CIGA Design U Blue Planet: Review


The CIGA Design Blue Planet was the first Chinese watch to win Switzerland’s GHPG Challenge Watch Prize. The Blue Planet features a three-dimensional aluminum globe in the center of the dial, powered by a proprietary asynchronous time display. Wazzat, you ask?

The hour hand turns 30° while the minute hand to turn 390°. That’s not how other watches work. During the last 800 years of clock making and 200 years of wrist horology, the minute hand rotates 360°. As you’d expect, really.

The Blue Planet’s set-up makes the inner minute hand – make that the inner dial – rotate to the correct number of minutes as the hour hand – make that rotating dial compass – points to the correct hour. As Wallace said to Gromit, that is clever.

CIGA’s PR bumph tells us that they created the Blue Planet to remind us to protect our only home, the Earth (in case you were confused on that point).

Is it indelicate of me to point out that the polar bear in their beauty shot is part of a population that’s roughly five times what it was in the ’50s and four times what it was in the ’70s? Or that China’s carbon and greenhouse gas emissions exceed those of all developed nations combined? Maybe that’s the point?

One thing’s for sure: CIGA didn’t create the Blue Planet for people who want to tell the time at a glance. Not even in studio lighting conditions. As a legibility freak with the eyesight of a 64-year-old (at best), looking at the watch with my glasses on told me the hour and that’s about it.

It’s Happy Hands Jim, but not as we know it.

If that. First, you have to locate the compass wedged in between silver land masses. The compass has less sheen than the “map” but it takes a few long seconds to ID it. Worse, the hour markers are the same small size as the minute markers, with a lot of tiny hash marks between both confusing the matter.

Glasses off, watch to eyeball and OK, there you go. Those with sharper eyesight and better image recognition may not say “fuck it” and reach for their phone, but I know someone who did.

The workmanship is spot-on. As you’d expect from a 46mm $1000 mechanical timepiece, albeit one marked down $400 since it scooped the Swiss prize in 2021. The 3D topographic continents, in particular, are beautifully rendered, best viewed side-on.

You’re looking at the Indian Ocean. Those of us living in the Western Hemisphere are not accustomed to the view, especially when it’s upside down or sideways (the globe rotates). Call me continental plate-centric, but looking at that part of the world doesn’t do it for me, regardless of its orientation. Just sayin’.

Ciga Design’s web page for the Blue Planet makes no mention of the movement spinning its dials. The engine was developed in collaboration with Sea-Gull Movements, the Tianjin-based manufacturer. Its unique gear train contains 30-jewels and a 40-hour power reserve. The Earth watch’s accuracy isn’t exactly stellar; the manufacturer claims -15±30s per day.

Visible underneath the exhibition caseback, decorated with various swirls and stripes, the movement is meh. According to the web page, the bulbous case (15mm thick) is fashioned from recycled titanium. If so, I’m not sure why it weighs 72.43 grams (2.55 ounces) without the stainless steel and Fluororubber strap and stainless steel clasp.

The Blue Planet is supremely comfortable to wear. As usual, securing the clasp with one hand requires both coordination and practice, best performed over a bed or other soft surface. Speaking of durability, it’s water resistant to 30mm/3 ATM, suitable for incidental water exposure (e.g., washing hands or light rain).

The watch comes with a great deal of green packaging. The theme not the color. The poem on the inside of the book containing the Blue Planet ends with “From this moment on I do not care about other things, but only this blue planet where we live on.”

So I guess I shouldn’t care about horological legibility. Anyway, I love the Earth as much as the next owner of a gas-guzzling German sedan. But I think it’s pretty clear the CIGA Design Blue Planet is not the watch for me, a man who worships at the altar of the Swiss Railways Watch.

The Blue Planet is well-made, accurate (in its own special way) and got lots of attention. If you appreciate horological innovation, appreciate away.

Model: CIGA Design U Blue Planet – also available at Amazon (no commission on link)
Price: $899


Case Width: 12mm
Case Material: Recycled titanium
Case Back: stainless steel
Crystal: curved double sapphire
Water Resistance: 3ATM
Strap: food-grade fluorine rubber

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Design * *
Innovative AF but the compass should have been made of a different material. And it depicts the wrong ocean (for Eastern hemisphere types)

Only close-up, peering and thought

Comfort * * * * *
Totally wearable despite its size.

Overall * * *
If you want to do the one weird watch thing or strap an art piece onto your wrist, the Blue Planet is your Huckleberry. Otherwise, not so much.

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