Sometimes, you might just feel like you've seen enough classically handsome watches with traditional designs. Maybe you crave creativity in a timepiece — something different.
There are most certainly plenty of watches out there for for you. The problem is, many are extremely expensive — or they lack restraint, detail and/or quality.
Many, that is, but not all. The Ciga Blue Planet stands out for combining tasteful minimalism, originality, quality and affordability, and it's also the first watch from a Chinese brand to be recognized with a prestigious Swiss award — specifically, the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) 2021, in the category of "Challenge Watch" (under 3,500 Swiss francs).
This is a weird but captivating watch — one that's chock full of talking points, if nothing else. It might not be for everyone but...then again, it may be just right for you.
At a Glance: The Ciga Blue Planet
Case Diameter: 46mm
Case Depth: 15mm
Water Resistance: 30m
Movement: Seagull automatic (customized)
What's Good About the Ciga Blue Planet?
There's technical interest behind its unique looks
The three-dimensional globe motif at the center of the Ciga Blue Planet might suggest a world timer or GMT, but this is a functionally simple watch. It displays only the hours and the minutes — but it does so with discs instead of hands.
Here's how to read the time: The globe itself rotates just like an hour hand. The compass rose nestled between Madagascar and Antarctica points to the current hour and the minutes on their respective tracks. While the outer hour track is stationary, however, the inner track for the minutes rotates — and here's where some technical tweaking comes in.
Unlike a regular minute hand, which rotates 160 degrees every hour, this one has to adjust to keep up with the hour hand that rotates 30 degrees. This means the movement (made by Chinese company Seagull) had to be customized in order for the minute track to rotate 190 degrees per hour. It's a simple-sounding solution, but much more modification than what most brands do when customizing and claiming a third-party watch movement.
It has a striking design, impressive details and solid build
A lot of watchmakers want to achieve visual interest through three-dimensional elements, and this is one area where Ciga shines. The aluminum globe itself is domed, its continents are in a silver tone with realistic topographic details, and its oceans are in a tastefully deep matte blue. It's captivating.
You want to look closely at details like this — and when you do (such as with a loupe or macro lens) you find that they're not sloppily rendered. The indices on the hour and minute tracks are also raised. Still, step back, and the globe motif is recognizable even from a distance.
Another design element Ciga got right is pairing this visual centerpiece to an otherwise minimal design. The sapphire crystal's curve blends perfectly into that of the rounded (Ikepod-like) and brushed case. That case is — despite its 46mm diameter — surprisingly comfortable, thanks to its lugless design, soft silicon strap and (in the case of the tested model) lightweight titanium construction.
Yes, this is a good thing. China — and Ciga's home city of Shenzhen, in particular — supplies many respected watch brands with at least some components. The country is certainly capable of making high-quality products, but its own brands are underrepresented in the watch industry considering its contribution (not only to watchmaking, but to watch consumption).
I especially like that the map focuses on the Eastern hemisphere, showing pride in its origin rather than necessarily trying to cater to Western consumers. It's interesting to see an original Chinese perspective in watches — and especially one that receives international attention, not to mention being honored by the notoriously conservative Swiss. The Ciga Blue Planet might have gotten many watch fans' attention for those reasons, but it also deserves a closer look for its design, quality, execution and details.
What's Not Ideal About the Ciga Blue Planet?
It's not very practical for telling time
It's not the "asynchronous" method of time-telling that makes this watch hard to read but, rather, basic principles of legibility. Due to the nature of this time display, it's necessary to read the minute track numerals, rather than see where they're pointing on the dial — and their size makes that particularly difficult most of the time. Further, that compass rose doesn't exactly stand out and orient the user's gaze when checking the time at a glance.
Watches such as this are more about art than pragmatism, of course. The designers worked hard to get the aesthetic balance of elements just right — and did a pretty good job, in my opinion. However, making the numerals and indicator (here, the compass rose) stand out more would lend the watch not only usefulness but purpose. Purpose is always a good look, in my opinion, and these elements could (theoretically) also be integrated in an attractive way (using color, perhaps).
It almost doesn't look like a watch
If this design speaks to you, you're presumably open to something a bit unconventional and attention-grabbing, anyway. So perhaps it's not necessarily a drawback for you that it can elicit a response along the lines of "What the heck is that?" or "Is that even a watch?" Despite its prominent globe motif, it's also kind of got an extraterrestrial, flying-saucer-like vibe to it.
It's a conversation topic for that reason (and those mentioned above), but for my tastes it felt a bit over-the-top at times. Again, its 46mm width doesn't compromise wearing comfort or practicality, but it does have a big visual presence. In other words, although it's far from the most brash design you can find in watches, you need either the mood or the overall personality to wear a Ciga Blue Planet.
Ciga Blue Planet: The Verdict
For a price of over $1,000, depending on the exact model, some might feel this watch is comparatively expensive considering its Chinese origin — but that notion is feeling increasingly outmoded. I'd say it feels reasonable, if not like a strong value, given all it delivers.
It's encouraging to see original design and high-quality in homegrown Chinese watches, and more so for it to be reaching a global audience. This, along with the Ciga Blue Planet's simply striking design and execution, makes it a watch worth taking note of — and a conversation piece should you pick one up. While I wouldn't wear it every day, it's certainly an object I can appreciate —and even wear from time to time.