Horologer MING, often mistakenly associated with the legendary Ming Dynasty due to its name, is in fact named after its founder, Ming Thein. Ming Thein is not just a passionate watch enthusiast but also a renowned photographer, designer, and business strategist. The brand was established by a group of six watch aficionados from various corners of the globe, led by Ming. Together, they boast over 80 years of combined experience in collecting watches, spanning from vintage classics to avant-garde designs, and from budget-friendly options to bespoke six-figure masterpieces. In this article, we’ll delve into the captivating tale of MING, explore some of its iconic watch models, and uncover its journey to becoming one of the world’s most esteemed micro brand / independent watch manufacturer.
Ming Thein’s journey into the world of horology is deeply rooted in his unique upbringing and diverse experiences. Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thein’s early life was marked by frequent relocations due to his father’s job, which took him to Melbourne, Wellington, and London. His academic prowess was evident from a young age, finishing high school at 12 and graduating from Oxford with a physics degree by 16. It was during his time at Oxford that Thein’s passion for design, engineering, and watches blossomed. Engaging with online watch forums and photographing exquisite timepieces became a gateway to his love for horology.
Ming Thein, the founder of MING, boasts a remarkable journey. He completed high school at the tender age of 12, embarked on his university journey at 13, and by 16, he had graduated from the prestigious University of Oxford with a physics degree. It was during his Oxford years that Thein’s passion for watch design and technology blossomed. He often found himself capturing the beauty of unique timepieces at watch gatherings and actively participated in numerous online watch communities. As a graduation gift, Thein received an A. Lange & Söhne 1815 from his parents, further fueling his obsession. After navigating the corporate realm for several years, Thein transitioned into professional photography, amassing an impressive portfolio that spanned various domains, from watches and architecture to gastronomy and products. His ties in the watch industry led him to collaborate with renowned brands within the Richemont and Swatch groups. However, as Thein has candidly shared in interviews, working directly for these brands somewhat dimmed his initial ardor for watches, as the experience differed from that of a genuine enthusiast and collector. Six years into his photography career, Thein secured positions on the advisory boards of both Hasselblad and DJI.
The pivotal moment came in 2014, during a flight from a watch exhibition, when Thein and several watch aficionados conceived the idea of launching their own watch brand. Under Thein’s guidance, he and his five partners birthed MING. Despite having resided in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, Thein felt a strong pull towards Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, his birthplace and current residence, as the brand’s base. Each co-founder brought a unique business acumen, creating a harmonious blend of skills. Thein spearheads the brand’s design, strategy, and photography. A common thread binding all founders is their shared passion for watch collecting and an appreciation for exquisite timepieces.
Thein’s philosophy is clear: watches should not just be luxurious indulgences but should also offer value for money. This ethos is evident in MING’s offerings, which are designed in Kuala Lumpur but manufactured in Switzerland to exacting standards. Thein’s dedication to his craft and his brand is evident in his desire to strike a balance between work and life and to continue innovating in the world of horology. In essence, Ming Thein’s journey from a prodigious student to a watch brand founder is a testament to his passion for design and functionality. His experiences, both personal and professional, have shaped his approach to watchmaking, making MING a brand that truly stands out in the crowded world of horology. The 17.01 and 19.01 models from MING perfectly encapsulate this blend of design and functionality, showcasing Thein’s commitment to creating timepieces that are both aesthetically pleasing and highly functional.
Horologer Ming – The Inception
Though the inception of the brand dates back to 2014, the journey from conception to realization of the first MING watch wasn’t instantaneous. Thein, however, had a clear vision for the debut timepiece. Yet, transforming a design concept into a tangible metallic form presented its own set of challenges. His experience commissioning custom watches from Ochs & Junior provided invaluable insights into the intricacies of watchmaking. With this newfound knowledge and his original designs in hand, Thein, alongside the co-founders, embarked on their horological quest. By 2016, their vision had crystallized. And in August 2017, the world was introduced to their craftsmanship with the unveiling of the MING 17.01.
The MING 17.01, introduced in 2017, stands as a testament to minimalist elegance combined with top-tier craftsmanship. This three-hand date watch is celebrated for its understated design, premium materials, and an attractive price point that resonates with many.
Encased in a 38mm titanium shell, the watch boasts a sapphire crystal with an internal anti-reflective coating, ensuring clarity under various lighting conditions. Its robust build offers a commendable water resistance of up to 100 meters. The dial, a canvas of simplicity, comes in three sophisticated shades: anthracite, navy, and pristine white. Its design is refreshingly uncluttered, marked by straightforward indices and a notable absence of overt branding.
At the heart of the MING 17.01 beats the Sellita SW210-1 automatic movement, ensuring precise timekeeping with a 42-hour power reserve. This watch is gracefully complemented by a calfskin strap, available in hues of tan, deep blue, or rich burgundy.
With its flared lugs, layered dial, and luminous ring etched into the underside of the sapphire crystal — all features that would become MING hallmarks — the 17.01 looked like nothing that had ever come before. It swiftly captivated a segment of the watch enthusiast market. Since its inception, the brand has only grown in stature, taking bolder strides, and adding more horological depth. This evolution has managed to win the hearts of even the most seasoned traditionalists. However, this journey to acclaim wasn’t without its challenges.
Within the microbrand watch sphere, the MING 17.01 has garnered significant respect. Enthusiasts and critics alike laud it for delivering outstanding value, possessing a design that transcends fleeting trends, and its impeccable construction quality.
Key Features of the MING 17.01:
- 38mm titanium casing
- Sapphire crystal enhanced with an internal anti-reflective layer
- Water-resistant up to 100 meters
- Driven by the Sellita SW210-1 automatic movement, with a 42-hour reserve
- Supple calfskin strap in choices of tan, dark blue, or burgundy.
Launched in 2019, the MING 19.01, an evolution of the 17.01 released in 2017, stands out with its minimalist design, high-quality materials, and a unique sapphire crystal dial. Housed in a 39mm titanium case, it boasts a water resistance of 50 meters and a dial that transitions from an opaque blue center to transparent edges, showcasing the Schwarz-Etienne Caliber MSE100 automatic movement beneath. This movement promises a 100-hour power reserve. Enhancing its aesthetics and functionality, the hands and dial ring are imbued with Superluminova X1, ensuring visibility in dim conditions. Complementing the watch is a quick-release calfskin strap available in black, brown, or blue. Revered in the microbrand realm, the MING 19.01 is lauded for its distinctive design, superior craftsmanship, and snug fit. Its innovative approach to skeletonizing and attention to detail made it a finalist in the esteemed Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2018. While the 19.01 was celebrated, it was the 17.06 that clinched the Horological Revelation prize for MING in 2019. Subsequent models, the 27.01 and 18.01 H41, further solidified MING’s esteemed position, highlighting the brand’s global appeal and industry recognition.
Aesthetics in Harmony with Function
MING watches have swiftly garnered a dedicated following, particularly among ardent horology enthusiasts, thanks to their exceptional design and selection of high-quality movements. The brand’s signature design is easily identifiable, with the case shape and characteristic curved lugs being particularly notable. MING has explored various dial designs, yet there’s a consistent underlying style that unifies all their creations. With over 40 releases in just five years, MING has successfully established its unique identity in the competitive world of horology.
Delving into MING’s portfolio reveals a plethora of remarkable timepieces, each produced in limited quantities, making them highly sought after. The collection is divided into two main categories: the standard production models and the Special Projects Cave, which houses more innovative and complex watches. Despite the limited availability and higher price point of the latter, MING’s commitment to providing value for money remains steadfast.
The MING 17.01 serves as a prime example of the brand’s ethos. This 38-mm watch, encased in titanium, immediately showcases MING’s distinct style. It features a multilayered dial, available in gray or blue, with a central pattern that dynamically changes with light exposure. The numerals introduced on this model have become more recognizable and pronounced over time, solidifying MING’s design language. The watch is powered by the hand-wound Sellita SW210-1 movement, fostering a tangible connection between the wearer and the timepiece.
The 17.01 and 19.01 models epitomize MING’s mastery in blending design with functionality, showcasing the brand’s ability to create watches that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also highly practical.
Horologer Ming – Carrying forward the success
MING’s commitment to innovation and design excellence is evident in its range of timepieces, each embodying a unique blend of technical prowess and aesthetic appeal. The MING 27.01, with its intricate design, boasts a double-domed sapphire crystal and a stepped dial, powered by the modified MING Caliber 27.01 automatic movement. This movement, based on the Sellita SW200-1, incorporates a micro-rotor, enhancing the watch’s slim profile. The MING 37.05 Moonphase, on the other hand, presents a futuristic design, distinguished by its moonphase complication at 6 o’clock and a prominent date window at 12 o’clock. Its dial, devoid of branding, utilizes negative space to create a striking visual impact. This watch runs on the re-engineered and finely finished Sellita SW288-1 automatic movement, showcasing MING’s attention to detail. Lastly, the MING 20.01 Series 2 stands out with its minimalist design, offering a unique chronograph feature that tracks two separate time intervals. Powered by the MING 7001.M1 automatic movement, a modified version of the ETA 7001, it promises an impressive 70-hour power reserve. Collectively, these models exemplify MING’s dedication to sustaining its success in the horological world.
Ming Watches FAQ
Where is Ming watches made?
According to Ming’s official website, the company’s watches are all assembled, calibrated, and examined in Switzerland. However, the final quality checks are conducted personally in Malaysia.
What makes Ming Watches so special?
MING has carved a niche for itself in the horological world, consistently introducing models that are both innovative and distinctive. Drawing inspiration from its founder, Ming Thein’s unique journey from academia to design, each MING watch is a testament to a harmonious blend of minimalist and avant-garde aesthetics, coupled with cutting-edge watch engineering. This commitment to excellence and originality is what makes MING a respected name among watch enthusiasts and collectors alike.
Which award did MING watches receive?
MING watches have won a number of awards, including:
- 2019 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): Horological Revelation Prize for the MING 17.06
- 2020 GPHG Finalist in the Petite Aiguille category for the MING 27.01
- 2021 GPHG Finalist in the Chronographe category for the MING 20.01 Series 1
These awards are a testament to the quality and innovation of MING watches. The brand is known for its minimalist designs, high-quality materials, and use of innovative technologies.
In addition to these awards, MING watches have also been praised by watch enthusiasts and journalists alike. The brand has been called “one of the most exciting independent watchmakers in the world” by Hodinkee and “a breath of fresh air in the watch industry” by WatchPro.
Horologer Ming – To Sum It Up
MING watches (Or Horologer Ming, as they’re really called) have emerged as a beacon of minimalist design in the horological world, seamlessly blending simplicity with innovation. Each timepiece is a testament to the brand’s commitment to aesthetic purity and functional excellence. As a result, MING has not only garnered widespread acclaim among watch enthusiasts but has also achieved significant honors in the industry. With its distinctive design ethos and unwavering dedication to quality, MING continues to set itself apart, earning both fame and respect in the crowded watchmaking arena. Their success serves as an inspiration, and we hope that more microbrands will rise to the occasion, channeling the same passion and dedication. In doing so, they can become influential forces in the industry, much like MING, and further enrich the diverse tapestry of watchmaking.
For more information about Horologer Ming and its watches, please visit the company website.