When smartwatches first entered the scene I remember quite a few people looking at them as an omen of doom for mechanical watches. Like quartz watches once almost did before smartwatches packed the potential to turn mechanical ones redundant. What actually happened, however, could not have been further from that fear. While some of the mechanical watch lovers gave smartwatches a shot, very few have permanently replaced them as their daily wearer. What did happen was a reverse trend, where smartwatches gave watches as a whole a new chance to stand in the spotlight. For me, no one tells this story better than the Xiaomi Ciga Design, winner of the Red Dot design award 2017.
Never heard of Xiaomi? You are probably not alone as they are primarily a consumer electronics company that has taken China by storm. Starting with cheap phones that were eerily similar in design to Apple, they have managed to establish themselves as the go-to company if you want cheap consumer electronics and you are located on the Asian continent. Their willingness to enter new markets, however, does not seem to restrict itself to technology. Why exactly does Xiaomi decide to make a mechanical watch? I am not sure but what is clear for me is that it shows that mechanical watches are here to stay.
The watch itself has a very appealing design in my eyes. It captures the modernity of the Apple Smartwatch by using a similar square case with the round edges in black or silver with a matching mesh bracelet. Xiaomi wants to make it very clear however that this is no smartwatch, as they have decided to use a skeletonized movement between two crystals allowing you to see all the way through the watch onto your skin. Ticking inside the watch is an automatic movement which sports a rotor held in place by a blued screw, vibrating at a frequency of 21600 times/hour and with a power reserve of 40 hours.
An issue I see with the watch is its actual functionality as a time telling device. The dark theme and lack of hour markers leave you guessing more than anything what time it is, yet when looking at the price of around $150 it is clear that this watch is meant to be a fashion piece in the first line. Is that bad? I do not think so, because as a cheap fashion watch it nevertheless brings forward a fairly creative design as well as a visually interesting movement to a new audience of potential watch enthusiasts. Most of all however what interests me here is the symbolic story. A giant Chinese technology maker decided to play around and create a mechanical watch. What could be a better nod of recognition?