Short Questions, Short Answers – Ming Thein

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Ming watches are a very interesting proposal in the theatre of independent watchmaking. Albeit I don’t, yet, own at least one of their pieces, I do enjoy them with every encounter. After my reviews of the Ming watches, Hands-on review: Ming Watches – Ming 19.01 and Hands-on review of the MING 19.02 Worldtimer – Around the wrist, around the world, I felt that it is the time to make my session of short question / short answers with Ming Thein – the central character of the Ming Watches.

Ming Thein
Ming Thein (credits Ming Thein)

Short question, short answer – Ming Thein

Andrei: The intrinsic value of a watch is the ability to tell the time. But next to it, comes a series of let’s say features, like design and complications. Which is your favourite watch complication (or watch function)? (Mine is self-winding. I consider the automatic watches extremely practical. For me, it is even more important as the precision).
Ming: I like interactive complications: things where we can see as well as directly trigger the mechanics. This means chronographs, alarms, repeaters and sonneries; I wish I could say it is a chiming complication but I do not have enough experience with them, and unfortunately no chance yet to own one. (If it ever happens, I will probably have to make my own). The chronograph is the most accessible of these, ranging from simple mecaquartz to split and flying seconds – and any mechanical interpretations of it present plenty to appreciate visually, as well as presenting a useful complication and satisfying tactility when pressing well-adjusted chronograph buttons. Personally, this gap in the MING lineup is something I would like to rectify sooner rather than later, but movement choices are challenging: either too common if affordable, or stratospheric if something special. There is also the challenge of making the indications fit with our admittedly very symmetric and circular design language – subdials look a bit out of place. For now, we keep searching…
MING 19.02 Worldtimer - Cal. ASE220.1
The skeletonised winding gear and barrel reveals the mainspring of the MING 19.02 Worldtimer – the latest Ming Watches piece
Andrei: Which is your favourite decorating technique? (Mine is perlage – it is a widespread choice for the main plate decorations and often, in my limited experience, reveals the true value of a watch).
Ming: I think skeletonization counts as a decoration technique – not the ornate kind, that feels like filigree or too baroque and becomes the focus of the movement instead of the mechanics. Nor the kind that takes away so much material that the movement no longer has a canvas – I am not sure one’s wrist is the best presentation for such mechanics. I believe we found a nice balance with the 19.01 and 19.02 where we left a solid baseplate, but a functional skeleton that opens up as much of the bridges as possible. We combine this with simple matte surfacing (itself not easy to do in a uniformly flawless way whilst retaining crisp edges and polished anglage), this allows maximum appreciation of the gear train and mechanics. There is also a different kind of skeletonization on the other side, with the baseplate being partially revealed by the gradient sapphire dial; it’s this layering and interplay of light (you can see my experience as a photographer influencing things here) that I think keeps a watch visually dynamic and interesting.


The Ming 19.01 movement MSE100.1
All the front components of the MING 19.01 are skeletonised to reveal the elements underneath them. The result is an architectural view with a nice depth.


About Ming Thein and my (digital) encounter with him and his work

Referring to our short interview session I feel compelled to share with you his reasons to start with watches. The existence of these blog posts reduced the need for asking particular questions. Enjoy here: Off topic: Why I started making watches, part I, Off topic: Why I started making watches, part II. You will find there answer to many possible questions one might think of.

Ming Thein is part of an old list of favourite people. I have first encountered his work as a photographer. A set of pictures of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon II (one of my favourite watches ever) made me want to discover more of his work.


Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon II – credits Ming Thein


So I follow Ming for years. I strongly recommend having a look at his Ming Thein Photographer website. You will discover not only beautiful watch pictures but also street photography, product and portrait photography. And an impressive amount of technical reviews and photographic techniques. You also can have a look at his Facebook Page:

Thank you, Ming, for your time and for your inspiring work.  A nice Sunday to all of you!

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