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Skeleton Watches: Buying Advice for Timepieces with a View

Skeleton watches, which give you a view of a finely decorated movement, are some of the finest timepieces in haute horlogerie. Read on to find out everything there is to know about different manufacturers of skeleton watches and their prices.

What should I note when buying a skeleton watch?

  • Budget: Prices range from 200 euros to over 500,000 euros
  • Do you want a watch skeletonized by hand?
  • Or is a machine-finished timepiece fine by you?
  • Pay attention to the size of the watch: There are skeleton watches for men and women

How much do skeleton watches cost?

As there are thousands of different skeleton watches, the prices vary. You can find affordable skeleton watches for a few hundred euros. High-end models with a movement skeletonized by hand can cost hundreds of thousands of euros. Take a look at the table to get an idea of the prices.
Model Price
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Openworked About 40,000 euros
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Openworked Extra-Thin About 75,000 euros
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin Openworked About 200,000 euros
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Openworked Grande Complication About 650,000 euros
Audemars Piguet Millenary Minute Repeater About 370,000 euros
Patek Philippe Grandes Complications Ref. 5304R-001 About 540,000 euros
Patek Philippe Complications Ref. 5180/1G-010 About 80,000 euros
TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 About 3,300 euros
Tissot T-Complication Squelette Mechanical About 1,400 euros
Fossil Grant Sport About 240 euros
Fossil The Commuter About 220 euros
Bulova Men's Automatic Watch 96A170 About 240 euros

Prices for Top-Ranked Skeleton Watches

Skeleton watches from Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe are of the highest quality. Both manufacturers emphasize perfectly made watches and precise calibers. The movements are skeletonized by hand, making it clear how much sophistication is present in every single wristwatch from these companies. The quality of their work and finishing is internationally unmatched.
A pre-owned stainless steel Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Openworked in very good condition costs around 35,000 euros. New, it costs 40,000 euros. For a pre-owned, ultra-thin rose gold version, you should be prepared to spend around 67,000 euros. New rose gold versions will set you back around 75,000 euros. If you want a skeletonized Royal Oak with a tourbillon, you should plan to spend 200,000 euros. This price applies to new gold and stainless steel watches. The stainless steel version is limited to a run of 100 watches, making it extremely rare and also a good investment. The Royal Oak Openworked Grande Complication is even more expensive. The intricate titanium watch costs over 650,000 euros. A new Millenary Minute Repeater is somewhat less expensive; it only costs 370,000 euros.
Patek Philippe models are in a similar price range as the skeleton watches from Audemars Piguet. The Patek Philippe Grandes Complications Ref. 5304R-001 costs around 500,000 euros pre-owned. New models cost around 540,000 euros. In comparison, the ultra-thin Complications 5180/1G-010 is a steal. This gold timepiece costs around 65,000 pre-owned, but new, you should plan to spend around 80,000 euros.

Entry-Level and Mid-Range Skeleton Watches

TAG Heuer offers a wonderful cost/performance ratio with their Carrera Calibre Heuer 01. You can purchase this chronograph new and with a rubber strap for around 3,300 euros. Versions with a metal bracelet are only slightly more expensive. Even the rose gold model, costing 6,300 euros, is comparatively inexpensive, especially when you consider that the caliber Heuer 01 is an in-house movement.
Tissot offers an inexpensive entry into the world of skeleton watches. Their Chemin Des Tourelles model is available new for 1,200 euros. A new T-Complication Squelette Mechanical with a manual caliber and small seconds costs only 200 euros more.
The skeleton watches from Fossil and Bulova are even more affordable. The price difference can be explained by these manufacturers' use of mass-produced calibers from Japan or China. The Fossil Grand Sport with a moon phase display and a calendar costs just 240 euros. The classic model The Commuter costs only 220 euros. The Bulova skeleton watch for men costs a similar amount at 300 euros.

Which skeleton watches are there?

There are countless skeleton watches from numerous manufacturers in almost every price range, from an affordable skeleton watch for only a few hundred euros to a luxury watch for over 500,000 euros. The spectrum is enormous and you can find the right timepiece for every taste and budget. The following table should help you find the right watch for you.
Model Complications Price
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Openworked Automatic About 40,000 euros
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Openworked Extra-Thin Date, automatic About 75,000 euros
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin Openworked Tourbillon About 200,000 euros
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Openworked Grande Complication Perpetual calendar, double chronograph, minute repeater, day of the week display, automatic About 650,000 euros
Audemars Piguet Millenary Minute Repeater Minute repeater About 370,000 euros
Patek Philippe Grandes Complications Ref. 5304R-001 Perpetual calendar with retrograde date hand, automatic, minute repeater About 540,000 euros
Patek Philippe Complications Ref. 5180/1G-010 Automatic About 80,000 euros
TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Automatic, chronograph About 3,300 euros
Tissot T-Complication Squelette Mechanical Manual, small seconds About 1,400 euros
Fossil Grant Sport Calendar, automatic, moon phase About 240 euros
Fossil The Commuter Automatic About 220 euros
Bulova Men's Automatic Watch 96A170 Automatic About 240 euros

Skeleton Watches From Audemars Piguet

The Swiss manufacturer Audemars Piguet is a specialist when it comes to skeleton watches. Their most famous model is the Royal Oak. The stainless steel watch revolutionized the Swiss market for luxury watches in the 1970s. Up until its introduction, most brand-name Swiss watches were made exclusively of precious metals like gold. The Royal Oak's porthole design is world famous. Today, this iconic watch is also available with a solid gold case or a skeletonized movement. Audemars Piguet named their skeleton model "Openworked." Ultra-thin, skeletonized men's watches with a tourbillon or Grande Complication watches from Audemars Piguet are true highlights of haute horlogerie. Grande Complication watches have multiple complications, such as a perpetual calendar, chronograph function, and minute repeater. The Royal Oak Grande Complication is also available in an Openworked version.
The Audemars Piguet Millenary is significantly more elegant than the sporty Royal Oak. The Millenary has an elliptical case, off-centered dial, and a skeletonized movement. You have the choice between a stainless steel, pink gold, or white gold case. Some models feature a diamond-set case and bezel. The movements have beautiful, finely skeletonized bridges and you can view their balance wheels in motion. The most intricate model in this series is the version with a minute repeater.

Skeleton Watches from Patek Philippe

Aside from Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe is one of the most famous Swiss watch manufacturers. The most elegant and intricate pocket and wristwatches are produced by this company, and it's reflected in their prices. The most famous models from this Genevan manufacturer are the dress watch Calatrava, the sports watch Nautilus, and the intricate Grandes Complications. The Grandes Complications has a skeletonized version with reference number 5304R-001. The 43-mm timepiece has a rose gold case and is powered by the caliber R 27 PS QR LU, which features a perpetual calendar with a retrograde date hand. Since the dial and case back are both made of sapphire glass, you can view the movement from both sides.
The ultra-thin model with reference number 5180/1G-010 is also skeletonized. This skeleton watch is a part of the Complications collection. Its 39-mm case is made of either 18-karat white or rose gold. It has a small-linked white gold Milanese bracelet. The caliber 240 SQU is skeletonized, hand-engraved, and automatic. Its mini-rotor is made of 22-karat gold. Thanks to its small oscillating mass, the movement is a wonderful 2.53 mm thin.

Skeleton Watches from TAG Heuer

TAG Heuer is one of the most beloved Swiss sports watch manufacturers. Models such as the Carrera or Monaco are iconic chronographs. Almost every famous race car driver wore a Heuer timepiece in the 1960s and 70s. TAG Heuer was also the first Swiss luxury watch manufacturer to introduce a smartwatch, the Connected, to the market.
If you'd like a skeleton chronograph from TAG Heuer, then the Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 is a good choice. You can view the front of the in-house caliber through the skeletonized dial. The 45-mm case is made of brushed stainless steel and a titanium carbide coating makes this automatic watch even more robust. A sapphire glass case back gives you a view of the Heuer 01 caliber from the other side.

Affordable Skeleton Watches from Tissot, Fossil, and Bulova

The Swiss manufacturer Tissot offers mechanical and quartz watches at an outstanding price/performance ratio. The Le Locle-based company also manufactures skeleton watches. The T-Complication Squelette Mechanical is one of these models. According to the manufacturer, the design was inspired by a wheel. The holes in the movement have many corners that modernize its look. The black leather strap, on the other hand, is classic, making the T-Complication Squelette a perfect meeting point of the past and present. The domed sapphire glass on the front side is anti-reflective on both sides, and the sapphire glass case back allows you a view of the other side of the manual ETA 6497 caliber.
The American company Fossil has countless skeleton watches on offer. In many models, you can only see through the dial to the balance wheel. Many others give you a full look at the movement. The Grant Sport model even has a moon phase display and calendar. A sapphire glass back gives you a perfect view of the automatic caliber. The Commuter model foregoes subdials and additional complications. The gold-colored stainless steel watch focuses on what's important: displaying the time. Therefore, you get a magnificent look at the skeletonized movement. The movement, made by the Citizen subsidiary Miyota, is also gold-colored. You can view the skeletonized winding rotor and plates through the glass case back.
The American/Swiss company Bulova also offers skeleton watches. The most famous Bulova model is the tuning fork watch Accutron. There was a version of this watch also available with a transparent dial so you could view both tuning forks and the electronic movement. The current skeleton automatic watches resemble those from Fossil. Some models have eight screws on the bezel, creating a porthole look.

What is a skeleton watch?

Skeleton watches allow you a look inside the watch. To achieve this, manufacturers reduce the dial and the movement so that there are openings. Processes like sawing, punching, and milling are used. When the skeleton watch has a glass case back, you have a view inside the watch from both sides. Traditional manufacturers such as Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe have perfected the skeleton watch. These manufacturers hire specialists to create these pieces of watchmaking art by hand. With precise tools and incredible skill, the specialists work the caliber. When the skeletonizing is done by hand and not by machine, the watches are prime examples of haute horlogerie. Only a few manufacturers have mastered this skill.

The History of Skeleton Watches

Skeleton wristwatches have been around since the 1930s. The predecessor to these tiny pieces of art were skeleton pendulum clocks. These clocks were popular in France in the first half of the 19th century. One of the most legendary skeleton pocket watches is the Marie Antoinette from Breguet. The master watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet developed and skeletonized this timepiece for the French queen. The pocket watch, which took over 40 years to produce, is still considered one of the most exquisite pocket watches in the world.
Manufacturers of inexpensive skeleton watches produce them rather quickly and with comparatively less effort thanks to modern technology. Up to 50 pieces can be skeletonized simultaneously with a wire. When choosing automated skeletonizing, manufacturers refrain from further working the movement. Skeletonizing by hand is much more precise and requires incredible skill.

Skeleton Watch Highlights

  • Allow you a view of the movement
  • Calibers skeletonized by hand are pieces of watchmaking art
  • The Marie Antoinette is one of the most famous skeletonized pocket watches