CIGA Design Z Series watch review

The CIGA Design Z Series is a skeleton watch from a Chinese brand that is making waves and winning design awards left right and centre.

CIGA Design Z Series Review

Chinese watches are often dismissed by collectors, who believe that they are mass-produced, cheaply-made and use only derivative designs. Bucking the trend is CIGA Design who make watches that challenge the best of the Swiss manufacturers’ efforts. You don’t have to take my word for it, they’ve won 17 design awards. This watch, the CIGA Design Z Series, won the 2020 German Design Award – in fact, we previewed it when it hit Kickstarter at the start of 2020.

At a glance

CIGA Design Z Series

About £215
Case size
40.8mm x 48mm Tonneau
Water Resistance
SEAGULL ST2553JK Automatic

Like the U Series I reviewed last month, the CIGA Design Z Series comes in a book-style package. It’s a cool way to present a watch and I think it adds a lot of class and character to the brand.

Case and Movement

The case of the CIGA design Z Series is a skeletonised tonneau shape. I’ve seen plenty of watches with skeleton dials, but this watch also has gaps in the case itself, through which you can see the stem that connects the crown to the movement. It’s a neat design that gives a unique look. The 48mm length is countered by the very short lugs but it still might be a touch too large for the average wristed watch enthusiast.

The crown guards resemble chronograph pushers, and I was disappointed that they don’t actually line up with the crown. The case has quite a lot of similar redundant features: e.g. fake screws and the text on the back saying “Water Resistant 3 ATM” (hardly worth bragging about!) and “ALL STAINLESS STEEL” (which I’d expect at this price anyway). Combined with the Invicta-style text on the case-side, I felt that the watch is somewhat over-branded.

Dial and Hands

The main feature here is the skeleton dial, through which the Seagull movement can be observed beating away at 21,600 bph. Personally, I am not a fan of skeleton dials but this is as good as any I’ve seen and it has won a design award so it would be unfair of me to criticise it! You know whether this watch works for you, and so I’ll leave considerations of its beauty to the eye of the beholder.

What I would point out though is a fundamental flaw with this type of watch: legibility. Whereas I forgave the U Series for trying a new way of telling the time, this is a traditional three-hander. Even with the tips of the (also skeletonised) hands picked out in red I found it near-impossible to tell the time without a lengthy look at the watch.

Strap and Buckle

You get a generous choice of two straps with the CIGA design Z Series: an embossed crocodile-pattern leather strap and a rubber strap. The leather one did not impress me at all, feeling cheap and stiff, so I went straight to the rubber. The U series has an excellent rubber strap and this one is just as good. It’s a different design but it’s really comfortable and I like the rounded edges on the buckle that reduce friction damage over time.

The downside is that the over-branding is back, with a large CIGA design on the strap. Other brands do this too – notably Breitling – but I don’t really get on with it and would likely look to replace the strap with something high quality, like a Barton watch band.

CIGA Design Z Series – Video Review

At a glance…

  • Award-winning design gives a unique look for a fraction of the price of a Swiss watch
  • Excellent presentation
  • Great value for money
  • Perhaps a little over-branded
  • Skeleton watches aren’t for everyone
  • What time is it?

CIGA Design Z Series- The WRUK Verdict

Ultimately, this is not a watch I would wear, but I can’t deny its credentials and quality. Like CIGA’s U Series, despite everything, I can’t criticise the watch. This one may not be to my taste but for the money you’re unlikely to find anything as good – certainly not an award-winning watch. I’ll keep my eyes on CIGA design watches: the brand seems to be going places.

Buy a CIGA Design Z Series

You can buy a CIGA Design watch direct from the brand at this link.

Get 10% off until 31st December 2022 with code: “Wristwatch Review UK”

By Mike Richmond

Mike spends what little spare time he has writing for WRUK; and what little money he makes building up his collection of timepieces.

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