Being an independent watch brand is no easy feat. Taking on the Swiss juggernauts in a time when the market is saturated with different watches and having the odds stacked against you is something most would run away from. I mean, it is clear- just look at the number of independent brands over the years that have come and gone, who just couldn’t make it and either sold out to a bigger brand or just vanish completely.
That being said, if there was a shining light, a name that has defied the odds, through truly original thinking and an unwavering desire for quality, it would have to be MING.
Established in 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Ming Thein founded his eponymous brand with the intention to create a watch that satiated his obsessive desire for perfection while maintaining a price point that was fair and accessible. Being associated with the watch industry for many years through both his passion and his profession as a commercial photographer, he managed to build up a vast knowledge of watchmaking and design, culminating with what you see here today- the 17.01.
The 17.01 was released in 2017 in anthracite and blue, with both having a limited run of 150 pieces. Sized in a 38mm Grade-5 Titanium case, this design has now become the signature look of MING. With short, outward curving lugs and a curved bar strap, the top of the case is polished while the sides are brushed, adding a nice depth to the overall look.
The dial is a three-part construction that includes the central guilloché-like pattern, the outer, circular brushed periphery, and the now-famous sapphire donut rings that display the numerals atop it all. With these combined, the dial has an amazing depth that varies in color depending on the lighting, displaying a flat dark blue at times and ranging towards a two-tone monochromatic blue when the central pattern pops.
The case is solidly constructed, offering a 100m water resistance with triple crown gaskets, and is nitrogen-filled in order to slow down the deterioration of lubricants, enhancing reliability and longevity. The manually wound SW210-1 caliber is no slouch either. MING put it through a 250-hour testing program, adjusted to 5 positions.
The beauty of MING is that somehow, they have managed to transcend a ‘pricing-based’ class system that has always been around in the watch industry. From an obscure, new brand on the block in 2017, today MING commands a huge legion of fans, from ultra-high-end collectors to your average guy who is just starting out. In fact, not only do MING watches sell for a premium in the used market (something that is pretty much unheard of with something like this), the last few releases have seen them sold out in record time, with the last 27.01 Ultra Slim selling out in under 10 minutes.
Furthermore, the 17.06 Copper managed to win the Horological Revelation Prize at the GPHG in 2019, a watch industry award that is akin to the Grammys. It was an amazing feat that truly solidified the MING brand as a true success and with this 17.01 Blue, it is worth mentioning that this example remains brand new and unworn still sealed in its original packaging.