MICRO MONDAYS: The CIGA Design Blue Planet won a GPHG award, yet is still surprisingly affordableBorna Bošnjak
During my time at Time+Tide, the flow of curious timekeepers coming across my desk has been constant, yet, the CIGA Design Blue Planet stands out as one of the more notable ones. As the first Chinese brand to ever win an award at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, claiming the Challenge Watch Prize in 2021, CIGA Design took a huge step forward in putting their brand into mainstream horological circles.
A bit of background on CIGA Design then. Founded in 2016, the company is lead by Zhang Jianmin, a leading industrial designer who spearheads a design team of seven others from all over the world. A notable aspect of the brand is their pride in their Chinese heritage and manufacturing. With large recent investments – namely from tech giants Xiaomi – the future of CIGA Design is bright, as long as they keep up the momentum they’ve generated thus far.
Living up to its name
The Blue Planet is an absolutely striking watch. I’ve spent a long time looking at it and wearing it, yet it still manages to catch me off guard with its intricately engraved globe and rotund proportions.
The dial, if you can call it that, carries an impressive amount of detail, accurately representing the topographic nature of the globe in a relief map. Rendered in a highly-textured, electric blue, the oceans contrast against the silvery, grey continents, as the entire globe rotates once over the course of 12 hours.
“How in God’s name do I tell the time on this thing?”, I hear you ask. Fret not, as I shall do my best to explain. CIGA Design employs the rotation of the globe in the centre and the compass rose needle to point at the hour and minute rings, so you can simply read from outside in. On the example above, it is 10:05. The hour and minute rings themselves are wonderfully executed as well. Rather than just printing the markers, the numerals and hashes are all raised and finished in a legible silver colour, helping the (admittedly poor) legibility become that much better.
Fat flying saucer
At 46mm in diameter and 15.2mm in height, the Blue Planet is of almost planetary proportions. See what I did there?
Those dimensions don’t translate to an unwearable on-wrist experience, however. The titanium case is wonderfully brushed and rounded off, and paired with the strap that curves underneath the case, it’s actually supremely comfortable. Continuing the gentle curve of the case sides is the domed sapphire crystal, which accentuates the domed nature of the dial globe below. The only detractor from the uniform, rounded case finish is the knobby crown protruding at 3 o’clock. It’s easy enough to operate despite its unusual look and case integration, though I can’t help but wish that CIGA Design somehow concealed the crown fully when not in use. Although that’s completely understandable at the price point this watch commands.
While I can infinitely attest to the comfort and quirkiness of the Blue Planet, those dimensions still occupy a physical space, and this becomes obvious quickly. I found it peeking out under my jacket sleeve at every occasion it got, its rounded-off design preventing it from seamlessly slipping back under the cuff.
However, purely owing to its quirky nature, I didn’t mind this as much as I thought I would. My normal preference lays with thin, sub-40mm watches with three hands or less. The soft silicone strap made it comfortable regardless of the weather, as did the softly-brushed pebble shape of the case. A fun watch then, rather than one that just slides under a sleeve, unless yours hangs like that of a wizard.
CIGA Design-designed movement
Apart from the unique look of the Blue Planet, its other claim to fame is the CIGA Design-customised movement. CIGA Design doesn’t specify the makers nor the name of the movement, though it shares many visual similarities with the ETA 2824. My guess would be a Seagull ST2130, a Chinese clone of the venerable ETA movement, complete with CIGA Design customisation that allows for a 390-degree rotation of the minute disc with only a 30-degree rotation of the globe. Offering a 40-hour power reserve and finishing that’s pleasant enough to warrant a display caseback, it’s an absolutely ingenious way to create an inexpensive, novel time display.
I am deeply conflicted when it comes to the Blue Planet. On one hand, its proposition is so quirky and attention-grabbing, having already featured in this list, that I suspect it’ll take someone who already has everything to pick up one of these.
On its own, however, it’s a beautiful design, backed by a clever movement design that I couldn’t care less whether it was made in China or on Mars. And then there’s the price. At U$1,099 for the titanium model we looked at, it’s hard not to seriously consider it.
CIGA Design Series U Blue Planet pricing and availability:
The CIGA Design Series U Blue Planet is available now from CIGA Design. Price: U$1,099.