Skeletonising a watch’s movement is by no means an easy task. The watchmaker has to ensure that structural integrity and shock resistance is maintained, despite the skeletal framework. He also has to warrant that the architecture is aesthetically pleasing, which involves careful consideration of how the components are laid out as well as the appropriate decorations and finishes to bring out their beauty. Here are our picks of the best skeleton watches, ones that combine both technical mastery and artisanal craft.
Audemars Piguet Open-worked self-winding Royal Oak
A very contemporary take on the art of skeletonising is showcased in this Royal Oak. An anthracite galvanic treatment is applied to calibre 3129, giving it a technical look that contrasts beautifully with the exposed gilt brass gear trains and skeletonised 22K gold rotor. The edges of the main plate and bridges are meticulously hand-bevelled for extra contrast and shine.
Cartier Clé de Cartier Skeleton
The Clé de Cartier collection was launched in 2015, and at the upcoming SIHH, the maison will unveil a skeleton version. A particularity of Cartier’s skeletons is that the movement bridges are used as a design element to form the dial’s Roman numerals, and that signature is repeated here. The winding rotor, too, is skeletonised. Rotors are typically solid masses; the challenge in skeletonising them is maintaining an optimum winding efficiency despite the reduced mass.
Hublot Classic Fusion Ultra-Thin Skeleton Titanium
Being the avant-garde brand that it is, Hublot decided to (literally) carve out its own path when it came to skeleton watches. On the ultra-thin Classic Fusion model, the bridges of the in-house Calibre HUB1300 are presented in a strikingly modern, technical configuration, with a small seconds counter represented by a minimalist ring at 7 o’clock. The ruthenium finish on the movement complements the titanium case construction and adds to the watch’s space-age feel.
Patek Philippe Reference 5180
Three things stand out about Patek Philippe’s extraordinary 5180. One, the incredible artistry of the engravings and arabesques that have been painstakingly wrought by hand on Calibre 240 SQU. Two, the way that the rhodiumed components contrast with the brass wheels, setting the stage for the latter’s balletic pirouettes. And three, the use of an off-centre micro-rotor so that as much of the movement can be exposed as possible, providing Patek’s artisans with an additional canvas for engraving.
Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Arts Fabuleux Ornements
In 2014, Vacheron Constantin wowed us with its Fabuleux Ornements collection, a quartet of women’s watches that reinterpreted decorative patterns found in Chinese embroidery, French lacework, Indian manuscripts and Ottoman architecture. They were equipped with open-worked and hand-engraved movements that revealed a level of detail seldom seen on women’s models. New versions of this Fab Four, each with a different colour and material palette, will make their debut this SIHH.