One thing I particularly enjoy writing about at The Young Horologist is new up-and-coming watch brands. Not only to aid in exposing new brands who, in turn, are helping to drive and continue the evolution in watch design. But, also because it is interesting to write and review something truly new, opposed to the 50th edition of the Speedmaster or Submariner….
Ciga designs is another of these small brands that started launching pieces through Kickstarter, the private crowd funding site. This site has enabled a number of brands to essentially begin making piece made to order, as the “backers” pay for pieces before they are made. The idea is that they make enough of a margin to act as a first round of investment to get the brand off the ground. Although I have been keeping an eye on them for a few years, they launched their first piece around 7 years ago. Needless to say, since then they have been successful as they now have 6 key models, with some limited edition runs of these models in different materials.
Now there are literally thousands of these microbrands using Kickstarter as a conduit into the mainstream watch market and most of them are very low value, low quality dog shit. So what makes CIGA design any different?
At first glance, they are a brand out of Hong Kong offering low-cost mechanical watches utilising the skeletonized dial concept. This is not something new. Many crappy brands out of South East Asia try to steal the glances of the untrained eye through a seemingly sophisticated skeletonized dial before dumping a frankenstein design in low-cost material and an enormous heinous case shape and size. However, CIGA design are actually doing something very worthwhile and interesting. On closer inspection, their pieces are actually very well and thoughtfully designed. Throughout all their models, the case shape and design is worked around the skeletonized dial instead of vise versa. For example, their Z – Series is clearly inspired by the Richard Mille with its tonneau case shape but is well executed with a smooth, curved sapphire and case, a movement that is complementary to the contemporary case design and contrasting hands from the movement in metal that matches that of the case.
I am not the only one to appreciate the design. CIGA Design won two iF Awards, two German Design Awards, eight Red Dot Awards, and winner of both the Red Dot Best of the Best and iF Gold Award.
However, I wasn’t intending to buy this watch. Why? Simply because the fact it was so heavily inspired on such a controversial yet iconic piece, I knew I would have to spend my life telling people it isnt an RM or avoiding walking down the street in West London, in case I got attacked by some low life on a Moped.
What I would buy, is the new Series X. Currently going through funding on IndieGoGo, another site like Kickstarter, the Series X is the newest model from CIGA designs that is due to hit the market in March. This piece demonstrates the continued progress in design, execution, and materials CIGA has shown so far. Going through their back catalogue, you can clearly observe a progression in the overall quality of their watches. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s excellent to see a brand get better and better.
Why is it such an improvement? Firstly, the case. Whilst maintaining their skeletonized dial theme, they have scrapped the Richard Mille inspired case and have gone for an original square case with the movement built around an X-shaped movement mount. This combining of the two shapes gives the watch’s aesthetic a very industrial building vibe, such as the skyscrapers in Kings Cross and basically most of central Manchester. Now square cases aren’t original but the contrasting X shape movement forming the basis of the dial, really is unique and gives such a futuristic yet old school mechanical vibe. It looks like something you’d see in Mad Max. This is a step up from the Z -Series as, although a Sea-Gull modular movement, the way the movement fits into the case has to be completely bespoke to this watch, demonstrating genuine thought and investment in the design and execution.
Something is rarely seen at this price point. Furthermore, the colour schemes and finishing appear to be an improvement on the previous Z series. Polished coloured segments of the movement contrasting nicely with the brushed utilitarian elements, makes the watch look like a BMW I8. The 44mm lug to lug case makes this watch wear smaller than a lot of Bell and Ross and especially Seven Friday. The titanium case and superluminova make this watch a very good spec considering the price point. Everything about this watch ticks the boxes considering that the anticipated retail is under £400.
I know this watch may not be to everyone’s tastes. I know for a fact Ilkay hates it. However, this article is more about raising awareness to something out there that potentially offers an exciting amount of watch at an entry level price segment. In a world where Rolex basically keep releasing the same watches but increasing the price 6% per year, seeing a new brand that offers something very different and unique at a price point that doesn’t cause one to recoil in anger is worth mentioning.