In the not too distant past, a new and exciting watch release from a new and exciting watch brand would elicit an amount of excitement that one could describe as adequate, maybe even substantial, but nothing like the fever pitch that things have reached lately. In days gone by, as long as you marked your calendar and arrived at the internet within a reasonable amount of time, you were good. Sure there were exceptions, but in general, the gold rush feeling was nonexistent. Today, it’s a different ball game. Hot watch brands may as well be selling Beatles concert tickets or the cure for cancer if the fervour of the fandom is any indication. Even watches with runs in the hundreds somehow sell out in seconds, bringing tears of joy to the lucky winners and forum posts filled with ire from the sore losers. It’s the Wild West out there, and that’s without even touching on the mayhem that is the secondhand market, but that’s a discussion for another time. Today, the topic is about MING Watches and a watch I finally received: the 17.09 Blue… So it’s time to see if that watch was worth the hassle and the wait.
MING Watches from Malaysia is one of the brands that has most inspired this new mania, so I decided to join the hordes vying for the 17.09 and experience the drama firsthand, fully prepared for the blood, sweat and tears that were to follow.
MING is a “horological collective” formed by six enthusiasts from around the world under the leadership of Ming Thein, a photographer, designer, business strategist and above all, lover of watches. They have released a staggering 43 different models since the first one in 2017 and have been recognised by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève on no less than four occasions, which is no small feat for such a small team. Their watches have increased in popularity and in the difficulty comprised in obtaining one with each consecutive release. There are bound to be problems when each release numbers in the mere hundreds coupled with an exponential increase in demand. Forums have horror stories of watches selling out in seconds or credit cards being declined, due to the purchase going through Malaysia and finding everything long sold out by the time it was cleared with the bank. There are also tales of website crashes and countless other issues from the thousands of people trying and failing, to get a watch during those turbulent times.
The Journey to get the MING 17.09 Blue
This time around MING went with a whole new approach. There would be a standard presale period at a given date and time, and everyone was wished the best. But this time around, there was a second, open-order period lasting a brief ten minutes, and everyone who ordered during that time was guaranteed a watch, albeit on a first-come-first-served basis. This is an excellent way to ensure that (mostly) everyone who wants one of these hot commodities can get their hands on one with a little (or a lot) of patience.
Lacking in the patience department personally, I, of course, tried to get in on that first order. If I could be one of the lucky 300, I would get the watch a full six months before all those poor souls relegated to the open order period. I set my alarm clock and got up with the roosters at 8 am EST, multiple credit cards in hand, ready to slay this dragon that couldn’t possibly be THAT bad, I stupidly told myself. Staring at the computer clock as it slowly ticked past 8:59 and the starting gun sounded, I was off to the races. Thinking I was brilliant, I stored all my relevant details in a notepad, thinking copy/paste would be way faster than all those fools still typing by hand like 1950s secretaries. My info was entered in what must have been record-time, the “buy now” button clicked, and…
Purchase declined. It seems a purchase from the U.S. to Malaysia for CHF 1000 at 9 am is deemed “suspicious” by one Mr J.P Morgan, whoever that is. By the time he texted me to clear up the confusion, which really only took about two minutes, the 17.09 was all gone. The horror stories were true. I slumped in the chair, defeated, and tried to shake it off to fight another day.
Once open order day arrived, I showed up early again, reasoning that since I was so close last time, luck would certainly be on my side in the first-come-first-serve system. I even called the bank early, asking for assurance that there would be no issue with the purchase this time. They said no problem. The time arrived and, using the same routine, I was in and out of the buying process in seconds flat, clicked “buy now”, and… declined again! The same fraud alert text arrives from the bank, and once I assuage their fears and retry the purchase, it finally goes through. Phew. I was early but not first in line like I wanted. A few days later, I get an email with a shipping estimate: March 2022. A double-take at the calendar reinforces the fear that it is currently March 2021: a full year to wait.
The takeaway from all of this is that the MING ordering process can be as frustrating and stressful as everyone says it is. But it’s really the brute force volume of web traffic, international commerce and banking issues to blame, and not MING themselves. In my humble opinion, they are doing all they can, within the confines of technology, to get as many watches into as many hands as possible, without sacrificing quality.
Fast-forward 365 days. After a full year of going back and forth between excited anticipation and forgetting I had even ordered it – like it was all some kind of fever dream – the MING 17.09 Blue has arrived. It comes in a lovely two-piece box that contains a canvas bag, which contains a leather travel case, which contains the pièce de résistance. First impressions are tricky with a watch like this. Spending a year waiting has a tendency to skew perception, and something viewed as more rare and precious will seem automatically “better” in our minds, but I will do my best to remain impartial.
The 17.09 looks and feels very high quality, straight out of the gate. As someone who has dabbled in a great number of independent or “micro brand” watches, this one seems like a cut above. The build quality is excellent, and it feels appropriately weighty and solid in hand. The very first thing you will notice about a MING watch is the dial and the crystal, so we may as well start there.
For the first time in an “entry-level” MING watch, they have included their signature, laser-etched and lume-filled crystal tech. All of the dial indices are laser etched and filled with Super-LumiNova X1 on the underside of the crystal. It’s an extremely cool look and introduces a great deal of depth to the dial. Moving down, you will find a pair of skeletonised sword-ish hands, outlined with the same lume as the indices. The metallic blue dial is a two-piece construction featuring a brushed ring around the outside and a recessed Clous de Paris pattern on the inside. The effect is something that plays with light in a very fun and interesting way. It may not be hand turned on a rose engine, but it has the same aesthetic effect. The multi-layered design means that counting the hands, there are six different layers to the construction of this watch, giving a feeling of depth unlike anything I have experienced before. It feels like you could repel down into it for a closer look. The whole thing has a very TRON 3D vibe and a style all its own.
The case is made of 316L stainless steel with a mix of polished and brushed finishing. The top coming off of the dial has a lovely polish, leading to brushed finishing on the sides and solid case back. The case features the flared lugs that have become a MING signature. They are 20mm apart and feature some great attention to detail with the fine bevelling between the polished and brushed finishes. The signed crown is brushed and looks a bit like a movement’s train wheel when viewed straight on. Very fitting. The crown does not screw down but manages to retain a 100-metre water resistance rating by using triple crown gaskets.
The movement under the hood is the cal. 330.M1, based on the Sellita SW330-2 and modified by Manufacture Schwarz-Etienne, exclusively for MING. The modification is to add an interesting complication, the independent jumping hour hand. It gives you the ability to change the hour without interrupting the running of the watch, and thus accuracy of the timekeeping, like normal setting does. The value of such a complication on a watch without GMT functionality or even a running second hand is arguable, but having just taken it on a flight, it is quite handy to quickly jump just the hour hand forward an hour and not worry about that pesky minute hand at all. Is it a must-have complication? Probably not, but it’s a fun addition that adds another level of interest to an already interesting watch. The rest of the movement specs are fairly standard: 42-hour power reserve, 28,800vph, with hacking seconds, and regulated with a 250-hour test programme.
The watch delivers on a strap hand-made by Jean Rousseau Paris for MING. It’s made of Alcantara with a soft blue rubber lining. For those of you who, like me, are unfamiliar with Alcantara, it’s the brand name of a synthetic material generally used in automotive applications, and it has a feel similar to suede but is reportedly much more durable. The strap is very comfortable and has a nice signed and polished buckle. It also features a quick-release, curved spring bar, which helps it nicely hug the curvature of the watch case.
On the wrist, the 38mm diameter and 10mm thickness, coupled with a lug-to-lug of 44mm, are just about the perfect dimensions for my 16cm wrist. I was a little bit worried about the flared lugs, as they looked possibly uncomfortable in some photos, but I can happily report that is a non-issue. It wears with all the ease one could want of an everyday watch. Sporty and fun enough for jeans and sneakers, yet classy and elegant enough for dressing up, it ticks all the boxes and could very easily be a daily wearer for anyone but the most giant-wristed monsters among us.
Final Thoughts on the MING 17.09 Blue
So, was the MING 17.09 worth the multiple weekends of waking up early and ordering snafus, followed by a whole year’s wait? For me, the answer is a resounding yes. And who knows, maybe the long wait made it even sweeter, absence making the heart grow fonder and all of that. But if you strip away all the hype and hoopla and get down to the core of the MING 17.09, you are getting a lot of watch for your buck. High build quality and great attention to detail, coupled with an extremely cool and unique design language, you really get the complete package here. This is claimed to be the last of the entry-level 17 series watches from MING, so here’s hoping they replace it with another reasonably affordable line, and maybe I’ll see you in the (virtual) queue.
More information is available from ming.watch.