Not too long ago, a beautiful box, about the size of a small book, landed on my desk. Its front cover artwork depicted a globe in beautiful relief, surrounded by two rings with numerals. This is the imaginative packaging of the CIGA Design Blue Planet, the watch that won last year’s Challenge Category of the GPHG, making history the first Chinese watch to do so. It triumphed over the other ambitious competition, including Anordain’s impressive Model 1, the Oris Divers Sixty-Five, and the Massena Lab Uni-Racer.
Back to the Box
The packaging highlights both the beauty and the fragility of the Earth, intentionally chosen for the message CIGA Design seeks to communicate with Blue Planet. On the wrist, the watch is a constant reminder to do good to Mother Nature, as the illustrations inside the packaging show the effects of global warming and the possible results of the rising sea level. A few pages further, we find the watch itself, presented on a blue strap made from food-grade silicon, which attaches smoothly in seconds thanks to quick-release spring bars. A short instruction on how to use and read the watch compose the final chapter.
The Truth About Chinese Watchmaking
There was a time when the work of craftspeople from China was held in high regard around the world. Nowadays, people associate the Middle Kingdom more with mass production and ‘hommage’ watches. Even still, Chinese producers are an essential partner for many (Swiss) watch brands, particularly in the lower and middle price range. While these watches may be assembled in Switzerland, many of their parts come from China. The Swiss use heritage as a market device, whereas Chinese brands lack the same notoriety, regardless of the quality of their components.
Proving Continued Excellence
The Blue Planet most certainly sets the record straight, as it is, without a doubt, impressive. Not only did the watch win the GPHG, but it is also an exemplary watch of the capabilities of CIGA Design. The brand was founded by Zhang Jainmin in 2012, a designer by trade with over three decades of experience. While winning the Challenge Category at the GPHG put the brand in the spotlight for many watch connoisseurs, this certainly wasn’t the first time the company had won. CIGA Design’s trophy cabinet already holds two IF Design Awards, three German Design Awards, and no less than nine Red Dot Design Awards.
While winning awards is great and helpful, how is the function of the watch itself? The 46mm case is not as imposing as its size might indicate. Crafted from titanium, the watch is pleasantly light, and even on my modestly sized wrist, the wearing comfort is exceptional. While I have the privilege of wearing some of the most amazing and exclusive watches as part of my job, the Blue Planet made quite an impact on me. The aluminum dome that dominates the center of the timepiece is breathtaking. It is beautifully curved and shows in a very detailed way the terrain and mountains across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia. CIGA Design obviously doesn’t like prints, as the land and all its details are sculpted, making the deep blue color of the oceans stand out even more.
We Like Movement
Reading the time on the Blue Planet is done by the compass rose. The outer ring on the dial is stationary and is a standard indicator of hours. The ring around the globe rotates to indicate the minutes. Reading the exact time takes a little bit of practice, as you have to look at the compass rose and combine its place between the hours with the precise indication of the minutes. I found the experience similar to that of, for example, a single-hand Meistersinger. A glance was enough to tell the approximate time, but looking for a bit longer allowed me to see the precise details. This is also rather relaxing, as the passing of time is not so dominating. CIGA Design also doesn’t opt for printed numerals here, as all the markers on the two rings are shown in relief. Quite an unexpected and beautiful design.
The automatic movement is designed in collaboration with Chinese movement manufacturer Sea-Gull. The resulting creation is the construction that mounts the globe on a particular gear ratio and makes it turn 30 degrees while the minute ring makes a full rotation. They even went through the trouble of decorating the movement with fine details, although the view on this is now partially obstructed as CIGA Design was so happy that they won at the GPHG that they printed this on the mineral glass insert in the caseback.
Is it an Ikepod?
A comment I heard from several seasoned watch collectors was that it looks like an Ikepod. As the proud owner of an Ikepod Megapode, I can understand this sentiment, as the case construction looks similar. Both have the domed sapphire crystal that continues in the smooth curves of the case. The difference is that the case back of the Blue Planet is flatter than that of an Ikepod. As a result, I would say that it sits more flush on the wrist, as the Ikepod tends to sit on top. Character-wise, both are pretty different, as CIGA Design utilizes its case and domed sapphire crystal to accommodate the three-dimensional globe. I cannot see this working as well in any other type of case.
A truly captivating watch
While I always feel a duty to be critical and not to be too enthusiastic about watches I review so that they will never disappoint you, as our readers, I can honestly say that the Blue Planet is convincing in every way possible. Forget all you think you know about Chinese watches because this watch will completely turn that around. As the GPHG already pointed out, is it a watch that can easily take on comparable (Swiss) watches that cost two or even three times more. However, with that, you don’t do the Blue Planet justice, as it is a unique watch with a captivating way of telling time, to which little to no competition exists.
The CIGA Design Blue Planet retails for $899 via the brand’s website.
For more info, visit CIGA Design, here