If you’re a regular reader of the watch review blog, you know I generally stick with watchmakers that have at least some sort of reputation. Either they’re Swiss, German, or Japanese and have some kind of track record in the marketplace. At first glance, Ciga Design might seem like an odd choice. As I hope I’ll demonstrate, they’re actually well worth considering if you’re looking for a watch in this price range.
The J Series Mechanical Watch has an old school, art deco appeal, with a minimalist dial and a slim overall profile. It’s already raised nearly 10 times its initial goal on Kickstarter, and is set to start shipping in October of this year. Here are my thoughts, subject to change upon release of the final version.
A Chinese Upstart
Ciga Design is a relatively new watchmaker. They were first founded in 2003, with a headquarters in China’s Shenzhen economic zone. Their strategy was well suited for today’s economy. Rather than roll the dice on producing watches right off the bat, they would crowdfund their products. At first, people looked sideways at this odd new startup. Not only was Ciga trying to run a quality watchmaker in China, but they were paying for it with crowdfunding.
Ciga proved the naysayers wrong. In 2013, their first watch won the Red Dot Design Award, and they were off to the races. In 2014, Ciga became the first Chinese watchmaker to present an exhibit at Baselworld, cementing their reputation as the cool new kid on the block.
In 2017, they followed up by winning the coveted iF Gold Award. The next year, two additional crowdfunding campaigns led to the success of the MY Series and Z series respectively. With the release of their new J series later this year, we can look forward to more success from this fascinating new brand.
The Ciga Design J Series’ most striking feature is readily apparent as soon as you take a glance at the dial. The surface of the dial is actually glass, and provides a clear view of the movement. This is an unusual design choice, and it’s not the same as a skeletonized dial, which is truly open. As you move out from the center of the dial, white painted hashes begin to obscure the movement. They narrow as they reach inwards, creating a striking reverse sunburst. The five minute hashes are deeper than the others, displaying a glimpse of the movement almost as far as the edge of the dial.
The hands are long and very slender, almost as slim as needles and without any lume markings. But let’s be honest; you’re buying this watch to look like a boss, not to find out what time it is. There are no complications on the dial of any kind, not even a date window. The entire design is created to draw your eye to the see-through sunburst and iconic Citizen movement.
The case itself measures 44mm in diameter and 10.8mm in thickness, which makes it a good choice for most people, size-wise. The slim profile and narrow bezel actually make it wider than it is, as does the flat crystal, which does not distort the dial at all. The bezel slopes sharply inward, with only a small edge flattened at the top. This design causes it to catch the light at almost any angle, dazzling the eye. The crown is small and unobtrusive. If you aren’t looking for it, you probably won’t even know it’s there. Again, that plays into the overall design of the J Series. Nothing can be allowed to distract you from the center sunburst pattern.
A Powerful Solar Movement
Surprisingly for a Chinese watch, the J Series uses a Citizen Miyota 8N24 movement. If you know watches, this movement needs no introduction. It’s one of the best workhorse movements on the market.
Another neat feature of the J Series is the display case back. You can clearly see the Miyota movement in action, if the open dial design didn’t already give you enough visibility.
Two Strap Options
The J Series ships with not one, but two different watch straps. The first is a stainless steel strap, with fine links and plenty of flexibility for comfort. The finish matches the dull finish of the J Series’ case, creating a unified look.
The other option is a grey silicone strap. It’s very flexible, with a textured outer surface that has more character than most silicone watch straps. Ciga even includes a watch strap tool in the box, which makes it easy to swap the straps in and out.