MING Balances Respect For Tradition With Their Noticeable Non-Swiss-Ness

New Kids On The Block: MING Balances Respect For Tradition With Their Noticeable Non-Swiss-Ness

A confident, young brand with some new ideas earns a nomination in the 2019 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève. 

By Thomas Hendricks

MING Watches is a Malaysian-based brand building the kind of watches that they wanted to see but couldn't find. The direct-to-consumer company has gained traction since its founding two years ago through calculated design risks and a word-of-mouth marketing strategy. Its latest piece, the 17.06 Copper, was recently pre-selected as a finalist in the Challenge category of the 2019 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève

No History, No Problem

MING Watches began in 2017 as a passion project of its founder Ming Thein, a Cosmology scholar turned business executive turned photographer turned “Benevolent Dictator” of his brand. Thein began his watch career as a collector and freelance photographer before teaming up with the Swiss firm Ochs und Junior to execute his design sketches. 

MING Watches now comprises a team of six based in Kuala Lumpur. Handling design duties in-house, the company partners with Swiss and Parisian brands to supply the movements and straps. As MING puts it, “We neither pretend to have history nor are we burdened by it.”

For movements in the 17.06, MING sources the self-winding ETA 2824-2 that’s modified to two crown positions and adjusted in five positions by La Division du Temps, a subsidiary of Manufacture Schwarz Etienne. The bespoke Maison, Jean Rousseau, provides the straps that come in a range of colors like navy, violet, royal blue, taupe, and blue-grey. 

A Distinctive Design DNA

After drafting nearly 60 sketches, MING began to form its core design DNA. The brand isn’t afraid to take a new approach to the aesthetic details, and their watches are full of pleasant surprises. Let’s take a look at some highlights:

Straps and Lugs - MING’s signature lugs are sculpted sharp and short with an almost grappling hook effect that adds a dose of style and minimizes their presence on the wrist. The lugs are fitted with two holes to accommodate straight or curved spring bars for a better-integrated strap. Speaking of straps, MING joins the likes of Cartier by using quick-release watch straps, and we expect more brands, established and upcoming, to follow suit in the future. 

Gradient Sapphire Dials - For a different take on skeleton watch craze, look to MING’s 19.01 and 19.02. The sapphire dial on these two pieces uses an inky gradient center to slowly reveal the mechanical elements peeking out at the edges. The result improves readability at a glance, and when you want to see the full movement in action, there’s an exhibition caseback on the flip side of the watch.

GMT Ring - The 19.02, the GMT counterpart to the 19.01, treats it’s GMT complication a little differently. Here, two concentric rings replace the traditional hour markers with an outer, static ring displaying 24 major airport codes (in no particular order) while an inner, rotating hour ring rotates to display the second time zone. 

Zero, Not Twelve - One of the tent poles of MING designs is the preference for a zero at the twelve o’clock mark. This tweak is certainly more form than function and, in an increasingly crowded watch market, we can appreciate something different for the sake of being different.

Minimal Parallax - The hands of MING’s 17.06 are set close to the dial for minimal parallax, with just 0.3mm clearance to the crystal underside. Similar to the preference for zero over twelve, this design element doesn’t change the game, but it does make for a slightly more immediate effect on the eyes.

Sapphire and Super-LumiNova - Look closely on the 17.06 and you’ll see that the outer ring of the dial is made of sapphire. The printed Super-LumiNova material against the sapphire emphasizes the glow, adding an impressive sense of depth. Other models like the 19.01 and 19.02 feature a thin halo in the crystal substrate that casts a soft light on the dial below - again, earning cool points for bringing creativity to a standard, functional feature. 

Copper Dial - Here, MING earns innovation points not only for using a metal dial, but for making that metal copper, and for acid-etching that copper dial to make a multi-level guilloche pattern. This combination is sure to make for an intriguing patina as time goes on.

The MING 17.06 in Copper and Monolith

Since its founding, MING has produced six models with its latest watch, the 17.06, representing the brand’s first series-production piece in stainless steel.

The 17.06 is intended as a reinterpretation of the now sold-out flagship model, 17.01, and comes in two variations, the aforementioned Copper and the all-black Monolith. Both are 38mm across and both are water-resistant to 100m. The Copper model is housed in a polished-brushed steel case while the Monolith is dressed in an anthracite DLC bead-blasted case.

The Monolith sells at a slightly higher price point of 1,500 CHF, as opposed to 1,250 CHF for the Copper. The 17.06 Copper is limited to 300 pieces and the Monolith to 125 pieces due to production restraints. Both will be available to order on MING’s website starting at 1pm GMT on September 19th.

A New-World Watch Brand

It’s hard to be the new kid on the block, especially when the industry you’re in spans back centuries. MING is making its voice heard with a different tone than some other newcomers (e.g. MVMT and Daniel Wellington) by partnering with vetted suppliers and adding design elements that warrant a second look. And who knows, some of the novel tweaks may just catch on elsewhere. It certainly worked for new-world wines with screw-down caps. 

The honor of being preselected for GPHG 2019 applauds MING’s affordable exclusivity and represents an encouraging sign for a brand prioritizing quality over quantity. 

(Images provided by MING Watches)

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