aside from anything else, the conditions for purchase and the long wait time for delivery will likely filter out all but the most seasoned of collectors. Then there’s the distinctive design and the minimalist display. Personally, I really like this watch. I think it looks cool, is functional (although it could be more so) and is very well made. And due to the inherent production restraints most small companies face – as well as the aforementioned reasons – you’re unlikely to see too many in the wild. In any event, I do think MING as a whole is worth a closer look, even if just to satisfy your curiosity.
More information at MING Watch.