22.09.2016 - News

Nowhere to Hide: The Best Skeletonised Watches of 2016

The beauty of great watchmaking is not always in the eye of the beholder; often it is hidden beneath more functional elements, like dials and protective casebacks. Yet as luxury lovers experience a craving for evidence of real craftsmanship after a prolonged diet of forced fast fashion (and quartz watches), more skeletonised watches are emerging from the ateliers.

Skeletonised watches – timepieces with movements that are visible from both sides of the case – were one of the strongest trends from this year’s annual watch shows SIHH and BaselWorld. Cartier stripped bare its Clé de Cartier model, showing off the brand’s first skeletonised automatic movement made in house. Roger Dubuis unveiled new Excalibur models that stack the watch components in a constellation around its signature star-shaped bridge for all to see, including luxe versions set with gemstones.


Clé de Cartier is the brand’s first skeletonised automatic movement made in-house

Creating a skeletonised luxury watch is not as simple as lifting the lid and showing off what lies beneath. While the whirring, ticking heart of any watch movement is a joy to see, its actual construction might not be all that impressive. To compete with the best skeletonised watches out there, a little flair is required. Every element must look as good as it performs.

While the theory is universal, the design approach to skeletonised watches varies wildly. Some skeleton watches focus on making the components highly decorative through intricate engraving – the new Corum Bubble Skeleton is a dazzling example of this, as is Blancpain’s Villeret Squelette 8 Jours.


Corum Bubble Skeleton

Others will rearrange the components in ever-creative ways to create movements that look completely alien. The Zenith Academy Tourbillon Georges Favre-Jacot makes its El Primero Calibre 4805 look more like a surprised emoji, while Corum’s longstanding Bridge collection stacks up the components in a neat line at the centre of its luxury watches.

Whether classic, crazy or complicated in a sportsluxe sort of way, the art to creating a good skeleton watch is to remove as much surplus material as possible, for aesthetic reasons, without compromising the performance of the movement.

And there is also the small matter of being able to tell the time. Some skeleton watches have metal numbers that appear to cling to the bezel, while others offset miniaturised dials that slightly cover but don’t obscure the movement. And for the sportier models, like the Harry Winston Z9, layers of heavy accoutrements pile up to not quite, but just about, smother the main event.

Or for a truly see-through skeleton watch, Hublot has the answer: a skeletonised dial set within a transparent sapphire case on a clear silicone strap. After all, a true luxury watch brand has nothing to hide.


The Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire has a retail price of £48,000


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Richard Mille RM 055 Bubba Watson All Grey Ti-TiC

This unworn titanium and carbon alloy watch, from a limited run of 100, takes skeletonisation to a new level with an artful movement that appears to almost float between two slices of sapphire glass.

Price on request

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Audemars Piguet Millenary Automatic Mens Watch

Save more than £4,000 on the RRP of this skeletonised steel dress watch with offset dials that was launched only this year, and is fitted with an automatic movement and a black alligator strap.


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Richard Mille RM 011 Felipe Massa Carbon Chronograph AL CA

Bulldoze the simplistic charms of your peers’ dress watches with this sporty chronograph with black carbon case, chunky crown and pushers, and a complicated skeletonised dial that you could get lost in.

Price on request

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By Rachael Taylor, Luxe Watches