Ming Surprises with What Could Be the Lightest Watches Ever Made
If you spend enough time writing about watches, you’ll eventually be nearly blinded to all of the press releases touting world records of some kind. Sometimes it feels like a month doesn’t go by that a brand isn’t touting a watch that is the thinnest ever, the lightest ever, the most water resistant ever, the most complicated, and various permutations and combinations of all the above. Almost always, these record-setters come from big brands, with years of research and untold amounts of historical backing behind them. So it was with considerable interest that we saw a message from Ming earlier this week, advising that they’ve just made the lightest mechanical wristwatches ever. Or, they probably have. A “record” wasn’t exactly claimed, but the watches are really, really light.
The LW.01 emerges from their Special Projects Cave, the skunkworks operation that sees Ming doing their most experimental work. The goal here was to simply make the lightest watch they could using the resources available to them, while keeping it wearable and practical in the manner of other Mings. The process took years, but the result is a (possible) record breaker that, somewhat astoundingly, is still immediately recognizable as a Ming first and foremost.
Ultrathin and Ultralight Design
With ultrathin and ultralight watches, the process always seems to start with case construction, as this is a component of the watch where mass can most easily be engineered away. The LW.01 forgoes traditional case construction and dial integration by combining a “dial” ring and hat-shaped movement holder that is just 0.5mm thick but strategically ribbed in specific places for strength and rigidity. This hat assembly is sealed to the bezel, which has been hollowed out to save weight.
Another weight saver is that there is no actual dial on this watch. The outer ring holds the movement, and the central portion of the assembly is covered by a gradient print on the crystal which is actually a transparent interference pattern on both sides that makes the movement appear to pulse from the center to let you know it’s running (also, it looks cool). The watch’s hour markers are also printed directly onto the crystal to save weight.
Materials and Movement
Ming went through a number of potential case material options during the prototyping phase of the watch, but ultimately landed on an AZ31 magnesium alloy that the brand claims is lighter than carbon and offers manufacturing benefits over 3D printed solutions. The brand also explains that this material has the benefit of looking and feeling like metal, which was important given the goal of creating a watch that is wearable in the way a traditional watch would be. For durability and robustness, the case has been treated with an oxidation process for enhanced resistance to corrosion. The case measures 38mm in diameter and is just 6.5mm thick.
There are two versions of the LW.01, one manually wound, and the other automatic. The manually wound watch is powered by the ETA 2000.M2, and the automatic runs on the ETA 2000.M1. Both have been modified for this series by Schwarz-Etienne, with certain components removed or replaced to save weight. The end result is a watch that weighs just 8.8 grams for the manually wound version, and 10.8 grams for the automatic. That’s the “head only” weight, but Ming will be shipping these watches on ultra lightweight straps with AZ31 buckles to keep the total weight between 10.6 and 12.6 grams.
A Remarkable Achievement
By any measure, this is a remarkable achievement for such a young brand. What’s more, if you compare it to other record-setters, it actually represents a fair value. The watch is priced at CHF 19,500, and is limited to 200 pieces. A 50% deposit is required to order, and delivery is expected in the fourth quarter of 2024.
- Ming introduces the LW.01, potentially the lightest mechanical wristwatch ever made.
- The watch features ultrathin and ultralight design elements, with a case construction that combines a “dial” ring and hat-shaped movement holder.
- The case is made of an AZ31 magnesium alloy, which is lighter than carbon and offers manufacturing benefits.
- The LW.01 comes in two versions: manually wound and automatic, with modified movements by Schwarz-Etienne.
- The watch weighs just 8.8 grams for the manually wound version and 10.8 grams for the automatic, and will be shipped on ultra lightweight straps.
- Ming’s LW.01 is priced at CHF 19,500, limited to 200 pieces, and requires a 50% deposit to order.
Ming has truly pushed the boundaries of lightweight design with the LW.01. With its innovative case construction and materials, this watch sets a new standard for feather-light timepieces. The attention to detail and the recognizable Ming aesthetic make this record-setting watch a standout in the industry.