Why I Bought It: Ming Watches Model 17.06 Monolith
Incoming! If there’s a happier word in the watch enthusiast’s vernacular, I’m not sure what it is. And as more and more frequently I’m ordering watches in advance from independent makers or sitting out waiting lists from the big brands, the moment of delivery has often become the culmination of a period of weeks or months (or in extreme cases even years) of impatient fidgeting.
So it was last November when, after several months in the queue I received the happy news that my Model 17.06 Monolith from the Ming Watches team had arrived at my delivery box.
A quick trip later I returned home with my prize and immediately got on with opening up the simple external packaging to reveal the watch and its accompanying leather travel pouch hand-sewn at Studio Koji Sato, protective cloth bag and inner box, papers, and small cardboard box containing additional colored straps.
I’ve said it many times before: there are great watches at every price point! This is one great example of that adage that has regularly been winning the wrist time competition against other, much pricier pieces in my current collection.
Why I bought a Ming Model 17.06 and how it fits in my collection
In my friend Terry’s collection taxonomy of fun, foundational, and patronage pieces, this one is a clear example of patronage – a purchase made in support of independent makers who are risking resources and reputation to bring their vision to reality.
At a delivered price of CHF 1,500 it could also fit into the “fun” category for me, but at the same time it’s a very serious piece both in appearance and concept.
And in addition to its considerable merits as a timepiece, the Ming 17.06 is another example of the horological hobby being all about the people! Ming Thein and Magnus Bosse of Ming are longtime friends – and as you may recall, Ming is my photography teacher and mentor – and in times past both of them were active participants in the PuristS forum where I really cut my teeth as a watch enthusiast.
Over the years many forum members kicked around the idea of starting up watch brands, but the guys at Ming Watches actually did it, with results including several great timepiece references (for another example see Musing On The Ming Model 19.02: Micro Brand To Mega Brand?) and a Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève Revelation Prize trophy in 2019 for the Copper dialed Model 17.06.
When Ming and teammate Praneeth Rajsingh came through Northern California on their promotional tour for Model 17.06 and met with our collector group, we oohed and aahed over the Copper watch. But ultimately all of us opted for the black “Monolith” version when the window for orders opened.
Why I love the Ming Model 17.06
How much can there be to say about a black watch with a solid case back? As it turns out, quite a bit!
It wears great: At 38 mm in diameter, this watch sits very comfortably on my wrist, and the strap curves cleanly away from the lugs. The steel case adds a bit of heft compared to titanium, but it’s by no means too heavy for me as I like feeling a watch when it’s strapped on.
And while I’ve mostly worn the watch on its green strap for a splash of color, it also looks great – if a bit more formidable – on the smooth black calfskin strap on which it was delivered.
Black was never so varied: Yes, it’s black. But the variety of textures – slightly roughened, bead-blasted steel with anthracite DLC on the case, ever so slightly grainy blackness on the dial, and brilliantly shiny gloss from the chapter ring bearing the indices – allows light to play differently on the different surfaces in diverse positions, creating lots of visual interest.
Check out the side-by-side images below for an example of how the sapphire crystal chapter ring appears or disappears depending on position and lighting.
Tired of black? Add color: Additional straps in red, green, and blue were part of my order, and once I saw a pal’s Monolith on the available bright orange strap, I ordered one of those as well.
The straps have quick releases, and in a very thoughtful touch each additional strap came complete with its own steel clasp: bright steel on the textured straps and black clasps on the flat ones.
Robustness: This watch looks and feels solid, and that feel is backed up with tangible features such as the newly designed, rigid case that forgoes the use of a movement spacer ring.
The movement is a workhorse ETA 2824-2, but with some twists: it is adjusted to five positions, assembled by a division of Manufacture Schwarz Etienne and, in a favorite feature of mine, the crown detent position for the unused date indication has been removed so that there’s no “dead” click between the crown-in and the time-setting position.
I don’t recommend that you do this, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to remove the caseback and check out the spacer-free case construction and the ports for the internally fixed front bezel as well as the look of the movement.
One result of all of this is a specified water resistance of 10 atmospheres, although I may not put that to the test, especially having removed the back!
Attention to detail: The excision of the date detent on the crown is one example; another favorite design element of mine is indicated in the photo below by the curved and straight lines visible on underneath each of the lugs.
The Ming team surmised that owners might like to use straps with both curved and straight spring bar styles, and such is the attention to detail that the idea of a significant gap between strap and case when using a curved-bar strap would simply not do – hence the addition of a second set of spring bar holes on each pair of lugs, closer to the case, to allow curved-bar straps to be snugged in tightly.
In the “nobody’s perfect” department, you may note that in the photos I’ve taken for this article I actually have the green curved-bar strap in the more distant straight-bar holes; knowing Ming, I’m sure this will drive him nuts but I’m not re-taking all of those shots!
Other functional design choices are less obvious, but no less impressive; for instance, the decision to make the hour hand just short enough to fit inside of – and on the same vertical plane – as the sapphire crystal chapter ring, allowing the watch to be a bit slimmer on the wrist.
And the adoption of manufacturing techniques that allow for 10-micron tolerances both make shapes more precise and allow for 20-micron edge bevels that seem neither too sharp nor too blunt.
An identifiable and coherent design language: Ming watches is still a very young brand, but their watches would easily identifiable even without the name on the dial.
For instance, while the lugs on the 17.06 lack the fully multidimensional nature of those on the 19-series pieces, they still swoop away from the case in the brand’s characteristic style. And other elements from the use of a lume-indexed chapter ring to the “0” at the top of the dial signifying the start, rather than the end, of the time cycle tell us that this is a Ming.
Other small elements play their part: for instance, the chunky crown that is both attractive and grippy enough to make time setting a snap.
Even the crisp Ming-marked tang clasp that comes with each strap seems to fit right in as part of a greater whole.
It’s legible: You’d expect this of a black-dialed watch, but as we all know there are any number of dark-dialed watches out there whose hands seem to vanish in many lighting conditions. Ming takes no chances here, with bright-edged hands and lots of Super-LumiNova C1 that make time telling a snap, even in the dark.
It’s great to shoot: Okay, perhaps that’s something that appeals only to a narrow niche of potential buyers, but as someone who tends to dread photographing watches with dark dials – and who spends way too many hours cleaning watches before shooting them – the two-sided anti-reflective coating on the crystal, matte underlying dial finish, and seemingly schmutz-repellant DLC case coating were godsends.
All that, at an affordable price: Direct-to-consumer sales and distribution certainly helps with keeping the costs down, but I can’t imagine that Ming is making a fortune on this watch at a CHF 1,500 price point, especially with the significant proportion of Swiss labor content and the small 125-piece production run.
I’m of course very happy that this piece sells at this price; and no matter where Ming goes with its product policy in years to come (and there are already indications that it is moving upmarket) I hope that it will keep the 17-series alive.
I’m fond of saying that there’s no such thing as a perfect watch, but I’m finding it pretty hard to be critical of Model 17.06!
One thing that a few folks have noted is that the center seconds shaft on the dial side doesn’t have a second hand attached, but is visible to the eye in the central opening of the minute hand.
In the ideal world I would have preferred another solution, but Thein informed me that the obvious alternatives (for instance, a cap over the aperture) were tried but that it looked odd not to have an “origin point” for the radial symmetry, and so the shaft was left exposed.
As I don’t have a better idea, I’ll simply yield to superior experience! As visible in the photo below, the shaft doesn’t protrude above the plane of the minute hand; and at life-size, the central aperture and shaft are small enough that at least to my eye they don’t disturb the harmony of the view.
Is the Ming Watches Model 17.06 for you?
I immediately ordered a Monolith when I had the chance; the first run of these watches is long since sold out, but Ming’s website hints at the possibility of future batches. Should you set aside the funds to jump on one? Positive signs:
- The visual design really speaks to you and the functional specifications by “benevolent dictator” Ming are to your liking.
- You’re looking for a true independent creation packed with quality that at the same time won’t break the bank.
- You’re expanding your interests beyond the big-name brands and searching for a piece that will merit considerable wrist time.
On the other hand, you might look elsewhere if:
- You are saving up for a more substantial watch and at least for now fighting the urge to add lower-ticket items to your assortment (in which case some of Ming’s other lines might provide worthwhile aiming points).
- The sizes, colors, textures, shapes, or even that 0 where a 12 “should” be just aren’t for you.
- You’re purely a sport-watch devotee or a big-brand buyer and don’t see yourself warming to a casual-but-dressy indie piece.
I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments section. In the meantime, happy hunting!
For more information, please visit www.ming.watch/collections/17-06/products/ming-17-06-monolith.
Quick Facts Ming Watches Model 17.06 Monolith
Case: 38 x 10 mm, stainless steel 316L case; bead-blasted surface with anthracite DLC finish; internally fastened front bezel and rigid case construction without spacer rings; sapphire crystal front crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides; solid case back; 100 m water resistance with triple crown seals
Dial and hands: multilevel, three-piece sapphire crystal dial; hands filled and dial ring printed with Super-LumiNova C1
Movement: automatic ETA 2824-2 movement modified for Ming; 38-hour power reserve; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, hacking seconds
Limitation: 2019 production series limited to 125 examples
Price: CHF 1,500 including one strap; additional straps available at CHF 200 each