Want to learn about the CIGA Design Blue Planet? Here’s our hands-on review.
This review is about the Blue Planet watch from CIGA Design. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
About the Brand
CIGA Design was founded in 2013 by Zhang Jianmin, a Chinese industrial designer. The brand’s mission statement is to “redefine the aesthetics on your wrist with modern mechanical art.”
CIGA, which stands for Chinese International Great Art, has won several design awards in their relatively short career. Looking at their catalog, they seem to have a penchant for skeletonized designs.
In my opinion, the Blue Planet we’ll be reviewing today is the standout piece in their collection, both for its aesthetics and mechanics, and we’ll see why.
In 2021, CIGA won their first ever watchmaking award at the Swiss GPHG (Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève).
Taking first place in the Challenge Watch category, the Blue Planet went up against well established brands like Doxa and Oris under the price point of 3,500 Swiss francs.
While there were certainly some other eccentric designs in the running, none of them featured an innovative dial layout quite like CIGA’s timepiece.
The watch comes packaged in a nice book style box. Inside is a bit of poetry about the value of the planet and attempts to bring attention to the forthcoming effects of climate change.
The sentiment is nice, but there’s no evidence to show CIGA is doing anything to preserve the planet other than using “eco-friendly” packaging. It just comes off as greenwashing, and conscious consumers may find this presentation patronizing.
The Blue Planet comes in two versions, stainless steel and titanium. Here we’ll be looking at the titanium. Right off the bat, I think the product photos are misleading.
- Case diameter: 46mm
- Case size w/crown: 48mm
- Lug width: 21.8mm
- Case thickness: 15.5mm
- Case weight: 55g, 85g on rubber strap
- Water resistance: 30 meters
The titanium render portrays a much darker gunmetal finish, but in person it doesn’t look much different than a stainless steel watch. The only other difference between the two models is the 20 grams in weight.
The Blue Planet’s perfectly circular case is radially brushed. The case measures in at 46mm but wears smaller because of its lugless design. Due to the curved underside, it sits atop the wrist like a pebble.
Comparing it to a stone made smooth by erosion seems fitting of the theme. While the case is practically featureless, I think it suits the watch.
It offers a pleasant case to dial ratio, giving the watch some visual balance. Plus, its simplicity fades into the background, drawing your attention to the main attraction: the terrific dial.
CIGA chose a unique perspective from which to model the Earth. Prominently showcasing the Indian Ocean, the Earth is depicted right side up (as we know it) when the compass is between 6 and 7 o’clock.
Here you can make out Africa to the west, Asia to the north, Australia to the east, and Antarctica southeast. Perhaps as a nod to CIGA’s home, they’ve oriented the compass pointing north, toward China at the top of the globe.
I quite like this decentralized view of the planet, as the design may have come off as cheesy, were it a stereotypical framing of the Earth’s continents.
The globe is carved in relief and looks great from all angles. The contrast between the electroplated ocean and topographic landmasses serves to create a real sense of depth. Framing the Earth are the minute and hour scales.
Their raised markers glisten in the light, not unlike stars twinkling in the blackness of space. The double domed sapphire crystal is meant to represent the atmosphere, depicting its fragility.
The graduated scales and mariner’s compass give the whole piece the feel of an old-world navigational instrument. This is emphasized when operating the movement. Turning the crown and seeing everything in motion feels like dialing in coordinates.
The crown is recessed into a cutaway in the case, and the underside of the crown hangs just below, giving you a spot to pop it out with a fingernail. The design of the crown is pretty unique as well.
It’s a rounded design with deep grooves that somewhat reminds me of the cap on a stainless steel water bottle.
The crown action feels nice and smooth when you’re setting the time, but it’s a little difficult to grip when the crown is recessed and you just want to wind the movement.
Overall, the finishing is stellar. Though, I’ve noticed a possible defect in the blue of the ocean. Just above the compass, there appears to be some slight discoloration.
It’s a minute difference in color that can only be seen from certain angles under bright light.
I’m not sure if it’s a defect in the electroplating, or just a smudge on the surface. To be fair, I only noticed it after closely examining the watch under a bright lamp.
Under most lighting conditions, it’s not detectable to the naked eye. Still, since I did notice it, I thought it worth mentioning.
The movement developed for the Blue Planet is a collaborative effort between CIGA and Chinese watchmaker Sea-Gull. It wasn’t built from the ground up, but rather reworked to incorporate a new gear ratio.
I don’t think they’ve given it a proper name, but they refer to it as an “asynchronous follow-up” system. I’ll explain how it works shortly. The specs feature 30 jewels, a 40 hour power reserve and an accuracy of -15/+30s a day. It’s also nice to see a little perlage finishing on the movement.
The crown can be pulled out one click to what seems to be a ghost position. Turning the crown here doesn’t seem to have any effect, but maybe the original unmodified movement had a date complication. The third position where the time can be set hacks the movement.
The outer ring is stationary and displays the 12 hour layout, with each hour subdivided by 5 minute markers. The globe acts as a typical hour hand, rotating 30 degrees every hour.
Acting as the minute hand, the inner ring displays a 60 minute scale. To tell the time, you look at the respective numbers the compass is pointing to on each ring.
What makes this design unique is that the time can be read with only one hand. Instead of rotating 360 degrees every hour, the minute ring rotates 390 degrees. This means its origin point, 00, advances with each passing hour. If that sounds confusing, it’s much easier to understand visually.
As a critique, reading the minutes is a little less intuitive than reading the hours. Since the scale rotates clockwise, you have to remember to count the minutes counterclockwise. For example, in the photo above, I’m inclined to read the time as 2:37 and not 2:33.
Overall, the design is cool, but I find myself missing the sense of motion you get from a traditional three hander’s second sweep. Since there’s no seconds indicator, there isn’t really a way to know if the watch is running at a glance.
Admittedly, I was a little confused by this when I first opened the watch. Until I flipped it over and peeked at the movement, I wasn’t sure if I got it up and running or not.
I think it would have been amazing if the designers were able to incorporate a moving seconds indicator into the dial somehow.
Included is a matte blue fluoro rubber strap. FKM is a high density rubber known for its durability against harsh temperatures and chemicals while being soft and supple. On the wrist, it’s perfectly comfortable.
The signed and machined buckle is also quite nice. The strap has two keepers, and interestingly, two pairs of little prongs along the edges to hold one of them in place. The only negative is that it has a tendency to pick up lint.
The quick release spring bars make it easy to swap out the strap, though CIGA doesn’t currently offer any alternatives for the Blue Planet. I can actually imagine a variety of straps looking great on this watch.
A tropic-style rubber strap, or maybe a black sailcloth strap with orange contrast stitching, to name a few.
As far as aesthetics go, you’ll either love it or hate it. Personally, I think the watch is quite a pretty sight, but the innovative design comes with its own set of problems.
Legibility on this watch is quite poor. It can be challenging to determine which markers the compass is pointing to. On top of that, the numerals are tiny. They’re probably the smallest out of any watch I’ve ever worn.
If your eyesight is less than perfect, you may have trouble reading this one. The absence of any lume also makes reading the time in the dark near impossible.
There have been several moments where I needed to check the time in a pinch; I took a look at my watch and ended up pulling out my phone instead.
Coming in at $899 for stainless steel and $1,099 for titanium, this watch is priced right around the Swiss “entry level” luxury point. Comparing it with other watches at the same price point is apples to oranges, but I can say that the level of finishing is great for the money (quality control aside).
Personally, I think the price is a little too steep. I can imagine many people viewing the watch as a novelty and finding it unjustifiable.
As mentioned above, the titanium finish looks a lot like steel. I don’t have both versions to compare in hand, but I’m tempted to suggest saving the $200 and going for the stainless steel version unless a slightly lighter weight is important to you.
I think you have to approach a piece like this with a different mindset. It’s not the “daily watch” most consumers are looking for. Its avant-garde styling isn’t necessarily versatile or practical. Trying to use the Blue Planet as a practical watch will likely end in frustration.
This is why I believe it’s best suited for a specific buyer. One who loves the craft of watchmaking and is looking for something truly unique. If that’s you, then you probably already know if you want one or not.
Despite the apparent issues, I still have fun wearing it and I get a kick out of just turning it over in the light and admiring it for what it is, a beautifully made object that also happens to tell the time.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!
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