Collector´s view: MING – Ming 18.01 H41
Hands-on: a comprehensive collector´s view on the MING 18.01 H41 and its (universal) bracelet. The latest diver watch to the MING family, a novelty from 2020.
A diver from MING we have seen before (Abyss Concept), but it was extremely limited (prototype run of ten watches) and the first in regular production is the Ming 18.01 H41. I did already a snapshot about it but promised to come back with more. Here we go, finally.
Some (general) context first:
“Diver´s” there are quite a few in the watch market of today and the competition is huge – good or bad. It seems there is a lot of attention on the topic, mainly because it became part of a lifestyle accessory for many.
Once (about 60+ years ago) it was, because of being a must as a serious tool with a dedicated product specification, quite a challenge for the watch industry to cover all the features needed:
- Water tightness, at least 100 meters
- Large diameter and luminous markings on black background to assure readability even under water and in bad light conditions
- Locking, unidirectional rotating bezel to time the dive, for security reasons
- Permanent seconds hand to be able to check operation at a glance
- Automatic winding to protect the crown seal
- Magnetic protection – especially for combat divers
Those features are no “rocket science” anymore and most diving watches, available today, deliver. One can find them in almost any price range (< € 1k and also > € 100k). Still there are quite a few differences when you look closer. Some offer more sophisticated features like water tightness up to 1000 meter (or even more), a depth gauge … and even tourbillons, perpetual calendars and minute repeaters can be found (all of which are quite at odds with the original purpose, as far as I am concerned). When I see such watches I ask myself if divers of today (I mean men and women, not watches ;-)) are either more demanding in respect to their tools or if (as it seems) “desk divers” with a sporty lifestyle are asking for even more? Or does that all happen for the sake of “because we can” or due to marketing departments considering it could be nice (= easy to market)?
Quite a few brands are still highly successful with (more or less) “slightly adapted copies from the past” or just another interpretation of the genre-defining role model, the Rolex Submariner. Others are more creative, try to be fancy and unique with quite often heavy price tags. There is one, for (almost) everyone, from affordable to luxury and many tastes should be covered.
(MING 18.01H41 together with some competitors)
As I said before the competition is quite big, but if you are in the market for something more special that is well-made and reasonable priced – it can be quite a challenge to find your favourite diver.
Some MING context:
The brand is first known because of its pure design approach and not to forget “good value for money”. It may have started as an ambitious “collectors for collectors” project, but today it is more from my point of view. MING already got lots of attention at an early stage, such as the Grand Prix from the Aurochronos Festival in Poland, and shortly after at the prestigious Grand Prix de Haute Horlogerie Genéve and a prize even in 2019 – “Horological Revelation” Prize for Ming 17.06 Copper. It´s one of those (rare) brands that is affordable for many and attractive to senior watch collectors but also beginners. Affordable (for what it is), solid and COOL (for several reasons) seems to be the magic formula. Being limited in production also helps to guarantee high demand whenever they introduce something new. The latter is not common for most of the (established) watch brands and especially not if it applies to almost all the watches ever presented. Truth is, they are remarkably successful and for good reasons. To call them a benchmark for the industry leads too far, but it´s worth to look closer even for industry veterans.
MING 18.01 H41 – diver watch:
First, it is a diver and therefore it needs to operate within strict technical and functional limits.
- Water tightness: 1000 meters are more than enough for most
- Large diameter and luminous markings on black background to assure readability even under water and in bad light conditions: 40 mm is (still) a tad on the small side, but is a matter of personal taste. It feels good on my (average) wrist but looks smaller than some competitors in the same size or even smaller. It´s mainly because of the “thick” glass you need for 1000 meters. Still readability is no problem at all, even at night
- Locking rotating bezel to time the dive, for security reasons: the 60-click unidirectional bezel feels solid and works perfectly
- Permanent seconds hand – check (and this is one of the rare occasions where MING ‘allows’ such)
- Automatic winding to protect the crown seal: the ETA 2824-2 top grade with modifications, a tried and tested self-winding movement, can do the job very well and helps to assure a competitive price. Regarding the crown, those are more sophisticated and reliable today. Proper gaskets and seals assured, there is still more. A red warning indicator for an unscrewed crown, which is more than just a nice feature and not common at all.
- Magnetic protection – especially for combat divers: nothing is mentioned here in specific
Result – as a diver: the watch (itself) delivers as a diver, but for serious diving I would like to see a more sophisticated strap solution. The bracelet (shown here) is not appropriate for wearing the watch with a dive suit. It´s a well-made titanium bracelet that offers a lot, but – in view of the core pursuit of a diver’s watch – not everything.
Do I have doubts about the diving watch as a tool? No! Still I think an easy to adjust to several sizes “sail cloth or water-resistant textile” strap would be more appropriate – even for (professional) divers.
Second it´s a reliable watch with unique and pure design. One that you won´t see very often – if at all – on your neighbours or colleagues’ wrists. A talking piece for the connoisseur, without being flashy. It´s easy to imagine as a 24 hours/7 days watch – depending your lifestyle and taste. The use of titanium makes it light on the wrist and the bracelet feels good – even smooth comes to my mind.
Depending the angle of the light, the dial looks quite different – from simple to sophisticated in the detail. That´s nice, and a consequence of MING’s typical multi-level dial construction with a floating sapphire ring which offers light a great number of different ways to model surfaces!
Bracelet – let’s set all my above criticism aside for a moment – on top it works with all MING watches available today, which is a real benefit. A tempting one … because one can switch easily, if you have more than one MING, or just go for the new bracelet alone.
(bracelet on 17.01, for example)
In my view, there is one caveat: MING states that the bracelet is designed to match all their watches so far (hence it is named Universal Bracelet). Of course, this comes with compromises to get one matching all in an aesthetic sense, at least in my book. For the 18.01 H41, a different finishing between the horns would have been nice in my humble opinion, matt finished – like shown in the picture above (17.01) for example. It´s not a deal-breaker, but I would like to mention it. As always tastes can be different and maybe you even like how it works with the case of the diver.
As it comes (like any MING) with quick strap/bracelet change solution, me switched to another leather strap from MING. What do you think about?
Me likes it a lot and it works perfectly for “desk diving”, even in bad light conditions ?
In case of doubts – lume!
The latest “diver” is a welcome addition to the (growing) MING family and the first one being 40mm. It offers a unique and recognisable design in a functionally strictly defined watch sector, a lot of nice details and features and is reasonable priced, for what it is – an outstanding independent watch with unique design that also works as a “tool”. If you fall for the design, you probably won´t regret your decision to get one.
Sidenote: Watches from IWC (GSTs from the 90s) or from SINN (EZMs from the 90s as well) would have been close competitors, but those are (almost) vintage, legendary pieces today. So which would compare today, in your mind?
The watch industry should offer more watches like this, today. Therefore, it also got my vote at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2020 for best diver (see here: The Finalist Watches of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2020 (GPHG) – our Favourites – the eclecticum).
- Functions: hours, minutes, continuous seconds
- Case, dial and hands:
- Grade 5 titanium with solid caseback
- DLC-coated stainless steel bezel filled with Super-LumiNova X1
- 40mm diameter, 12.9mm thick, 46mm lug to lug
- 5mm thick sapphire crystal with antireflective coating on both sides
- Rigid case without spacer rings
- Water resistance of 1km/ 3,280ft
- Screw down crown with triple gaskets and red safety indicator
- Two-part composite dial with ceramic HyCeram Super-LumiNova X1 fused to sapphire
- Silver hands filled with Super-LumiNova X1
- Unidirectional rotating bezel with 60 clicks
- Head weight of 65g
- 5-link bracelet in grade 5 titanium with proprietary deployant clasp and interlock; universal quick release curved-end fitting
- Top grade ETA2824-2 automatic modified by Schwarz-Etienne for MING
- 40-hour power reserve
- 28,800 bph (4Hz)
- 25 jewels
- Sweep central seconds with hacking function
- Movement adjusted to five positions with a 250-hour test program
- 2-year warranty against defects
- Made in Switzerland