By Victor Toth
The skeletonization of watch components, movement parts and dials, have for long meant a popular way for watch manufacturers to show off the visual and technical merits of their proprietary calibers. The term may sound eerie at first but, as we shall shortly see, it actually refers to an extremely delicate and time consuming process that involves the work and dedication of several master craftsmen, so as to achieve the most spectacular results.
Also known as “open-worked” timepieces, skeleton watches incorporate specially crafted components in their construction in the sense that, again, for the sake of added visual complexity, most all bridges and cocks of the caliber, as well as the greater part of the dial (if there is any) feature delicately executed cutouts which remove every bit of redundant material. This means that while the respective components maintain their sctructural integrity and function as well as their solid counterparts, they also have a see-through effect to them, thanks to these open-worked segments.
Below are five skeletonized watches that have been introduced in recent years.
Breguet Classique Complications 3795 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar
The arguably more complex aesthetics that come as a direct result of all this extra work is often considered to work better with more modern designs – while, in reality, it can beautifully complement timepieces with more traditional design elements. The Breguet Classique Complications 3795 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar a remarkably beautiful dial, comprising three sub-dials and one larger cut-out for the tourbillon, prominently exposed at the 6 o’clock position. Thanks to the only partially present dial, one can see into the movement and appreciate the delicately open-worked bridges inside, while on the case back side swirling, hand-engraved bridges can be admired.
Piaget Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic Skeleton 1270S
The Piaget Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic Skeleton 1270S offers the blend of a wonderfully simple looking cushion shaped case that is on the eyes, and a movement that appears to be installed upside-down, with its micro-rotor and flying tourbillon both on show on the dial side of the piece. Its pink or white gold case is so slender that it renders the Emperador the world’s thinnest ultra-thin tourbillon automatic skeleton watch, coming in at a mere 8.85 mm thick.
Cartier Crash Skeleton
The Cartier Crash Skeleton is not interested in breaking records in thinness, and instead it excels in offering a proprietary movement that fills up the totally unusually shaped, iconic case of the Crash. The top plate of the in-house Cartier caliber has been skeletonized in a way so that it displays the manufacture’s trademark bold Roman numerals, adding that extra bit of functionality to the skeletonized caliber.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton
The Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton features one of the most visually interesting open-worked calibers, thanks to the extreme level of skeletonization performed on its bridges. This new-for-2015 version of the Excalibur does away with a dial entirely, making it all the more easier for the wearer the appreciate its delicately crafted, dark grey colored components – making the in-house caliber even more unusual by featuring a large, 5-prong star in its lower right portion.
Richard Mille RM052 “Skull”
Our list of skeletonized watches would not be complete without the Richard Mille RM052 “Skull”, a highly unusual timepiece that takes this technique to a new level through offering an open-worked case and, perhaps even more interestingly, a large skull in the place of its dial. As one would expect, the skull plays an important role in the construction of the movement, as it holds a number of components in place – while it also dominates the rather striking appearance of the watch.
Victor Toth is a Prague-based, professional photographer-turned-watch enthusiast and freelance journalist, whose journey into the complex world of fine watchmaking had begun a number of years ago. Over this time it has become his passion to share his understanding of the finer details of beautiful timepieces, all in an effort to encourage a more thorough appreciation of this wonderful and complex universe of fine mechanics.