This Mechanical Watch Weighs Less Than Two Pieces of Paper

MING says its new LW.01 is the lightest mechanical watch ever.

a person wearing a watch

I'm used to seeing innovation from MING, the Malaysian independent watch brand that has become one of the industry's hottest brands among collectors in just over a half-decade of existence. From the brand's eye-catching signature style to its liberal use of lume to its unique movements developed in concert with Swiss manufacturer Schwarz-Etienne, MING has repeatedly raised the bar for what we should expect from a "microbrand." But with the latest watch to emerge from its high-end Special Projects Cave, Horologer MING may have just marked its greatest achievement yet.

The Ultralight MING LW.01

The brand is claiming that the MING LW.01 is (probably) the lightest mechanical watch in the world. There are two variations of the watch: one with a hand-wound movement that tips the scales at just 8.8g, and a slightly heavier automatic version that still weighs just 10.8g (weights are for the watch head only). To put that into perspective, a typical piece of office paper weighs 5g, so we're talking the equivalent of two pieces of paper (or less!) on the wrist. That is wild. Even adding the included Alcantara strap adds just 1.8g total, making the final watches weigh only 10.6g for the manual or 12.6g for the automatic.

So how does that compare to other lightweight watches on the market? Omega's Seamaster Aqua Terra "Ultra Light," which boasts not only a titanium case and dial but a titanium movement, is a comparatively beefy 55g on a strap. The Richard Mille RM 27-01 Tourbillon, created in 2013 for tennis superstar Rafa Nadal specifically as the world's lightest mechanical watch, clocks in at 18.83 grams on its strap. That might as well be an anvil compared to this new MING.

a close up of a watch
The MING LW.01 weighs less than two pieces of paper.

How did MING create such a light watch?

As I said up top, MING is no stranger to innovation, and the brand got awfully creative when putting together the LW.01. Pretty much every component of the watch was considered and optimized for lightness, but with the caveat that it still had to be a wearable, functional timepiece that matched MING's usual aesthetic. This proved no easy feat, and the timepiece took four years to develop.

The Case is made with AZ31 magnesium-aluminum-zinc-manganese alloy from Smiths High Performance, which MING's testing found to be lighter than carbon (which was also considered) while also holding up better to some of the hollowing out that was necessary to cut weight. It's also still metal, so it feels more like a traditional watch against the skin than carbon fiber. The material was treated with plasmaelectrolytic oxidation by Keronite, which adds a protective layer against corrosion and improves biocompatibility, along with a final anti-scratch coating. Between the flared lugs are fixed bars made from the same AZ31 magnesium alloy as the rest of the case as opposed to heavy steel spring bars, while the crown is made from anodized aluminum for added durability. The case measures a very wearable 38mm across and is just 6.5mm thick. The watch is water resistant to 25m.

a watch on a surface
One key to the LW.01’s extreme lightness is its use of AZ31 magnesium alloy.

The Crystal is Corning Gorilla Glass 6 instead of sapphire. The glass has received an additional hardness treatment, and while it's certainly not as scratch-resistant as sapphire — 670 Vickers hardness to around 2,000 VH for sapphire — it's almost half as light, weighing just 2.40g/cc compared to 3.98g/cc. The markers are printed on the underside of the crystal, which has a gradient tint in the center to hide the movement and give the illusion of a traditional dial.

The Dial is nonexistent, as the watch eschews the typical construction of caseback, movement, dial, case and bezel. Instead, MING has employed some clever engineering by combining the movement holder with a dial ring that is held in place by a buttressed cage for a caseback that's affixed to the hollowed-out bezel with screws made of PEEK composite, a lightweight polymer.

watch caseback
The watch forgoes a traditional caseback in favor of a buttressed design that affixes the movement holder to the bezel.

The Movement in both iterations, with and without a rotor, is an ETA 2000.M1 that's been extensively modified by Schwarz-Etienne for MING by removing some components and lightening others where possible. It has a 36-hour power reserve and is fitted with a seconds disc that acts as a pulsing starburst running indicator on the dial, reminding the wearer that this is actually a functioning mechanical watch.

The Strap, made for MING by frequent collaborator Jean Rousseau Paris, is also a record-breaker and is comprised of a single layer of Alcantara fabric combined with a buckle made from the now-familiar AZ31 magnesium alloy. For more robustness, MING also includes two other straps with the watch: a double-layer Alcantara strap and a rubber strap.

How to buy the MING LW.01

Trying to buy a MING is always a challenge, and the LW.01 will almost certainly be one of the brand's hardest watches to get a hold of. Just 200 watches will be made — 100 each of the manual and automatic versions — and they're priced at CHF 19,500 (~$21,686), with a 50% deposit required up front. Orders will open tomorrow (10/27) on the MING website, and once they're gone, they're gone.


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