It is time to start adjusting our understanding of Chinese watchmaking. It is no longer ‘just’ about cheap labor and (to say the least) original designs. Instead, some watchmakers are turning to original mechanical creations and occasionally haute horlogerie levels of watchmaking. One such brand working to change the perception of the Chinese watch industry is CIGA Design, a young company with quite a track record. The name first popped up when Blue Planet was shortlisted for the Grand Prix de Horlogerie de Genève Challenge Award (which it won!). Now, a year later, we’ve finally had a chance to enjoy the attractive CIGA Design U-Series Blue Planet in Titanium and decide if it’s any good.
CIGA Design is not a traditional watchmaking company but a design studio that happens to create and sell watches. The company was founded in 2016 by Zhang Xianmin and is based in Shenzhen, China. Mr Zhang Xianmin is not a watchmaker, but an industrial designer by trade and education. Before his watchmaking adventures, he worked as a graphic designer of guidance systems in public places (airports, train stations, public roads, etc.). Under the name of CIGA Design, Zhang Xianmin worked with a team of eight international designers to create many original watches, the Blue Planet is a unique creation to this day. In just a few years, CIGA Design has won several international design awards, including the Red Dot Design Award and the GPHG Challenge Award in 2021.
GPHG Challenge Award
Every year the watchmaking industry chooses the best watches during the Grand Prix de Horlogerie de Genève. Each brand can enter one or several categories with one or several watches and the winner in each category (Innovation, Audacity, Horological Revelation, Special Jury Prize or the prestigious Aiguille d’Or for “Best in Show”) will be voted by a jury of people and experts. In 2021, CIGA Design entered the Blue Planet in a challenge category created for watches retailing under EUR 3,500.
Competitors in the Challenge category included watches from AnOrdain, Doxa, Furlan Marri, Massena Lab and Oris. The fact that it won the CIGA Design Challenge Award, marking the first time a Chinese watch company has received the award for a mechanical watch, indicates that things are changing regarding the perception of Chinese watchmaking.
A smooth titanium pebble
If we start with the exterior of the watch, CIGA Design Blue Planet looks and feels perfectly rounded like a pebble. Although this is a common thing in the industry, it immediately reminds us of the Ikepod, which perfectly fits the overall theme of the watch. Our review watch comes with a titanium case that measures 46mm in diameter and tops out at 15mm high thanks to the domed sapphire crystal. The crown has a nice profile and feels very solid, although it’s a bit milky to capture. You have to put your fingernail under it to pull it out; A small detail that didn’t bother me, but is worth mentioning. The entire case is a solid construction, with a recess on either side for the strap to tuck under the “bezel” and a screwed caseback with a second sapphire crystal. The crystal is engraved with the GHPG logo and the category in which the watch won the first prize.
From the start, this entire watch was clearly about one thing: an extraordinary display of time. We’ve seen rotating globes like this before, but this is probably the first time it’s done in this manner. The central section of the dial is a domed aluminum structure with representations of the continents in relief surrounding the Indian Ocean. You will also see parts of Asia, Africa and Australia, Antarctica and Europe. This entire section rotates as time goes on. Encircling the globe is a rotating ring for minutes and a stationary ring for hours. The minute ring does not rotate every hour but actually rotates 390 degrees every 60 minutes to line up with the advancing hour indicator. Also, the time can only be read in one place with a compass rose to indicate the hours and minutes. As an example, the close-up below shows you that it is 07:17 / 19:17 hours.
CIGA Design Mechanics
According to CIGA design, the Blue Planet comes with a brand new movement. Although it is very similar in design to the ETA 2824 or the Sellita SW 200-1, the automatic movement in the Blue Planet has some unique features. First and foremost, gearing to the hands! As mentioned, when the hour hand rotates 30 degrees (or one hour, basically), the minute ring rotates 390 degrees. It lines the hour and minute hand at any time of day, something not seen in traditional two- or three-hand watches.
The technical specifications are as follows: the movement beats at a frequency of 28,800vph and uses 30 jewels; Power reserve, once fully wound, 40 hours; And accuracy is rated at -15 / +30 seconds deviation per day. And before you start yelling about it or going on about how the mechanical movement runs within COSC specifications, it’s not built to be the most accurate watch in the world, and that’s perfectly fine. Yes, it could do with a little more control, but honestly, I don’t feel like it detracts from Blue Planet one bit.
The CIGA Design U-Series Blue Planet Titanium wears a very smooth and supple blue fluorine rubber strap with a signed pin buckle. When handling and wearing the watch, the comfort level is surprising and even on warm days, the Blue Planet never felt uncomfortable or sticky. The strap is tucked under the pebbled case and is easy to change thanks to quick-release pin bars.
Price-wise, CIGA Design feels like a steal on the Blue Planet Titanium, as it retails for USD 1,099 Without taxes (and even less USD 899 in stainless steel). For that, you will get a very cool, unusual and award-winning watch that will catch the attention of others quite a bit! One thing that could be done better is to use luminous material on the hour and minute rings and perhaps the rotating planet.
For more information, please visit CIGADesign.com.
Sponsored Post: This article is sponsored by CIGA Design. However, it reflects the author’s opinion and is written in accordance with MONOCHROME’s editorial policy.