One of the things I find myself talking about constantly in watch design is the idea of dynamism. It’s easy enough to put together a timepiece that looks good in photos, but crafting one that can shift and excite in varying light conditions is another beast entirely. Those that can do it, especially on a budget, are few and far between, so when a new player pops up with dynamism and interaction at the fore of their philosophy, I take notice.
That’s where designer Ming Thein comes in. A true Renaissance man, Ming has dipped his fingers in everything from finance to photography to theoretical physics, but through it all he remained a devoted and passionate watch enthusiast. His first foray into watch manufacturing himself, the Ming 17.01, draws on help from over 80 years of combined industry experience to build a limited run piece that is sure to turn some heads.
While the 38 millimeter titanium case design may seem rather conventional at a glance, once you start uncovering the details it’s anything but. From above, the wide, gently rounded bezel dominates the view, its polished surface catching the light brilliantly. But the really interesting forms from this angle are the lugs; short and sharply down-curved, they fall away quickly from the body of the case and take an unanticipated direction on the way. Near the ends, the lugs dramatically flare outward, creating almost hook-like projections that mirror the contours of the main case.
In profile, things are a bit more as expected, with flat, brushed case sides contrasting the soft polished curves topside. The crown at three is sharply done, with crisp wide teeth and a simple-yet-pleasing etched “M” emblem. The case back is remarkably spartan as well, with no central medallion or outer ring of text, only a central text block with important specs.
The dial design of the Ming 17.01 packs a lot of character into a remarkably pared-down package, with each element designed for maximum visual interaction with the rest of the dial in both the blue and anthracite variants. First up is the central dial section. Recessed and printed with a geometric spiral relief, this pattern offers incredible light play as well as a depth contrast against the smooth outer area. Sitting between the two is a ring that acts as an applied hours track, with all numerals attached together as one piece.
The 17.01 dial, shown here in blue, plays with dimensionality and depth.
Everything here is streamlined, down to the use of “0” in place of 12 o’clock. Capping off the dial is a two-hand set of stylized dauphines, cleaned up massively by the omission of a running seconds. Overall, the effect here is sort of Ikepod-esque, and that’s a high mark for a brand’s first effort.
Inside the Ming 17.01 lies a hand-wound Sellita SW210-1 movement, a more than capable Swiss power plant. It boasts some impressive features including a silky smooth 28,800 bhp beat rate, a 42-hour power reserve, and (somewhat hilariously for a watch without a seconds hand) hacking capability. Each movement for the 17.01 is additionally tested in five positions for a total of 250 hours, and the company is so confident in this testing they’re offering a one-year movement warranty.
When it comes to straps, the 17.01 is offered on tan, navy, and burgundy leather. All are fine choices, but the best part is there’s no need to choose. Each Ming 17.01 will ship with all three included. That’s a more than solid collection of options for wear right out of the box, and the only option I feel is missing from the lineup is a Milanese mesh. With a 38mm titanium case , it’s extremely wearable for a variety of wrist sizes and small enough to remain properly dressy when the need arises. In truth, it’s a respectable choice as an everyday/“one watch” contender.
At $900 it’s in some very competitive territory, but the finish, manufacturing, and visual dynamism on display here is hard to match for under $1,000. Not to mention, you’re pretty well guaranteed to be the only person you know to have one, as the blue and anthracite versions are, as of this writing, limited to 150 units each. Ming Watches
Hailing from Redondo Beach, California, Sean’s passion for design and all things mechanical started at birth. Having grown up at race tracks, hot rod shops and car shows, he brings old-school motoring style and a lifestyle bent to his mostly vintage watch collection. He is also the Feature Editor and Videographer for Speed Revolutions.