It’s no secret that Chinese watchmaking has been on a rapid rise in the past few years, and CIGA Design is one of the brands leading this new generation of more refined, elevated Chinese horology. As 2024’s Year of the Dragon continues on, CIGA Design has taken the opportunity to celebrate this milestone of the Chinese zodiac with another major step forward. Incorporating exotic materials, gem-setting, and a dynamic, stylized tourbillon cage, the new limited-edition CIGA Design Mechanical Watch Tourbillon Chinese Zodiac Year of the Dragon is a striking, dramatic exercise in luxe minimalism that showcases how far the brand has come in the span of a handful of years.

Rather than DLC-coated metal or even ceramic, the verbosely named CIGA Design Mechanical Watch Tourbillon Chinese Zodiac Year of the Dragon sports a case in mirror-polished black agate stone. It’s a left-field material choice, to be sure, but one that adds a pleasing heft and coolness to the watch on the wrist while tying into more traditional codes of Chinese luxury. Meanwhile, the fully lugless, 45mm wide, 13.7mm thick rounded-square case form is restrained, modernist, and ultra-minimal, featuring almost pebble-like soft curves and an inky, pure black reflective finish. This is not a small watch, but the lack of lugs keeps things manageable on smaller wrists even while the bulk and monolithic form demands attention. Even as a minimal stone silhouette, it’s a statement watch through and through that certainly doesn’t fade into its surroundings during wear. Thanks to this stark black backdrop, the gilt-filled engraved CIGA Design logo at 6 o’clock stands out prominently and offers the only overt branding on the watch itself.

Advertising Message

CIGA Design continues the minimal, yet traditionally Chinese stylistic bent of the watch through the caseback. Instead of stainless steel or titanium, CIGA Design renders this element in 925 sterling silver, complete with restrained, etched decoration featuring classical Chinese calligraphy. While this silver caseback does shine brighter than a comparable steel piece, it’s worth noting that this may change significantly over time — given silver’s propensity for sooty black tarnish, it may be that lower-lying areas of this caseback that do not directly touch the wrist will age to black. CIGA Design adds a modest sapphire display window at 6 o’clock to display the tourbillon’s reverse side. Although the Year of the Dragon is far from anyone’s idea of a sports watch, its minuscule 30 meters of water resistance does make it notably more fragile than some of its rivals.

For the dial of the Mechanical Watch Tourbillon Chinese Zodiac Year of the Dragon, CIGA Design doubles down on both exotic materials and luxurious minimalism to keep the focus squarely on the tourbillon itself. This restrained approach begins with the dial surface itself. Both the dial and the semi-skeleton baton handset are finished in what the brand refers to as “Super Black” — an ultra-deep, totally matte black paint not unlike the Vantablack used by Moser in recent years. While it may not be quite as all-encompassingly dark as Vantablack in person, Super Black’s effect is largely the same, creating a featureless, dramatic, and totally sterile backdrop for the main visual highlights of the dial. It’s a striking, luxe look on the wrist, and one that rarely makes its way into this price bracket. To maintain some semblance of legibility, the small applied hours indices are given a glossy finish that catches the light at direct angles. Without any minutes scales, it’s difficult to precisely check the time at a glance, but utility is far from this watch’s highest priority. CIGA Design also fits the hands with a series of seven small diamonds. These diamonds do stand out dramatically against their void-like black backdrop and add an extra layer of visual luxury to the watch, but it’s clear that the gem-setting work here won’t be troubling the likes of Van Cleef & Arpels. There’s a slight unevenness to the settings that’s visible to the naked eye, along with a marked difference in brightness and clarity between some of the stones. That said, it’s something of a novelty to have genuine diamond setting at this price point, to begin with, and the watch should be judged accordingly.

Of course, the real main event of this dial is the open tourbillon window at 6 o’clock. To celebrate the Year of the Dragon, the gold tourbillon cage is rendered as a classical Chinese dragon in silhouette, and the pearl in the dragon’s clutches (a recurring motif in Chinese mythology) is the ruby bearing of the escapement itself. The overall execution is streamlined and stylized, with the dragon appearing mostly as an outline, but there’s an impressive amount of visual detail here including etched scales on the dragon’s legs and a tiny ruby eye just above the creature’s ferocious mouth. Even to those with no understanding of a tourbillon or mechanical watchmaking in general, it’s an eye-catching look and one of the most potent horological conversation-starters I’ve had on the wrist in recent memory.

Advertising Message

Inside the CIGA Design Mechanical Watch Tourbillon Chinese Zodiac Year of the Dragon beats the CD-06 hand-wound tourbillon movement. Heavily modified by the brand, the CD-06 offers decent if unspectacular performance, including a 40-hour power reserve and a 21,600 bph beat rate. As there is only a small display window for the movement, the amount of visible finishing is minimal, but what is shown through the caseback is more than respectable. Radial striping covers the skeletonized bridge underneath the tourbillon, and this piece is further embellished with polished anglage and blued screws. To complete the package, CIGA Design fits the watch with a deployant strap in glossy black Nile crocodile leather. Impressively supple and comfortable on the wrist, this strap gives the modernist a touch of old-school class on the wrist while deftly tying into the overall dragon theming.

In only a handful of years, CIGA Design has evolved from low-cost skeleton timepieces to award-winning in-house designs, and the limited Mechanical Watch Tourbillon Chinese Zodiac Year of the Dragon is a striking emblem of the next phase in the rapid growth of Chinese horology. While it may not be perfect, this is a distinctive, attention-grabbing, and deeply compelling showcase of how far Chinese watchmaking has come in the modern market while remaining comparatively affordable. Only 365 examples of the watch will be made, and this model is available now through the brand’s e-commerce platform. MSRP for this watch stands at $3,299 USD as of press time. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.

Advertising Message

Subscribe to our Newsletter