Horologer MING - Watches by MING

Operating A Watch Company In A Squeezed Industry – On Lead Times And Deposits.

From our start (almost to the day) 5 years ago, our efforts to create watches that we really like have been met with resounding demand from our collectors. For this, we’re thankful and we take it gratefully as motivation to continue and improve.

In that period, we have presented close to 50 individual references, and along the journey we as company have grown: the team is larger and more diversified, we could introduce time-limited drops to address growing demand and we now have our own ‘in-house’ ordering system.

One characteristic however has become a fixture over the years: we ask for a deposit at order (when we started in 2017 it was 100% deposits but we moved to 50% from Nov 2021). Despite the move from 100% to 50%, we understand some concerns remain, so I’d like to explain the rationale for this practice in this post.

The development of a watch is a process which takes a minimum of 2 years from the first project/prototype meeting to the first series deliveries. The average is closer to 3 years now given complexity, new processes which might need to be developed and tested as well as general capacities with partners and suppliers. It also requires anywhere upwards of 20 unique suppliers.

 Add to this that within the context of the watch industry: 

 1.     We are still a small player, and 

2.     Every new launch (minus a few variants of 1706/1703) requires significant engineering and development 

This doesn’t help in enjoying economies of scale or wielding substantial influence over suppliers. I’d like to offer as an example the sourcing of cases: cases have developed into a real bottleneck thanks to a surge in demand across the watch industry (and fewer case manufacturers are available now as many have pivoted to producing smartphone housings), resulting in lead-times which have doubled (at least) in the last year, and we fear it won’t get better anytime soon.

We’re currently looking at at least 24 months from committing to and putting down the deposit for a production run and the first watches being ready to ship. This doesn’t factor in any buffer for unexpected hiccups or the challenges of a time limited launch where quantities can exceed production planning estimates.

We’re well aware that placing an order for a watch and then having to wait that long until delivery is not desirable from a collector’s perspective, and we’re trying our best to shorten this period. We’re carefully estimating demand and planning accordingly, we’re looking at multiple sourcing (wherever possible) and are making contingency plans, and most importantly, we’re placing orders and paying for them well ahead of a public launch.

 So why are we still collecting deposits?

As mentioned above, we’re still a small, young and self-funded brand. The independence comes with many advantages – which has allowed us to survive the pandemic and create 50+ references in 5 years – but independence comes with challenges of its own. 

We see a deposit as a mutual commitment which allows us to meet as much demand as practically possible (helpful in curbing flippers) and allows us to stay sustainably independent and turn MT’s vivid imagination into desirable watches for collectors who will enjoy them. 

We are continuing to work in parallel to further improve delivery lead times, and want to reduce it to a less than 6 month wait for customers (or even shorter). This will take time however.

As a final reminder, while deposits are non-refundable in the event of customer cancellation, we will of course refund the deposit if we cannot fulfil an order (this has never happened so far)*.

I hope the above explains lead times and our current order model. 

Thank you for your trust and support through all these crazy 5 years! And here’s to more!

 – Dr. B.

(*) for details see our Terms And Conditions page

Published: September 2022