A tourbillon is less relevant now than ever. What was once advantageous in a pocket watch became less so in a wristwatch, which is naturally subject to a broader range of motion. With cheaper quartz modules outperforming all but the most accurate mechanical movements, a tourbillon remains a display of watchmaking ability and intricacy. A rotating carriage mounted in the heart of the dial draws the focus even further. The CIGA Design Central Tourbillon Mount Everest Homage Edition is one of a few watches in which such a complex mechanism could be overshadowed by other aspects of the case, dial, and hands. Let’s take a step back and drink it all in.

Browse the CIGA Design website, and you’ll see a lot of unconventional watch designs. There are several skeleton dials and a range of non-traditional case shapes. One standout watch is the Blue Planet, which won the GPHG Challenge Prize and was reviewed by Thomas Stover here. That watch, housed in a sizable 46mm case, leaned heavily into its earthly theme. This one follows the same pattern.

Central Tourbillon Mount Everest Homage Edition

Rock around the clock

I like it when a brand names its watch sensibly. There is no random collection of hard-to-remember numbers and letters here. As its name suggests, this watch features a central tourbillon and is produced to commemorate Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth. More specifically, it marks the 70th anniversary of the first ascent by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. It’s fitting that a watch honoring such a huge mass of rock and ice, and a huge achievement, is quite large itself. The 47mm case of the Central Tourbillon does not disappoint in this regard. Given the brand’s approach to design, any comments lamenting a lack of subtlety are largely redundant. It doesn’t pretend to be quiet or unassuming; therefore, it would be unfair to judge it that way.

Bordering the central tourbillon is a ring of commemorative text, with two large pickaxe-shaped hands reading “Courage” and “Exploration.” The minute hand hosts the flags of India, Nepal, Great Britain, and the United Nations. While these hands are large, the small pointers on their tips are a little harder to pick out, and there are no dial markings for reference. The dial is empty apart from an outline of Mt Everest and a reference to its height printed on the textured surface. CIGA Design reserving its branding for the case and keeping the dial sparse is both deliberate and rewarding. The brand selected rocks from Everest’s base, forming each dial from a section. It may not be a piece of the summit on your wrist, but it’s likely as close as you’ll get.

A titanium case with no lugs

For such a large watch, I’m glad that CIGA Design chose titanium for the case. Without traditional indices, the rather industrial-looking protrusions around the case act as makeshift hour markers. Setting or reading the time can’t be done with considerable conviction. Conversely, the text on the case back would make a Rolex dial blush. In ever-decreasing circles, we get a quote from Edmund Hillary, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves,” plus details about the crystal, movement, water resistance, and more. For an exhibition case back, there is little of the movement on display. Still, what’s visible on the front side more than makes up for that.

You’ll note from the images that the watch has a lugless design. A rather clever way of slotting the strap into the case (with a quick-release spring-loaded button for removal) helps this large watch to wear better on an average-sized wrist than I had expected. The downside is that strap choices are limited to those that CIGA Design makes specifically for this model. Thankfully, the strap supplied here is a good one. The mountain theme continues cleverly in the strap’s texture and a little more overtly with commemorative markings stamped onto it. The rubber strap begins at 22mm wide where it meets the case, tapering down towards the butterfly clasp.

Central Tourbillon Mount Everest Homage Edition

Making a big impression

Due to the lack of traditional lugs and the comfortable strap, Central Tourbillon Mount Everest doesn’t feel like a 47mm behemoth on my 17.75cm (7″) wrist. It’s nowhere near as heavy as it looks either, mostly due to the choice of case material. However, any illusion of modesty is shattered when you look at it. This watch is, without a doubt, a statement piece. It’s easy to gloss over the movement as being a centrally mounted tourbillon. After all, that covers its visual prowess. The caliber CD-05 features manual winding, a 21,600vph frequency, and an impressive 120-hour power reserve once fully wound. There is no seconds hand, of course, but the tourbillon indicates whether the watch is running and can loosely be used to count out seconds as it rotates fully once every minute.

Concluding thoughts

There are watches suitable for mountaineering, and then there are mountaineering-themed watches. The CIGA Design Central Tourbillon is undoubtedly the latter. Crafting the dial from specially selected rocks picked from the base of Mount Everest is a logical way to celebrate the theme, and the centrally mounted tourbillon elevates it into a special piece. Even though I don’t feel a great connection to the watch and generally prefer a substantially smaller one, I commend the brand for pushing ahead with the theme with gusto. The two options would be to stop at just a couple of nods to conquering the Himalayan summit or go all-in. The presentation box, accompanying book, and pendant — presumably made from the same rock as the dial and featuring depictions of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay — complete an impressive package for US$3,600.

The CIGA Design Central Tourbillon Mount Everest Homage Edition is certainly a conversation starter. Although the bold design choices leave me yearning for something a little tamer, the execution is largely successful, and there’s much to appreciate. For more information, visit the CIGA Design website.

Watch specifications

Central Tourbillon Mount Everest Homage Edition
Crafted from Mt Everest rocks
Case Material
Titanium alloy
Case Dimensions
47mm (diameter) × 47mm (lug-to-lug) × 13mm
Case Back
Titanium and sapphire crystal
CIGA CD-05: manual winding, centrally mounted tourbillon, 21,600vph frequency, 120-hour power reserve
Water Resistance
Textured black rubber (22mm width) with push-button butterfly clasp
Time (hours, minutes) with tourbillon