e owe their introduction to the watchmaker André-Charles Caron who, around 1760, was the first to unveil the “secrets” of how a movement functioned. Inspired by the Encyclopaedist current of thought, the public hurried en masse to his workshop to discover what lurked beneath the science and art of watchmaking.
A "science” that has now been overtaken in its primary function of providing the most exact time possible, mechanical horology is seeking to maintain its artistic pre-eminence by revealing its fascinating internal organs as far as possible. The big difference is that today, the idea is not so much to expose an existing movement as it is to design from scratch a movement destined to be exposed. The caseback, exterior – or what is left of it – and movement are therefore designed in tandem to form one inseparable whole. So today, “skeletonisation” has little meaning. It would be more accurate to speak of three-dimensional sculpture.
Today, “skeletonisation” has little meaning. It would be more accurate to speak of three-dimensional sculpture.
The movement’s architecture is now the decoration in itself. There is no more “flesh” to be removed, only “bones” to be assembled. Might this be one of the principal means by which mechanical watches can continue to attract? The number of watchmakers who practise it would seem to prove just that.
- CHANEL BOY-FRIEND SKELETON
- The in-house Calibre 3 equipping this watch was specifically conceived and designed not only to fit into the case of the Boy•Friend, but to constitute its entire "décor“. Here, the function, form and arrangement of the different components are placed entirely at the service of the aesthetics. The movement is part and parcel of its own case. A skeleton like this cannot be anything but unique. From 20,000 to 50,000$
- PIAGET ALTIPLANO ULTIMATE AUTOMATIC
- Just 4.3mm thick, this watch is one of the best illustrations of the fusion of movement and exterior design. To achieve this extreme thinness, the movement and case form a single piece, the latter serving as the base plate to which the 219 ultra-fine components are fixed. The result is avant-garde, reverse-engineered architecture in which aesthetics and technique are an integral part of one another. From 20,000 to 50,000$
- BULGARI OCTO FINISSIMO SKELETON SANDBLASTED
- Every component of the BVL 128SK manufacture calibre has been chiselled away to leave a kind of mechanical web set in an Octo case in sandblasted pink gold. Just 2.35mm thick, this mechanical movement also has a small-seconds dial and a 65- hour power reserve indicator. Even stripped naked, the Octo looks good. From 20,000 to 50,000$
- CHRONOMÉTRIE FERDINAND BERTHOUD - CHRONOMÈTRE FB-1R.6-1
- Inspired by marine chronometers, driven by a fusee-and-chain mechanism, this regulator features an original display of each function, split over the dial. Hours are displayed in an arched window at 2 o’clock, and minutes are shown in a subdial at 12 o’clock. A complicated power reserve display dominates an opening in the space between 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock on the dial. The seconds are directly linked to the 60-second tourbillon, which is featured on the caseback side, along with the mobile-cone power reserve system. From 200,000 to 500,000$
- ROMAIN GAUTHIER INSIGHT MICRO-ROTOR LADY
- With its highly visible, intricately engineered, automatic movement featuring a snow-set micro-rotor and a gently shimmering mother-of-pearl dial, the Insight Micro-Rotor Lady – Romain Gauthier’s first ladies’ watch – "is for those women who want their timepieces blessed with more than just a pretty face", explains the watchmaker. The movement’s spectacular decoration includes handcrafted and hand-polished bevels, snailing, straight-graining, circular-graining and hand-frosting, as well as handcrafted and hand-polished jewel countersinks. From 50,000 to 100,000$
- CLAUDE MEYLAN TORTUE BLACK
- Born into a family of master watchmakers in the Joux Valley, Claude Meylan defines himself as a “sculptor of time” who “undresses” all the parts of the movement and constantly seeks to “push the art of skeletonisation to new horizons”. Witness this Tortue Black of rare elegance and great finesse. From 5,000 to 10,000$
- CARL SUCHY & SÖHNE THE WALTZ NO 1 SKELETON
- The Waltz N°1 is equipped with the ultra-thin automatic movement VMF 5401/180 designed and produced by Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier. It has been modified by Zurich-based watchmaker Marc Jenni - a former member of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI) - to fit a rotating seconds disc at 6 o’clock with a striped pattern that aligns with that of the dial once a minute. In this semi-transparent version, the movement is seen through the openworked dial as if through an Art Nouveau “mashrabiya”. From 10,000 to 20,000$
- FIONA KRÜGER CHAOS MECHANICAL ENTROPY
- “Time always advances towards the random, disorder and chaos” is a favourite saying of Fiona Krüger, known for her famous Skulls. Here, she seeks to express the notion of chaos and entropy in the very design of the movement, which is subjected to an “explosion” that seems to blow it apart. The gear train is stretched across the entire length of the movement, the broken hour and minute wheels are off-centre and the apparently shattered barrel mainspring can be seen in the upper righthand corner through a seemingly ravaged plate and bridges. From 20,000 to 50,000$
- AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK OFFSHORE TOURBILLON CHRONOGRAPH 25TH ANNIVERSARY
- Openworked and distinctive, this Royal Oak Offshore would hardly be recognisable as part of the family were it not for its octagonal shape. The watch offers a view of the tourbillon at 9 o’clock, a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, and two mainspring barrels that offer the most substance to the watch’s skeletonised foundation. Rather than metal and rubber, the pushers and crown are now made from ceramic. The watches are available in either 18k rose gold or stainless steel, each limited to 50 pieces, and are powered by the hand-wound Calibre 2947. From 200,000 to 500,000$
- ZENITH DEFY EL PRIMERO 21 BLUE
- This El Primero timepiece, which is paced at a frequency of 360,000 vph (50 Hz), ten times faster than its predecessor is an impressive piece of engineering in action. Accurate to 1/100th of a second, as you can read from the inner bezel with its scale graduated from 1 to 100, the second hand sweeps round the dial at the lightning speed of one revolution per second. The completely openworked dial shows a resolutely contemporary décor advantageously setting off a very unusual blue base plate. From 10,000 to 20,000$
- ARMIN STROM PURE RESONANCE WATER
- The raison d’être of the Mirrored Force Resonance is to display the interesting functionality of the resonant balances while improving the watch’s overall precision. The resonance clutch spring provides the watch with a fascinating and patented “animation” of the way it functions. This remains in line with the philosophy of Armin Strom as a brand: no nonsense, just good, proprietary mechanics presented in an impeccably finished and interesting way. The resonance clutch spring is exciting in another way, too: it visually proves this timepiece’s resonance. From 20,000 to 50,000$
- ROGER DUBUIS EXCALIBUR SPIDER PIRELLI AUTOMATIC SKELETON
- In black titanium with deep blue accents or touches of white evoking the tarmac so beloved of the tyre manufacturer, the case contains an in-house, self-winding mechanical calibre of 166 components, with a skeletal micro-rotor and fine-tuning in six positions. Entirely openworked with an NAC-coated main plate and bridges and Poinçon de Genève finishing; all this mounted on a black rubber strap inlaid with rubber “from certified Pirelli winning tyres having competed in real races", according to the description, for the benefit of fetishists of the brand. From 50,000 to 100,000$
- JAQUET DROZ GRANDE SECONDE SKELET-ONE
- For the first time, Jaquet Droz presents its emblematic Grande Seconde with a sapphire dial built into a skeleton composition. The casing ring has been omitted, offering greater openness; the hour dial is in sapphire and the oscillating weight entirely openworked, with only the bridges holding the movement, which can be seen in its entirety, together. From 20,000 to 50,000$
- DE WITT ACADEMIA SKELETON
- For this manually wound skeleton movement, Jérôme de Witt has chosen “a highly complex mathematical structure”. Based on the satellite principle already created for the 2005 Tourbillon Differentiel, the 100 hours double barrel power reserve is indicated by an arrow located on this differential, which is in constant rotation. Placed at 7 o’clock, the seconds hand changes direction after 30 seconds thanks to a disconnecting gear system, and performs an instantaneous jump that sends it in the opposite direction to mark the following 30 seconds. The seconds are therefore indicated in two different directions, which gives the seconds hand a totally new way of moving. From 50,000 to 100’000$
- HAUTLENCE VORTEX GAMMA MAGMA
- Immediately recognisable by the 12 articulated links of its hour chain, which turns for 3-4 seconds every 60 minutes, leaving us time to admire the mechanics in action, this is an volcanic new version of the Vortex Gamma. Its case is made from HLLightColor, a material charged with ceramic nanotube particles, and six three-dimensional sapphire crystals. The minutes dial, made from almost entirely transparent sapphire, has an opening offering a generous view of the calibre. The Magma plays on its contrasts of black, depth, and colour, creating visual effects and an interplay of luminescent and transparent forms. From 100,000 to 200,000$
- CORUM ADMIRAL AC-ONE 45 SQUELETTE
- No sapphire disc here. To create transparency, the floating, filigree date figures, advanced by an invisible transmission system beneath the inner bezel, have been individually blanked by electrical discharge machining. This aerial architecture accentuates the three-dimensional effect of the Admiral 45 Squelette, the in-house calibre of which is visible on the lower bridge. Contrasting with the lightweight, coloured lacework of the figures is the sturdy case in matte black DLC titanium. Transparency married to mass. From 10,000 to 20,000$
- SCHWARZ ETIENNE ROSWELL 08
- By showcasing its ISO 100.11 in-house calibre, a back-to-front movement with the balance and date mechanism innovatively positioned on the dial side, Schwarz Etienne offers a timepiece that is at once technically sophisticated, playful and educational. The balance operates in full view, as does the entire date mechanism which traverses the whole movement and is displayed in a green aperture at 2 o’clock, while a small-seconds dial in the shape of a green pastille revolves at 11 o’clock. From 10,000 to 20,000$
- RADO TRUE OPEN HEART AUTOMATIC
- Who would have thought that a ceramic case – hardly a transparent material – could frame a skeleton movement? Or to be more exact, an “open-heart” movement, as Rado calls it. Because this is not so much a skeleton movement as a movement with a dial generously divided into broad black, geometric or circular openings, revealing the main components that go to make it up. From 1,000 to 3000$
- CENTURY PRIME TIME
- The dodecagonal case in sapphire – scratchproof, wearproof and hand-cut – from Prime Time is one of Century’s most recognisable signature features. Here, the case goes for a sporty look, hosting a movement in which the bridges, barrel and main plate are openworked for greater transparency. The sense of depth is accentuated by the thick, raised indices and the openworked hands. From 5,000 to 10,000$
- MAURICE LACROIX AIKON AUTOMATIC SKELETON
- Designed specifically for the Aikon Automatique Squelette, the ML234 calibre is self-winding. Like all the Maurice Lacroix skeleton movements for the past 25 years, this was born of a design choice. The movement is structured by five concentric circles radiating out from the centre of the hollowed barrel, at 1 o’clock. Balance bridge, winder mechanism, oscillating weight – all these elements are hollowed out as far as possible to create a transparent lacework of mechanical parts beneath a sapphire crystal divided by rhodium-plated indices. From 5,000 to 10,000$
All mentioned prices are indicative and correspond to price segment.
TO READ MORE
Europa Star Watch Curator ’18 is a selection of 147 watches classified under 13 specific trends:
Tourbillons - Globes - Sun, Moon & Stars - Purity - Open-worked - Skulls - Sport - Tough - New displays - Barocco - Vintage & Neo-vintage - Connected - Calibres.