On 1 May 2020, Ming released a new watch, a watch that had been teased on Instagram for a while now, the 27.01. The launch of the 27.01 was an unparalleled success for the brand, selling out in under 20 mins upon its launch. Unfortunately, controversy followed this success story, with allegations and comments that Ming’s 27.01 bore a remarkable resemblance to Holthinrichs’ Ornament 1.
Who is Holthinrich and what is Holthinrichs’ Ornament 1? I myself had never heard of this brand or watch before. Well, Holthinrichs Ornament 1 is the first series of watches under Holthinrichs’ watches, named after its founder, Michiel Holthinrich. With a background in architecture, it is no surprise that Michiel drew heavily from architectural design principles when designing the Ornament 1. In particular, the principles from the Art Nouveau (think Anton Gaudi and the Sagrada Familia) and Art Deco era are reflected here. There are differences in the two movements, with the former emphasizing on fluid lines and the latter preferring geometrical shapes and angles. However, both featured the use of ornaments along with high quality materials.
With a heavy focus elegance and proportions, the watches in the Ornament 1 series are designed to organically flow from the case to the lugs. The production method too is unique, with the use of 3D printing for every piece which is thereafter hand-finished, after all, the use of modern production methods was a feature of the modernist art movement too. All in all, Holthinrichs’ Ornament 1 is a beautiful series of watches that really cater to my tastes and preferences. For more details check out Wei Koh’s interview with Michiel below.
Back to the issue at hand though i.e. the controversy surrounding Ming’s 27.01 bearing resemblance to Holthinrichs’ Ornament 1. What happened? We reached out to Michiel who was gracious enough to give us his account of events. According to Michiel, he met Dr Magnus Bosse, one of two co-founders of Ming Watches, at Aurochronos (a watch show in Poland) in 2018. At said show, Michiel explained that he had showed his Ornament 1 to Magnus and he meticulously took pictures of the watch. Fast forward, Michiel’s attention was brought to Ming’s teaser on Instagram of the side profile of the 27.01 which looks similar to the Ornament 1 because of the skeletonized case side. Following which, Michiel was shown the press release of Ming’s 27.01 and felt that there were many similarities to the Ornament 1. Besides stating that the overall concept in terms of look and feel was similar, Michiel also specified 4 similarities that he based his conclusion on. These are; (1) the skeletonized case profile, (2) the skeletonised buckle, (3) the text on the case back though he qualified that his had 3 words as opposed to Ming’s 6 and (4) the same movement. Michiel acknowledged that he is not the pioneer of the skeleton case. Nevertheless, the execution of the concept is what he believes is unique to Holthinrich Watches and it is in the execution that he finds to far too many similarities for Ming’s 27.01 to be a coincidence, particularly when considering the photos Magnus took at Aurochronos.
Photo Credit: Monochrome
We reached out to Ming as well. Ming was less chatty, solely pointing us to the blog post that had been put up on its site.
Given that this controversy was highlighted in Michiel’s interview with Wei Koh on 28 May 2020, one can only wonder if this blog post being posted along with the launch of the 27.01 was a direct response. Regardless, this blog post detailed the design evolution of Ming that had led to the 27.01. I will not reproduce all the details of what was written there. I will however, highlight Ming’s explained rationale (if any) behind the 4 specified commonalities that were pointed out by Michiel. The movement is based on the ETA Peseux 7001, probably the most commonly used manual wind movement available. While this is different from movements used in previous Ming models, Ming states that it is the only movement available that would allow for such a thin watch i.e. 6.9mm thick. The other aspect that is explained in the blog post is the case back and how the wordings are derived. Apparently, it is a derivation of the way the wording was done on the Ming Abyss which was a limited run of 10 watches that was released in 2019. Ming further states that the wording on the Abyss was a derivation of the wordings on the sapphire case back of the Ming 19.01. Michiel, on this point notes that the Abyss was launched in 2019, which was after Magnus photographed the Ornament 1 at Aurochronos. Interestingly, Ming was silent on what I’d argue is the biggest visual difference on the 27.01 as compared to earlier models, i.e. the skeletonized case sides and the skeletonized buckle.
Photo Credit: Ming Watches
So there you have it. Two sides of the story. They say the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There is little chance that we will ever know for sure what happened. Nevertheless, the designs are out there for all to see and both accounts are recapped above. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below and look out for my own personal thoughts on the matter.