Hands on review of the Ming 19.02 Worldtimer
Sep 16, 2019,14:16 PM
It's been a long time since I wanted to write about a Ming watch. Simply because I really like the project developed by Ming Thein and his 5 acolytes. Ming Thein is a photographer and designer based in Kuala Lumpur who has a great managerial and consulting experience thanks to his professional background. And it is primarily as a watchmaking fan and collector that he had the ambition to create his own brand. His goal was simple: to develop watches that he would like to have in his personal collection. Ming Thein obviously knows very well the watchmaking industry but he has kept a certain distance. This is a fundamental point that allows him, through his approach, to bring new ideas and to avoid, in a way, some bad reflexes.
I would like to emphasize the notion of brand. Because Ming Thein has indeed created a brand and not a succession of watches. There is indeed a coherence and a thread. Since 2017, the Ming brand has proposed different models articulated around two lines: 17 and 19 which correspond to two distinct segments. The Ming project began in August 2017 with the model 17.01 animated by a Sellita caliber SW210 and offered at a price below $ 1,000. Line 19 was introduced a few months later with the 19.01 model which was part of a much more upscale approach as evidenced by the use of a more exclusive and efficient caliber, a special version of the Schwarz Etienne movement MSE100. The price was obviously adjusted to around CHF 6,900 during the launch period and now set at CHF 7,900. Such a gap may be surprising but I find that Ming Thein has avoided the pitfalls of going upmarket. First of all, the brand distilled during these two years watches in the line 17 and thus kept entry level prices. And the most important is preserved: each Ming watch always offers the same attention to detail and a contemporary aesthetic and timeless approach regardless of its price.
The Ming 19.02 is in line with the 19.01. It is very aesthetically close to its predecessor (if not a slightly greater thickness), which largely explains its success. In fact, the 19.02 includes a complication, a Worldtimer which allows to display instantaneously the current time on 24 different timezones . The complication fits discreetly and yet it is present on the dial thanks to the 24 IATA codes of the corresponding airports. These 24 codes draw a circle that surrounds the central disk of the hours. The approach, as always with Ming, is intentionally minimalist and very pure and yet, it releases from the watch a lot of dynamism. This is explained firstly by the effects of relief. Ming plays with the glass and the levels on which the inscriptions are positioned. The 10-minute peripheral segments appear in the foreground, followed by the hands followed by the complications-related markings, and finally the outer zone of the dial-side movement stands out in the background. The watch thus offers a beautiful sensation of depth which is very convincing.
The other element that explains the dynamics of the whole is the very contemporary and controlled aesthetics. The font, the shape of the hands and the famous peripheral segments define an original style, very current but without exuberance. I am convinced that this dial design will age very well since the organization of the dial remains classic and there is no wacky element.
We must come back to the peripheral segments. They express a very important idea of the Ming style. Time reading is done by the position of the hands, without the help of minutes index. Segments provide help but Ming is more confident in our brain for accurate minute reading. It is a good calculation, the segments are finally sufficient and contribute to the purity of the dial.
I mentioned the dynamics of the dial. But it is important to emphasize that the Ming 19.02 has no second hand. This is a detail that doesn't bother me and reminds me of the different Patek Worldtimer. The absence of second hand contributes to the very pure design but I quite understand that some prefer an "operating indicator" dial side.
On the other hand, what separates Ming 19.02 from a Patek watch is the treatment of the complication. At Patek, the hours and the cities rings are mobile and independent according to the simple and ingenious principle from Louis Cottier. One push on the pusher to change the time zone and everything is automatically repositioned. The cities ring is fixed in the Ming watch which requires more manipulation if we want to display the local time via the two main hands.
What surprises me the most with this Ming watch is the care given to each element, to every detail. Because if the dial is attractive, the case and movement are truly captivating. Nothing is left to chance and there emerges from the whole a great qualitative and aesthetic coherence.
The titanium case, with a 39mm diameter, seems simple at first sight. But what makes the difference is the integration and shape of the lugs. The latter are short, curved and bring a lot of character by reinterpreting, in a certain way, the surprising "cow horns" lugs. They are both angular and soft and extend the style of the case with style. I position them among the most beautiful lugs of the current watch offer. And as the case also has nice alternations between polished and brushed parts, I could only be seduced.
The movement completes the work. The Ming 19.02 is indeed equipped with a Schwarz-Etienne caliber ASE220.1 adapted specifically to its needs. First of all, the caliber is at the base excellent and is part of the high end movements available for purchase. It is an automatic micro-rotor caliber that surprises with the efficiency of its bidirectional winding (the micro-rotor has a tungsten mass) and offers an attractive 70-hour power reserve. In itself, it is already a nice movement that offers an attractive architecture. But the version for Ming goes far beyond. It offers partial skeletonization and a refined decoration of the bridges. The result is spectacular while avoiding the baroque or rococo. The openings in the bridges make it possible to visually lighten the whole and to create very beautiful effects of depth. 3 moving elements are clearly distinguished: the regulating organ, the micro-rotor mass and the barrel. The fact that the latter is open indirectly makes it possible to estimate the power reserve. The dominant color due to a pink gold coating and the quality of the bridge finishes give a warm and elegant flavor as a tribute to classic watchmaking. I really liked this stylistic contrast between the dial and the movement ... and yet, as stated earlier, everything remains coherent.
The wearing test only confirms these excellent impressions. The size is ideal. The 39mm are large enough that the complication remains legible while preserving the elegance of the watch. Its perceived size is slightly higher because of the visual impact of the lugs. The titanium case rests firmly on the wrist and its lightness accentuates the feeling of comfort. Its thickness of 11.2mm seems to me well dosed. Neither too thin nor too thick, the Ming 19.02 is harmonious.
So I have no hesitation: with the 19.02, Ming marks a big blow. This achievement is superb, accomplished and appealing. And above all, it differs from what we can see elsewhere. There is a kind of contemporary, pure and elegant atmosphere that emerges irresistibly which only confirms all the talent of the Ming team. This is a watch that I would have liked to see in some major brands because it is both bold and controlled. But are they able today to create such piece? There is finally no surprise that it is the work of a young independent and free brand. And cherry on top, the Ming 19.02 is available at a price of CHF 10,900 if the payment is made by bank transfer. I find this price well fixed given the quality of execution and of the movement. The initial price was lower but you had to seize opportunities... the first train left the station but the second one remains very attractive.
+ a superb aesthetic achievement
+ the harmonious proportions
+ a beautiful and powerful movement
+ a price that I find consistent
- the absence of a second hand can disturb those who like to have an operating indicator on the dial side
- the worldtimer system is not the Louis Cottier one that I consider as the most practical