There are endless styles of watches, ranging from plain-and-simple to over-the-top, from time-only models to grande complications. While we often categorize watches on certain features or complications (tourbillon watches, sports watches, dive watches, etc…) there are styling choices that are free from restraints and can be found in any category. Today we go through no less than eight skeletonized watches that extend this delicate craft beyond the conventional boundaries.
While we already touched upon the subject of skeletonized watches a little over a year ago in a buying guide article, we felt it was time to once more pay homage to the art of cutting away all that isn’t needed. We are once again taking a look at some of the most extraordinary open-worked watches but from a different perspective. As skeletonized watches range in style from chic to sporty and everything in between, we tried to select those that transcend a certain style and become more than just the sum of their components. Still with me? Good, here we go!
The classical one – Piaget Altiplano Skeleton Ultra-Thin Automatic
One of the manufactures known for ultra-thin watchmaking also happens to excel at the art of skeletonized watchmaking. Combining the two results in impressive, evocative watches like the Piaget Altiplano Skeleton Ultra-Thin Automatic. The ultra-thin Piaget 1200S calibre has a micro-rotor and is of course beautifully finished. The movement is only 2.45mm thin and is one of the slimmest in the world at the moment, fitted in a 5,34mm thin case. The Piaget Altiplano Skeleton comes in either a white gold with rhodium-plated movement or a pink gold case with anthracite coated movement. More information at Piaget.com.
Quick facts: white or pink gold case – 38mm diameter x 5.34mm height – ultra-thin Piaget 1200S calibre – self-winding movement with micro-rotor – 189 parts in rhodium or anthracite coating – 44h power reserve – EUR 58,000
The unconventional one – Ferdinand Berthoud Régulateur Squelette FB RS
A properly complex haute horlogerie in-house calibre and a thoroughly impressive precision, that is what defines Ferdinand Berthoud. Available in either of the unconventional octagonal case or the more classical round case, it packs quite the visual punch. The production is limited to 20 movements, and a client can select which case it will be fitted in. The movement is greatly detailed with an openworked dial allowing for a full through-and-through view of the one-minute tourbillon escapement. Time is split three-ways with a rotating sapphire disc for the hours, a minute subdial at the top of the dial and a centrally mounted seconds hand. No matter from what angle you look at it, front or back, all the components are meticulously finished and in full display. More information at FerdinandBerthoud.ch.
Quick facts: 44mm diameter x 13,95mm height – carburized steel or pink gold octagonal case – in-house hand-wound movement – constant force mechanism with fusée and chain – regulator-style time display – tourbillon escapement – 1,158 parts in movement alone – limited to 20 movements only – CHF 235,000 in carburized steel or CHF 244,000 in pink gold
The high-tech one – Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One
The Grande Seconde by Jaquet Droz comes in a multitude of styles, including this Skelet-one. Marking a bold new design for the brand, Jaquet Droz introduced the Grande Seconde Skelet-One back in 2018. This year we saw the introduction of high-tech ceramic cases with an almost spider-web like system of industrial bridges and a touch of colour for the movement. It is one of the most “open” watches on the market, partly due to the sapphire seconds track suspended over the movement. Upon first glance, you would probably fail to notice the minimalistic rotor for the automatic winding can be seen from the front. There’s very little visual obstruction as the movement is down to the bare essentials really. More information at Jaquet-Droz.com.
Quick facts: 41,5mm diameter x 12,48mm height – high-tech ceramic case – skeletonized figure-eight sapphire dial – blackened movement finishing – silicon balance and pallet horns – double barrel for 68h power reserve – off-centred hours and minutes, large seconds display – yellow, green or sky blue details and straps – CHF 24,300
The submersible one – Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton
Introduced in 2021, the Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton is perhaps the boldest interpretation of the “Blast” themed watches by the brand. At least when it comes down to colour. The blued X-shaped movement is set in a blue PVD coated, 44mm wide steel case. The watch is riddled with orange touches and comes on either a bright orange or blue rubber strap. The in-house UN-317 calibre is an existing construction by Ulysse Nardin but converted to automatic winding. It is built as a skeleton movement from the ground up, instead of cut open afterwards. While skeletonized watches are not a new thing for Ulysse Nardin, the Blast models feature bolder, more contemporary and edgier designs. More information at Ulysse-Nardin.com.
Quick facts: 44mm diameter – blue PVD coated steel case – blue PVD coated bezel with Carbonium insert – UN-317 in-house calibre with X-shaped movement construction – floating hour markers – silicium balance wheel, anchor and escape wheel – 96h power reserve – EUR 17,900
The accessible one – Cimier Royal Skeleton
Skeletonized watches can cost a fortune but they don’t necessarily have to. A recently introduced Cimier Royal Skeleton is a perfect example of a skeletonized watch on a relative budget. What’s unusual about this watch is the positioning of the crown, and subsequently the small seconds. With the movement rotated slightly and a crown at 4 o’clock, it breaks from the usual crown-at-three style. With either a gold-coated movement in a black case or vice versa the Cimier Royal Skeleton offers a highly contrasting look. The watch uses the ETA/Unitas 6497 hand-wound movement as a base, which is fitted with a skeletonized mainplate, bridges and other components. Priced at CHF 2,300 this will certainly not break the bank. More information at Cimier.com and Watch-Academy.com.
Quick facts: 43mm diameter – steel case with black or gold coating – base Unitas 6497-1 movement, openworked – 50h power reserve – black alligator leather strap – CHF 2,300
The sporty one – Zenith Defy 21 Chronograph
The Defy 21 Chronograph collection by Zenith encompasses a range of colourful (and monochromatic) styles. Watches finished in a combat-green ceramic case, or with a bright ultra-violet coloured movement are no exception. And with the newly introduced Defy Extreme, a new and even bolder take on the Defy code, the range is extended even further. The Zenith Defy 21 collection is powered by the in-house El Primero 9004 calibre. It is capable of measuring time down to 1/100th of a second. Zenith plays around with the Defy platform regularly, offering up some very cool, modern skeletonized watches. Open-worked dials and movements, colourful contrasting finishes and modern materials are key features. More information at Zenith-Watches.com.
Quick facts: 44mm diameter x 14.50mm height – cases in titanium or ceramic – various coloured treatments available – openworked dials – contrasting chronograph registers – El Primero 9004 in-house chronograph – prices between CHF 13,100 and CHF 18.900 (Defy 21) and between CHF 17,900 and CHF 21,900 (Defy Extreme)
The bespoke one – Artisans de Genève “The Pearl Project”
It takes guts to ask someone to cut away most of what an iconic watch is known for. Working only on bespoke orders, Artisans de Genève do what others wouldn’t dare; modifying iconic watches per request of carefully selected clients. Think Rolex Daytona’s and Submariners, and recently a Patek Philippe Nautilus. We’re talking highly desirable watches modified and improved wherever possible. The latest project by Artisans de Genève was The Pearl Project. The project started with a Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711. In no way affiliated with the Swiss manufacturer, Artisans de Genève is able to translate exactly what a client wants into a truly polarizing watch. Changes include a bespoke forged carbon bezel, newly made hands, mirror-polished balance bridge, completely opened dial and skeletonized movement with anthracite finishing and a skeletonized gold rotor. More information at ArtisansdeGenève.com.
Quick facts: bespoke adaptation of PP Nautilus 5711 – original 40mm steel case with forged carbon bezel – skeletonized, bevelled and vertically brushed dial – modified and skeletonized 26-330 SC calibre – newly made hands – handmade mirror-polished balance bridge – modified 21k gold rotor – price upon request
The ultimate one – Kees Engelbarts Argentium Tourbillon
This list wouldn’t be complete with simply one of the best in the business when it comes to skeletonization; Kees Engelbarts. The born Dutchman now residing in Switzerland is as independent as they come, with a vivid imagination and the skill to translate that into a watch. His work caters to those not shy to enter Kees Engelbarts’ realms. Base movements are completely reworked with new components often incorporating new material. The metallurgical knowledge and skill Kees Engelbarts possesses is virtually unrivalled. It often beggars belief the movement remain rigid enough to still function properly. A perfect example of his work is the Argentium Tourbillon, a unique piece priced at CHF 120.000. This has a fully skeletonized movement made with a hand-wound tourbillon movement. The movement features a mainplate and bridges in German Silver, which are oxidized to a dark grey, almost black tone. More information at Kees.ch.
Quick facts: 39,5mm diameter x 9,5mm height – hardened and brushed 935 Argentium case – Swiss made hand-wound tourbillon movement – completely skeletonized by hand by Kees Engelbarts – oxidized German Silber mainplate and bridges – unique piece – CHF 120,000 (before taxes)