The art of skeletonizing a watch involves removing everything deemed unnecessary in order to showcase the mechanical movement within. This comes in many different graduations: from simply removing the dial, to the painstaking removal of material from bridges, wheels, and gears. For connoisseurs of mechanical movements and mechanisms, a skeletonized watch allows insight into what happens inside a watch. It is especially interesting when a watch has a complication such as a chronograph or minute repeater. Then, skeletonization displays the motion of all the gears and parts activated by pushing a button or pulling a lever (minute repeater).
For others, the pairing of a skeletonized movement with hand-engraved components, such as bridges, is just a feast for the eyes. This craftsmanship is done today by artisans like Kees Engelbarts and formerly by Armin Strom. The latter did a lot of skeletonizing work for brands like OMEGA prior to starting his own watch brand, Armin Strom. Today, this independent brand creates large sporty watches, sometimes with complications such as tourbillons, but always in the skeletonized spirit of its founding father.
Classic and Modern
Skeletonizing watches has been done for a long time. However, this does not mean the technique is only associated with classic dress watches. Although Vacheron Constantin, Cartier, Breguet, Audemars Piguet currently have, or previously had, skeletonized dress watches in their collections, brands like Hublot, Richard Mille, Roger Dubuis, and the aforementioned Armin Strom also offer skeletonized sports watches. There are many to choose from when it comes to skeletonized watches, both sports watches and dress watches. Besides skeletonizing, brands like Hublot and Richard Mille also like to use the latest materials for their watch components to give them that ultra-modern look.
6 Skeleton Watches
We’ve picked six different watches, ranging in price and style, to show you the diverse art of skeletonizing watches.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak has been around since 1972, but the manufacturer from Le Brassus keeps innovating this Genta designed icon. This year they introduced a new innovation to increase accuracy: the Double Balance wheel solution. In addition, the watch is skeletonized, so you get a good glimpse of this new movement.
Armin Strom Gravity Air
Armin Strom offers a collection referencing the natural elements: air, water, fire, and earth. Each watch offers a skeletonized dial and movement, adhering to the spirit of founding father Armin Strom. The Gravity Air refers not only to the element, but also to the fact that the watch uses a self-winding movement. This timepiece showcases its large barrels through the skeletonized dial as well as the nicely decorated main plate and bridges.
This relatively new brand, founded in the 1980s by watchmaker and chronograph connoisseur Gerd-R. Lang, has been offering a skeletonized watch for many years. It was previously called the Chronoswiss Opus, but since restructuring their collections, the Sirius Chronograph Skeleton features a skeletonized movement. This chronograph movement can be admired in action through the dial.
Cartier Santos 100 XL Skeleton
A watch that descends from one of the very first wristwatches, the Cartier Santos, is not only available in a more modern size and design (Santos 100XL), but also in a skeletonized version. The in-house caliber 9611MC can be viewed from both sides of the watch, as the dial only consists of a beautiful frame featuring Roman numerals.
Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic Skeleton
Skeletonized watches don’t necessarily have to be expensive. Hamilton proves that there is an interesting skeletonized mechanical watch for every budget. Their Jazzmaster Viewmatic Skeleton, for gents and ladies, is a watch that shows its inner workings thanks to a skeletonized dial and a couple of skeletonized movement components.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Skeleton Perpetual Calendar
The most expensive skeletonized watch on this list is this Vacheron Constantin. The Traditionalle Skeleton Perpetual Calendar is also the most complicated watch featured in this overview of skeletonized watches. The movement of this watch is skeletonized to the highest level of craftsmanship, with a beautiful hand-engraved rotor, bridges, and gears. On the dial side, you can see levers and bridges with polished bevels and hand-engraving. Viewing this watch is nearly a 3D spectacle – in a very classy way.
Downside of Skeletonized Watches
Not all wrists are suited for wearing skeletonized watches. Some of these watches will show through straight to your skin. Luckily, this is not the case for every skeletonized watch, but some of them, like the Cartier Santos 100XL Skeleton described above, may warrant a test run before purchasing. If you have beautiful wrists, however, then you can probably get away with any of them.