Are you afraid of skeletons? Skeleton watches epitomise avant-garde design and contemporary art; a less is more approach. The underlying movement is typically pared down and stripped to its architectural form, with remaining surfaces decorated or reworked. These pieces are fitted with an open-worked dial (a solid dial with cutouts) or uses transparent material such as sapphire for the ultimate eye candy experience. Consequently, their looks can vary from traditional to innovative, making them somewhat of an acquired taste. It’s complicated, ‘ya know?
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Skeleton
Think of horological icons and Zenith’s El Primero would spring to mind. Born in 1969, El Primero was (and is) regarded as one of horology’s all-time greatest hits – so much that it’s still being produced today. Chief among the many variations is the Chronomaster El Primero Skeleton. The movement eschews complete transparency, in favour of skeletonising specific elements such as the date wheel and gears. It retains a symmetrical dial layout, with partially open-worked sub-dials for added visual zest: all without compromising legibility. Housed in a 45mm black ceramic case, this badass rendition is a tasteful execution with classical appeal. Very cool.
Richard Mille RM11-03
Richard Mille (literally) carved out his niche segment of luxury-yet-durable watches. As his flagship timepiece, the RM11-03 packs performance and aesthetics punch. The watch is a technical masterpiece equipped with an advanced chronograph movement. But, one of its main attraction is the extensive skeletonization of dial and movement. Every component is designed to ensure perfect fit, being visible through a sapphire crystal dial. Though appearing to be highly technical and complex, the aesthetics is practical: big date, thick hour and minute hands and applied lume. All is wrapped up in the brand’s signature tonneau shaped case, sized at 40x50mm.
TAG Heuer Carrera 02T
TAG stands for “Techniques d’Avant Garde”, and rightfully so. The brand’s flagship Carrera Heuer-02T is an aggressively contemporary piece, as well as being the cheapest Swiss-made tourbillon chronograph – a fact they’re rather proud of. Its skeletal movement is impressive, incorporating modern aesthetics and usage of three-dimensional bridges for added depth. The partially skeletonised dial dons a pleasant symmetrical layout that, on the surface at least, appears straightforward and offers a glimpse into its beating heart. The watch is packed into a 45mm case, available in a slew of metals from sizzling rose gold to frozen steel (iced out).
Cartier Santos Dumont Skeleton
As the first-ever pilot’s watch and mens wristwatch for that matter, Cartier’s Santos line is synonymous with heritage and luxury. The Santos Dumont Skeleton is a refreshing take on a traditional timepiece, made unapologetically modern. Linking the past is a case shape that has stood the test of time. Its dial and movement have however, been redesigned with a minimalist concept. But the cherry on the cake? Its signature Roman numerals double up as movement bridges; the beating heart in the Dumont Skeleton is purpose-built from scratch (rather than eliminating components) for the ultimate viewing pleasure. Impressed? Yeah, I thought so.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked
Audemars Piguet broke the rules with their original Royal Oak and might’ve broken them again, this time with their skeleton creation (talk about unfair competition; I kid, I kid). There’s no two ways about it: the Royal Oak Openworked is deadly gorgeous (no pun intended). Every detail from its case, to bracelet, to shape is carefully executed with consideration of the brand’s qualities and values – a powerful statement piece. The movement is perhaps the definition of “wrist porn”; simply irresistible and boasts impressive technicalities. Trust us, this is a piece you’d want to have an eyeful of.
Skeleton watches are perhaps the ultimate test of a manufacturer’s panache and capability as, having more ‘exposure’ means being subject to greater scrutiny. The list above is just a sample of a few exquisite skeleton watches available, and there exists many more of such fine watchmaking art in the world of horology. What are your thoughts on skeleton watches? Let us know in the comments below!
Text by Daniel Chua @horogenie