Introducing + Hands-On With The Ming X Massena LAB 17.09

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As luck would have it, the 17.09 introduced last month is not the final word on the 17 series from Ming. For the first time in its history, Ming is collaborating with another brand to create a special variant of an existing model; the Ming X Massena LAB 17.09 Limited Edition. Using the existing 17.09 case and movement, this LE features an organic honeycomb dial design rendered in contrasting black or ‘honey’ yellow. Just 200 examples total are planned for production, so gird up those loins for what will surely be another frantic release.

Ming has proven quite adept at creating interesting dial textures and patterns, as we’ve seen time and again within the 17 series family. This collaboration with Massena LAB expands on that trend with a 3 dimensional hexagonal ‘honeycomb’ pattern set within the center of the dial. This particular motif is a nod to older Rolex references that received so-called honeycomb dials, such as the 6541 Milgauss, the 6202, the 6090, and others. The effect is far more pronounced here, with a literal honeycomb pattern creating a rather dramatic surface area for the dial. 

The inner dial is constrained by a circular brushed ring that is bereft of the typical hour markers or numerals you’d expect to find. Rather, the Arabic numerals are laser etched into the underside of the crystal, and filled with lume. The Ming and Massena LAB logos are placed at 3 and 9 o’clock respectively in the same fashion. This execution allows the dial to stand alone, uninhibited by the practical components of the watch, without sacrificing any actual practicality in the process. Given the design of the dial, I appreciate this approach and it’s something I’d love to see from a brand like Grand Seiko, who’s dials also deserve the clean treatment to be enjoyed sans date windows and applied indices (or power reserves). 

This LE is being offered in black or honey configurations, with the former getting 150 of the 200 production slots. The honey colorway is light golden in appearance, it doesn’t venture near salmon, and it’s not full-on gold, but it lands in a sweet (sorry) spot, subtly capturing its namesake. There’s not much in the way of contrast on the dial itself, leaving the depth of the carved out pattern to play with light and shadow on its own. Speaking of contrast, legibility suffers a bit in direct daylight with the white hands and numerals reading against the nearly-as-light backdrop. The way the numerals are implemented, though, means you’ll get shadows of their shapes being cast onto the dial, making for some rather interesting viewing angles. 

The hands are beautifully shaped, appearing as thick outlines with teardrop shaped negative spaces offering a look to the dial below. They are rather close in length, leaving you to adjust to their shapes to quickly differentiate between. A slim silver ring sits at the inner edge of the outer dial, visually separating the two sections.

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The steel case appears completely polished from the top down, but the case walls receive a horizontal brush. The flared lugs are present and accounted for, and while they may look imposing in images, on the wrist they feel a bit less pronounced, and become a secondary detail to appreciate. The case measures 38mm in diameter with a lug to lug distance of 44mm. Paired with a scant 10mm in thickness and this watch wears absolutely beautifully on the wrist with a little breaking in of the Jean Rousseau strap. 

Credit: Ming // Massena LAB

Inside, the 17.09 will use the same 300.M1 caliber we saw in the first edition, which is a modified Sellita SW330-2 developed by Manufacturer Schwarz-Etienne. The draw here is that the hour hand is independently adjustable at the first stop of the crown, making quick adjustments after a flight a snap. There is no seconds hand here, nor are there even minute markers, so it’s a pretty easy set and go situation all around. 

A numbered caseback is closed, with the same honeycomb motif found on the dial. Again, just 50 examples of the honey colorway will be produced, and 150 examples of the contrast black are planned. The black dial will be priced at $2,595, while the honey dial will run you $2,795. Both will go on sale Thursday, May 20th at 10:30am EST (GMT -5) at massenalab.com, with deliveries expected to begin late July. MassenaLAB.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.
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