The ‘Midnight Zone’ marvel – Combining the worlds of Jules Verne with TRON is the new MING 18.01 H41
In the movie TRON:Legacy our hero Kevin Flynn — I will explain the relevance of TRON & Kevin in the new watch in a sec — says: “Out there is a new world! Out there is our victory! Out there is our destiny!” With the release of the new MING 18.01 H41, out there is a new world for divers to conquer! Out there is their chance for victory over oceans! Out there is someone’s destiny to beat Ahmed Gabr’s Guinness World Record for the deepest SCUBA dive by a human.
The ‘Midnight Zone’
When it comes to exploring the deep sea underwater worlds, humans have only touched the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to the underwater world that we know of, and certainly more than humans can scuba dive to. Still, like all mysteries of this universe, the unknown depths beckon us. Attracted like moths to light, we throw ourselves into the waters, wearing our trusty dive watches, like the new MING 18.01 H41, hoping for the best.
The ocean is usually divided into three zones, based on depth and light level. Up to 200m, amidst the world of Atlantic salmon, Clown fish, Polar bears, Killer whales and Sea lions lies the ‘sunlight zone’. Touched by sun, it’s where most water-loving humans would dive to. It’s where you might find divers wearing the iconic Rolex Submariner. From 200m to 1000m, amidst the Kelp, Wolf eels, swordfish, shrimps and the deepest point — 332.35m record by Ahmed Gabr — ever a human has managed to scuba dive lies the ‘Twilight zone’. Not really for humans or the sun, it’s a mid-way point between civilisation as we know it and the great beyond. It’s where you might find divers wearing — if they can survive down there at all — watches like the Omega Planet Ocean 600M.
Further this point sunlight can physically not penetrate, and at this aphotic depth which is enveloped in darkness, lies the ‘Midnight Zone’. Angler Fish and Giant Squids roam free in darkness, in a zone where humans cannot survive (unless they are inside a submarine). It is up-to this impressive and untouched by human — except by the plastic waste — world that the new MING 18.01 H41 can theoretically survive. One kilometre deep down to the depths of the ocean; that’s what this watch is rated for. Impressed? So are we.
It’s time to enter the depths of bioluminescence. Meet the ‘Midnight Zone’ marvel, the MING 18.01 H41.
One Kilometre to 20’000 Leagues
The new MING 18.01 H41 reminds me of a science fiction novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: A World Tour Underwater by French writer Jules Verne. In this adventure classic, Jules Verne tells the story of a fictional submarine named Nautilus — coincidentally also inspiring the name of Patek’s famous watch — and its crew led by Captain Nemo who wander the seas traversing unattainable depths. The design of Nautilus in the novel was inspired by a real submarine called Plongeur (French for ‘Diver’). Amongst lots of other themes, the story not only anticipates the future submarine look, but also depicts the design of the Nautilus as futuristic and ahead of its time. Coincidently its design from 1800s now accurately describes many features of today’s submarines.
In the story there is also a famous battle of the Nautilus with a school of giant squid, the same species that command the depths of the ‘midnight zone’. And battle ready for whatever the seas may throw at it is the futuristic MING 18.01 H41.
Just like the Nautilus was ahead of its time, so is the MING plongeur. Bathed in a dark, tough yet lightweight titanium dial, all it evokes is the simplest and purest sense of time, and a cool Identity Disc vibe that’s hard to miss.
The TRON connection
A watch futuristic and cool enough to feature in the world of TRON, the new MING 18.01 H41 is the diver of the present and the future.
TRON is a 1982 Hollywood science fiction movie that stars Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn, a computer programmer who is transported inside the software world of a mainframe computer where he interacts with programs in his attempt to escape. Highly stylistic, futuristic, and ahead of its times, just like the TRON universe, is the latest MING diver.
In this world of TRON, Identity Discs (or Light Discs) are the most fundamental piece of equipment. They contain all that a program is, in the form of a detachable glowing disc normally worn on the upper back. Everything seen, heard, or otherwise experienced is recorded on the wearer’s disc. And it is these Identity Discs that evoke the imagery of the MING 18.01 H41. The dark Disc that lights up is so very MING when seen as a lume shot. And besides looking like Identity Discs, the new MING 18.01 H41 watch also provides divers the tool to assist in seeing, hearing and experiencing the world of underwater exploration. If the underwater world was the universe of TRON, the MING 18.01 H41 would be their Identity Disc.
Kevin Flynn in the sequel to the above movie, TRON: Legacy, says: “Life has a way of moving you past wants and hopes”. The new MING 18.01 H41 has presented a way of moving past wanting a diver that’s not your run-of-the-mill dive watch and hopes to introduce its wearers to a whole new world of dive watches.
Last year MING to its own surprise — they weren’t intending to release a diver — saw the release of a prototype diver, the Abyss Concept. Costing 6’500 CHF, this only 10 piece limited prototype watch, the 18.01 Abyss saw MING offering what they do best: a minimalistic but luminous watch that left fans gasping for more.
The new MING 18.01 H41 — nomenclature stands for ‘generation H’, ‘variant 41’ of MING’s signature design language — is an extension of this 18.01 family, albeit a few changes that stem from its recently released Design Language 2 of the 27.01 Ultra Thin.
- Abyss came on a steel body; the H41 features a grade 5 titanium case and a matching titanium bracelet
- The sapphire chapter ring around the periphery of the dial has evolved, and is now sleeker
- Polished rotating bezel is a bit different too
- Price wise the Abyss was dearer, while the H41 starts from only 2’950 CHF
- Abyss obviously had just the one version; H41 has three variants – two tone on Jean Rousseau rubber for 2’950 CHF, two tone on bracelet for 3’250 CHF, and full DLC on rubber with gloss black lacquer dial for 3’250 CHF (our favourite of the lot)
- The base specifications are different: Abyss reads as 40mm diameter, 13.8 mm thickness, and 1250m water-resistance; the H41 reads as 40mm diameter, 12.9mm thickness, 1000m water-resistance (with 25% safety margin) and 65g weight. The H41 is thinner (and lighter owing to a titanium case) and it is this sleekness for a 1000m dive watch that’s one of its key distinguishing features. And even though it’s sleek, it’s 40mm diameter is the biggest the young brand has featured to date, and it’s something that connoisseurs who prefer their watches large should love.
- Both make use of a bezel and dial in-filled with Super-LumiNova X1. As a matter of fact, everything white is luminous. It is this element that lends it TRON’s Identity Disc aesthetic
- Both feature a sapphire dial ring embedded with ceramic luminous material
- Both feature the same trustworthy workhorse ETA 2824-2 movement that’s been modified (more on that in a bit)
- Both feature a unidirectional rotating bezel with 60-clicks
- Both feature a running seconds hand, a concept not too often seen on MING watches
- Both are collaborative efforts: Abyss saw use of Studio Koji Sato for the handmade leather travel roll, Jean Rousseau for straps, Manufacture Schwarz Etienne for movement modification; H41 sees the use of La Division du Temps, a subsidiary of Manufacture Schwarz-Etienne for production, assembly and testing; DM Surfaces for the HyCeram in the dial; Jean Rousseau for their waterproof rubber straps; and Studio Koji Sato for the new leather travel pouches
- Both are designed for safety under water: the rotating bezel features multiple sets of gaskets and seals that helps it to turn easily but not accidentally; an indicator to warn of an unscrewed crown; and the caseback has a high-friction surface to better grip arm or wetsuit and to prevent the watch from moving around
Legibility Is Key
I gotta harp back on the Identity Disc connection, this time not for its sexy looks but for the legibility it brings. Anyone who has read our reviews here at Watch Ya Gonna Do About It will attest that we lay high emphasis on legibility. MING’s new offering scores high here, providing for an exceptionally legible diver.
The black, dark gray, white colour scheme provides for exceptional contrast and legibility. The dial is as always cluster free, and the DLC coated solid steel timer bezel has scales that are differentiated into 15-minute segments.
The extensive use of Super-LumiNova X1 is everywhere: it is applied as a liquid epoxy to the bezel, as a solid block in the hands, and as HyCeram — a sapphire-fused luminous ceramic — on the dial ring. The watch is truly a prefect companion for the dark ‘Midnight Zone’.
Geometry and attention to detail again reign supreme, and combined with the killer overdose of lume, the watch as a package is just supremely legible.
The heart used — outsourced top-grade calibre ETA 2824-2 modified by Schwarz-Etienne to remove the calendar and intermediate hand setting positions — is an automatic movement that has been adjusted to five positions with a 250-hour test program. Offering a 40-hour power reserve — two hours more that the Abyss — the 25.6mm diameter and 4.6mm thick movement features Incabloc shock protection (if I remember correctly), comprises of 25 jewels and beats at the industry regular of 28’800 vph (4Hz).
This tried and tested workhorse movement is a part of the ETA 28XX family and has a long history of keeping watches ticking, that goes way back to calibre 1247 from the 1950s. Hamilton, Tissot, Rado, Certina & Tudor use it very frequently throughout their collections and for good reason. It can take a beating and when kept well maintained, is as good as any other for the price. Top grade ETA movements can feature up-to 80-hour power reserve and can also be COSC certified, so one thing I don’t understand about this release is why would MING not capitalise on that?
The movement is encased inside a 40mm diameter and 12.9mm thick — 46mm lug to lug — grade 5 titanium case with a solid caseback. I must admit that I have gotten so used to seeing MING watches with exceptionally finished movements at the price that seeing this in closed caseback is bit of a bummer. I understand why they have done it but just imagine how cool would this watch have looked with a blacked out movement like the one from their recent 27.01 release?
Coming back to the front of the watch, the two-part composite dial with ceramic HyCeram Super-LumiNova X1 fused to sapphire is protected by a 3.5mm thick sapphire crystal with antireflective coating on both sides. On this the silver hours, minutes, and continuous seconds hands filled with Super-LumiNova X1 work their magic through time.
Completing the package are the bracelet/strap options. Wearers have a choice of a 5-link bracelet in grade 5 titanium with proprietary deployant clasp and interlock or a 20x18mm curved quick release rubber strap by Jean Rousseau Paris with signed pin buckles. The bracelet also includes the universal quick release curved-end fitting and this curved quick release end bar will fit all of MING’s previous watches. This bracelet can also be bought separately for 500 CHF.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
MING watches in a short period of time — been in existence since only 2017 — has come a long way. Their 19.01 has been nominated as a finalist in the Petit Aiguille category of the Grand Prix D’Horlogerie De Genève 2018 Edition, and won the Aurochronos Festival 2018 Grand Prix. The MING 17.06 Copper then took home the Horological Revelation Prize at GPHG 2019. And now they have in their collection a production diver. In a few years Ming Thein has accomplished what many might take a lifetime to.
Their watches including the new diver may not have an in-house movement per se, but they are heavily modified and as Thein told us in our recent interview, “at the moment we have the best of both worlds – partners with movement design and production capabilities, and a level of integration with Schwarz-Etienne that means effectively we make a lot of our own product in-house”.
They have already released their second generation of design language this year with the 27.01 Ultra-thin, have followed it up with this diver, and for fans who still want more, the innovative brand has more to offer soon. “The second generation is about consistency, maturity and refinement. The plan is for three watches – an ultra thin, a diver and a new flagship,” reveals Thein.
And damnit, I love it. I am not someone who snorkels or dives. I don’t usually even go to beaches that often. Swimming pools of hotels are as far and as deep as my under water explorations go. I am also not a huge fan of dive watches for my own personal use, though of-course I ain’t saying no to a Rolex Hulk if an AD is willing to sell it to me at retail. Even then, despite all of this, I love the new MING 18.01 H41.
Its design language is so very MING, it looks so ready for the world of diving, yet aesthetically it’s completely different than most offerings out there.
And it’s not like there aren’t any other brands that produce dive watches with a 1000m or more water-resistance. MING’s offering is swimming in congested waters, given there are a plethora of dive watches in the oversaturated market.
Most of the common and famous ones like Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms, Rolex’s Submariner, Omega’s Planet Ocean or Sinn U50 are not rated for a 1000m, but since no man can go to those depths, they become a competition for this watch. Within the 1000m plus category, there is competition too: Sinn’s U1000, Seiko Emperor Tuna, Ulysse Nardin Deep Dive 1000M Hammer-Head Shark, Oris Force Reckon GMT, Delma Blue Shark III, Bremont Supermarine S2000, Omega Ploprof Master Co-Axial Titanium, and the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea to name a few.
And as amazing as these offerings are, they all look how a tool watch should like. Their architecture is very robust looking, form following function. But the new MING 18.01 H41 looks different; it’s embedded in MING DNA, uses design codes borrowed from its other families, and that makes this to be one of the best stealth dive watches I have ever seen. And paired with a leather strap, dare I even say it could pass for a dress watch too.
The Wrap aka Jules Verne meets Vin Diesel
We talked about the 20000 Leagues Under the Seas book earlier in the review. The book as a measure of distance employs metric leagues, which are four kilometres each. According to that principle, the 18.01 H41’s one kilometre water-resistance is one-fourth of a League.
Talking about one-fourth distance reminds me of a Dominic Toretto — Vin Diesel’s character from the Fast & Furious movies — quote, that he famously says to Brian: “I live my life a quarter mile at a time”.
The new MING 18.01 H41 gives you the opportunity to explore the mysterious depths of the water world, one quarter of a league at a time.
For more information on the new MING 18.01 H41 and other offerings, head to their website here. All images unless stated otherwise courtesy © HOROLOGER MING 2020.