While it’s dangerous to be overly triumphant, claiming that your brand has just produced the world’s lightest mechanical watch, Ming errs on the side of caution and proclaims that it has probably produced the two lightest mechanical watches on the market. Two new releases, the Ming LW.01 Manual and the LW.01 Automatic, sail in with flyweight credentials, tipping the scales with a watch head weight (not including strap) of 8.8 and 10.8 grams, respectively. That being said, the strap and buckle assembly is 1.8 grams, so that makes for quite a feather-light duo of watches…
When it comes to lightweight watches, the first name that usually pops up is Richard Mille, with its RM 27-01 Rafael Nadal watch weighing in at 19 grams. But there are even lighter candidates like the Montblanc TimeWalker Phythagore Ultra-Light Concept, weighing just 14.99 grams and the 17-gram Remontet Ultra-Light, which was produced in small quantities and sold out.
What began as a project to celebrate the brand’s fourth anniversary (2021) failed to materialise in time. The challenge of creating the world’s lightest mechanical watch stalled due to the time needed to study and test different materials without compromising the wearability of the watch.
One of the first tasks was to rethink the case construction to reduce the amount of metal required while retaining rigidity. Instead of ultra-light carbon fibre or hollow-core 3D printing, Ming discovered that the AZ31 Magnesium-Aluminium-Zinc-Manganese alloy was lighter than carbon and more consistent than hollow 3D printing; more importantly, it transmitted the feel of metal. The AZ31 alloy was further treated with plasma-electrolytic oxidation (PEO) to enhance corrosion resistance and biocompatibility.
Sapphire crystal was discarded in favour of Corning Gorilla Glass 6, which is lighter than sapphire but retains a hardness of 670 Vickers and is highly resistant to impacts. Every single component of the watch was optimised and tested to deliver a balance of durability and weight. The crown, for example, is made of anodised aluminium to avoid wear and tear on the threading. Contributing to the rigidity and lightness, the integral bars are machined from the same billet as the case.
Instead of using a traditional case construction, the Ming LW.01 fuses a hat-shaped dial ring and movement holder, supported from the rear by a cage with 3D struts to avoid damage to the dial and movement. The entire assembly is capped and sealed to the bezel, which is very narrow and internally hollowed to save weight. Both models share a case diameter of 38mm and a thickness of 6.5mm, with the brand’s signature flared lugs and ergonomic crown.
There is no dial per se: the outer ring is the movement holder, and the central area containing the movement is hidden by a dark gradient printed on the outer crystal. The signature skeletonised dashes marking the hours and minutes are also printed on the crystal, and there is a star-shaped running indicator (pulse seconds) in the centre. To read the time, the LW.01 models use a shuriken hour hand borrowed from Ming’s 17.03 and an openworked triangle for the minutes.
An incredibly light result
The choices paid off. The head weight of the manual-winding model is just 8.8 grams plus 0.6 grams for the matching AZ31 buckle and 1.2 grams for the strap, resulting in a grand total of 10.6 grams. The head weight of the automatic is 10.8 grams plus 0.6 grams for the AZ31 buckle and 1.2 grams for the single-layer Alcantara strap adding up to a total weight of 12.6 grams.
Manufacture Schwarz-Etienne supervised the adjustment of the small-dimensioned ETA 2000 base to save weight without affecting the movement’s reliability. Both the LW.01A automatic and the LW.01M manual-winding have a 36h power reserve and a 4Hz frequency.
Availability & Price
The Ming LW.01 is a Special Projects Cave release and is limited to 200 watches. The watch is presented with two Alcantara and one rubber strap made by Jean Rousseau, Paris, with AZR1 magnesium buckles and a complimentary aluminium buckle. The price is CHF 19,500 (a 50% deposit is required for order confirmation) and will be available to order on 27 October 2023 at 1 p.m. GMT exclusively from www.ming.watch, allowing you to choose between the manual and automatic models. Deliveries expected Q4-2024.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.