In 2017, Ming Thein—a talented photographer of various subjects, including watches—brought two limited-edition blue and anthracite-dialed watches, both named the 17.01, to the market. The watches were attractive and unique in design, and with a modest price tag of $900, they had enough quality and character to sell all 150 pieces of each version.
There were certain hallmarks of the 17.01 that suggested a desire to achieve high quality despite budgetary constraints. For example, corners were not cut to produce the watch; rather, opportunities were taken to add value at a manageable cost. Filling the watch with nitrogen, taking a fairly basic third-party Sellita movement but subjecting it to elevated adjustment and testing, and designing a set of external components all clearly do not feature on the “start your own watch brand” catalogue.
If Thein’s first step into the market was an exercise in frugal creativity, gaining a foothold in an uncertain industry, this next step is a large stride of expressed intent. The 19.01 ($6,800 until December 2017, $7,900 thereafter) is Thein’s second model, and it takes aim at an entirely different segment. There are familiar case dimensions, flared lugs, blue hues, and crown and hand shapes that clearly conform to this young brand’s design language, but an inspection of the watch clearly indicates an elevation in quality—and the price tag follows suit.
The 19.01 no longer houses a ubiquitous movement; it is still a third-party caliber but comes from the niche Schwartz-Etienne as a consequence of Thein’s design. The MSSE100.1 is a very attractive movement that has earned the 19.01’s use of a sapphire caseback, but it is not just pretty. A view of the back will reveal a bead-blasted, manually wound movement with two skeletonized ratchet wheels over their respective mainspring barrels—and those who know about mainsprings will know that this means extended power. Indeed, the 19.01 has a 100-hour power reserve, which allows its wearer 4 days of uninterrupted functionality on the dial.
Speaking of the dial, the one on the 19.01 is made of sapphire and has a center of deep opaque blue, which grows lighter before becoming transparent at its periphery, revealing some of the movement plate beneath. The hands are similar in shape to the 17.01 but are skeletonized with SuperLuminova on their tips. Plus, there is a ring of additional SuperLuminova beneath the edge of the crystal. The composition makes for a striking sight in the dark.
The 19.01 will be available in Q3 2018 and will be produced in small batches but without limits. The 39-mm case is made from Grade 5 titanium and comes with two Jean Rousseau calf-leather straps.