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Presented as the epitome of horological minimalism, the MING LW.01 watch boldly claims the title of the world’s lightest mechanical timepiece, tipping the scales at a mere 8.8 grams for the manual version and 10 grams for the automatic iteration. For perspective, this watch is lighter than a single Apple AirTag, weighing about as much as two AirPods, minus their charging case.
MING’s pursuit of minimalism transcends the mere aesthetic realm. They’ve embarked on an audacious mission, aiming to push the boundaries further than any other watchmaker has dared. This endeavor involves ingenious design innovations, the incorporation of groundbreaking materials, and the uncompromising removal of all non-essential elements. In essence, MING has Marie Kondo-ed this timepiece to perfection, and the result is nothing short of exhilarating.
The mastermind behind this watch is MING, a brand that has expertly married the art of design with the precision of engineering. The watch’s design is a work of art in itself, boasting a dial as minimal as its bill of materials. In fact, there’s no traditional dial to speak of. Instead, the minute hand hovers above a disc that obscures the watch’s inner workings, while a gradient print on the central section conceals the skeletal view of the timepiece, adorned with minimal markings on its periphery. Every component of this watch seamlessly melds artistry and engineering, occupying the sweet spot where outstanding design meets flawless craftsmanship.
MING’s team, however, didn’t abandon all conventions. They set certain constraints, ensuring the watch remained wearable in size and retained tactile qualities like the texture and thermal transfer of metal. Importantly, it had to be practical for daily wear without technical compromises solely in pursuit of lightness. Meeting these demands took longer than expected, along with extensive exploration of metallurgy and testing.
Nonetheless, these constraints did not detract from the end product. The watch features a magnificent body constructed from a special metal alloy that’s lighter than carbon but exudes the premium feel of metal. The lugs are transformed into bars, enabling the strap to pass through without added elements that would increase its weight. Instead of the traditional sapphire crystal, it opts for Corning Gorilla Glass, strengthened by a separate treatment from UK-based Knight Optical, akin to the slim glass sheets found in smartphones.
The quest for an ultra-light material led them to AZ31 Magnesium-Aluminium-Zinc-Manganese alloy from Smiths High Performance. This alloy is lighter than carbon, consistently manufacturable compared to hollow 3D printing, and crucially, retains the feel of metal. It undergoes surface treatment by plasma-electrolytic oxidation for corrosion resistance and biocompatibility, with an added composite protective layer.
Every component of the watch, from the screws made of PEEK composite to the hollowed bezel and the angled case design, was meticulously optimized to strike the perfect balance between durability and weight. The crown, constructed from anodized aluminum, ensures both robustness and smooth operation. Finite element simulation was employed to assess the watch case’s overall torsional rigidity. The fixed integral bars, machined from the same billet as the case, not only enhance rigidity but also weigh less than traditional steel spring bars.
The result is a watch with a remarkably lightweight head, weighing only 8.8 grams for manual winding, 10.8 grams for automatic winding, in addition to 0.6 grams for the matching AZ31 buckle and 1.2 grams for the Alcantara strap. This adds up to a total weight of 10.6 grams or 12.6 grams for a fully assembled, ready-to-wear timepiece. Yet, this innovation comes at a price. The “World’s Lightest Watch” may be lighter than an AirTag, but it’s far from budget-friendly. With an eye-popping price tag of 19,500 Swiss Francs (approximately $21,623 USD), one might find solace in considering a Patek Philippe as a more cost-effective alternative.
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