CIGA Design Blue Planet

Without a hint of hyperbole, the CIGA Design Blue Planet is the most eye catching watch TBC has ever seen.  It catches everyone’s gaze wherever it goes.  Is it any wonder then that this watch won the 2021 GPHG Challenge Watch Prize?  Let’s take a closer look.

Photography by Ronald Chew

by The Balance Coq

  • September 11, 2023

In the realm of well-designed and affordable mechanical watches, CIGA Design has been steadily carving a niche with timepieces that challenge the boundaries of design and craftsmanship. The Chinese design studio, headed by industrial designer Zhang Jianmin, has been making stylistically diverse – and adventurous – watches since 2016.  The Blue Planet is undoubtedly the darling of the range, what with its well-deserved 2021 GPHG Challenge Watch Prize and all.

The example we have here is a stainless-steel Blue Planet, and there is very little, optically speaking, that separates it from its titanium brethren.  The case is radially brushed, perfectly framing the captivating dial.

Ah, the dial.  As arresting as the visage may be, there will be a moment of confusion when one studies the dial.  Just how does time-telling work on this watch?  Let us try to explain.  A static hour ring marks out the perimeter of the dial proper, and a rotating minute ring sits right underneath that.  This arrangement frees up a lot of dial real estate for the main event. CIGA Design has chosen a rather interesting part of the Earth for the dial.  The Indian Ocean is right in the middle of the dial, painted in a matt blue.  The land masses of Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica are finished in chromed relief.  There is a fixed compass point just above the island of Madagascar which acts as the minute indicator.  It is clear from this dial arrangement that timekeeping is not at the top of the priority list.  Evidently, function follows form in the design process of the Blue Planet.  In order to allow Zhang Jianmin the freedom to flesh out his vision, the automatic movement for the Blue Planet series had to be specially designed by Tianjin-based Seagull.

The case may seem large on paper at 46mm, but because of the lugless design, it wears smaller.  Those who have had experience with Seiko Tunas and Halios Pucks will understand this.  In keeping with the watch’s environmentally conscious theme, the standard (blue, of course) watch straps are made of a food-grade plastic called fluorine.  CIGA Design maintains that the soft and comfortable straps are washable, nontoxic, and wear-resistant.  There are other Blue Planet models that sport metal bracelets, if that is more your scene.

The Blue Planet’s GPHG win in 2021 cannot be overstated – it was the first winner outside of the Euro-centric (and Japanese, we suppose?) established order of things in GPHG’s 22-year history.  The watch is also the first watch collected by the Museum of Art and History Geneva.  TBC expects to see a lot more from CIGA Design; if anyone is to push Chinese watchmaking to the forefront of horology through thought-provoking design, it must be Zhang Jianmin and CIGA Design.

It looks like we made it to the end of this pictorial without mentioning Ikepod.  Imagine that.

Specifications

BrandCIGA (China International Great Art) Design
ModelBlue Planet
ReferenceMechanical Watch U Series
Case MaterialStainless steel
Case Dimensions46mm X 46mm
Case Height15.5mm
Lug Width21.8mm
Water Resistance3 ATM
MovementBespoke Seagull automatic movement for CIGA Design
ProductionRegular
WearsSmall (lugless design)

Recent Posts