The skeleton watch or skeletonized watch is a style of timepiece that is almost exclusively the domain of watches with mechanical movements. The process of skeletonizing a watch is simple - in theory. By opening up the dial and caseback and stripping out some large areas of movement parts, the maker of a skeleton watch reveals the "bones" beneath the surface. In practical terms, skeletonizing a watch can be done minimally or it can be done to an extreme level, and in both case the result can often be polarizing. Whether you love or hate the style, skeleton watches are nearly always a reliable conversation starter among enthusiasts of mechanical wristwatches. To keep those conversations going, we've compiled this list of some of our favorite skeleton watches on the market today.
Before diving into the list, let's clear up some of the jargon you can expect to come across. First off, there are two other terms that tend to be lumped in with the subject of skeleton watches, namely “open heart” and "openworked." "Open heart" tends to describe a type of dial aperture that reveals usually just the balance wheel beating away but very little else. ”Openworked” is a term that is commonly used as an alternative to "skeletonized" since being popularized by Audemars Piguet (more on that below). Essentially, openworked and skeletonized are interchangeable in describing the same aesthetic. So, on this list there will be skeleton(ized) and openworked watches but not open-heart watches, which could be a topic to explore another time.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Openworked Black Ceramic 15416CE.OO.1225CE.01
We start the list with perhaps the most Instagrammable and most influential member of this skeleton watch category. The Royal Oak Double Balance Openwork, particularly in its earlier incarnations, has popularized the skeleton styling among the most prestigious brands in Switzerland. The movement is the AP Caliber 3132 which is based on the famous AP Caliber 3120 and is then skeletonized for maximum light exposure, as well as modified with the additional second balance. The colors of black, slate gray and gold together are rich and eye-catching. On the wrist, the watch has a serious presence both visually and by its sheer physical mass, so it wears more like a precious metal piece than its stainless steel counterpart.
Case: 41mm, Thickness 9.7mm, Movement: Auto Caliber 3132, Water-Resistance: 50m, Material: Black Ceramic, Price: $84,300
Zenith Defy El Primero 21 97.9001.9004/81.R946
Large, sporty, and lightweight, the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 is core to the strategic direction of Zenith and is the standard bearer for the company's Defy 21 collection. The openworked dial displays classic El Primero chronograph registers, plus a power reserve at 12 o'clock, while also revealing many of the 291 movement parts, including some of the gear train such as the barrel and balance assembly. Sporty finishes are found throughout the case, bracelet and movement including vertical brush and micro-blasted surfaces. The titanium models can be configured on either a rubberized strap or a sporty titanium bracelet and there’s even an 18k rose-gold version available.
Case: 44mm, Thickness: 14.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Movement: Automatic El Primero 21, Water-Resistance: 100m, Material: Titanium, Price: $13,500
Accutron Spaceview 2020 2ES6A001
If there is a controversial watch to add to this list, it would be the Accutron Spaceview 2020, but this high-tech timekeeper warrants inclusion because it showcases what a possible future in watchmaking looks like with modern, electrostatic movement technology along with high-level design language and finishing. Prominently displayed via the front sapphire crystal are two electrostatic turbines in the lower half of the dial that spin - a bit like a mechanical rotor - to generate power which is then transferred to the accumulator located at the 10 o'clock position for storage. The case in which all this interesting technology is made of titanium case and measures 43.5mm in diameter and 15.9mm thick, with a large domed crystal to make room for the movement and provide enough height to clear the expansive dial.
Case: 43.5mm, Thickness: 15.9mm, Movement: Electrostatic, Water-Resistance: 50m, Material: Titanium, Price: $3,450
Hamilton Jazzmaster Skeleton H42535610
This Hamilton Jazzmaster Skeleton is more in line with the classical skeleton look, in which the watchmaker peels back the dial of an existing model and decorates the now visible movement accordingly. With this piece, we have two large cutout areas along the top and bottom halves of the dial and a center section that remains intact. Dress-watch dimensions make this a viable everyday office watch and the 80-hour power reserve of the ETA C07.111 movement ensures that when you pick it up after a weekend break, it will still be running.
Case: 40mm, Thickness: 10.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Movement: Automatic H-10 (ETA C07.111), Water-Resistance: 50m, Material: Steel, Price: $1,250
Tissot Chemin des Tourelles Squelette T099.405.36.418.00
Staying within the realm of classical Swiss-made skeleton watches, we come to the Tissot Chemin des Tourelles Squelette. This piece comes in either a traditional stainless steel case or a gold PVD stainless steel case in slightly larger proportions than the Hamilton, and you can feel the size difference. An expansive sapphire crystal exposes nearly the entire mainplate of the manual winding ETA 6497 beneath. The dial is not much more than a hollowed ring upon which the applied numerals are placed, along with a sub-seconds register ring.
Case: 42mm, Thickness: 11.1mm, Movement: Manual ETA 6497, Water-Resistance: 50m, Material: PVD Steel, Price: $2,200
Bulova Maquina Skeleton 98A238
As the most affordable option on this list, the Bulova Maquina Skeleton stands out with a distinct skull shaped dial cutout that exposes the underlying movement. More limited in its appeal, the Maquina Skeleton features a modern and sporty PVD steel case with a crown position at two o'clock. One of the best attributes to this piece beyond the distinct looks is the 100m of water resistance. If the skull motif isn’t your thing, a more classic skeleton dial is available in a few different combinations within this collection as well. The contrast and readability is better on the skull dial with the predominant use of black for hands and the dial elements over the automatic Miyota 8N26 movement inside.
Case: 46mm, Thickness: 12.6mm, Movement: automatic Miyota 8N26, Water-Resistance: 100m, Material: PVD Steel, Price: $595
Raymond Weil Freelancer Bronze Skeleton 2785-SBC-60000
The Raymond Weil Freelancer Bronze Skeleton is one of the most revealing watches on this list as it strips away a good portion of the visible bridges and plates to expose nearly the entire gear train, even going so far as to remove the top of the barrel to display the mainspring inside. A visual highlight of this piece is the balance assembly situated at 6 o'clock, giving it an upscale look provided by the alignment of the Swiss automatic Sellita SW255 inside. This is one of the most engaging and well-appointed fully skeletonized watches in its price category.
Case: 42.5mm, Thickness: 10.6mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50.7mm, Movement: Auto Sellita SW255, Water-Resistance: 100m, Material: Steel & Bronze, Price: $2,940
Piaget Polo Skeleton G0A45004 & G0A45001
Inside the Piaget Polo Skeleton beats the world’s thinnest skeletonized automatic movement, the in-house Piaget caliber 1200S. The ultra-slim movement took three years to research and develop and it features a myriad of different high-end finishes including circular and satin-brush sunburst motifs. To keep the movement thin, the micro-rotor is platinum, providing enough mass to power the watch while on the wrist and it operates at 3hz to achieve up to 44 hours of power reserve as supplied by the highly exposed gear train. An alligator strap is supplied in addition to the steel bracelet and swapping out each attachment requires no additional tools. The Piaget Polo Skeleton is one of the finest skeleton examples in the haute horlogerie segment with its impressive style, finishing and technical wizardry.
Case: 42mm, Thickness: 6.5mm, Movement: Auto Piaget 1200S, Water-Resistance: 30m, Material: Steel & Bronze, Price: $28,500
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton Power Reserve 103126
Another technically impressive timepiece, the Octo Finissimo Skeleton Power Reserve features the 2.35mm ultra-thin, manually-wound BLV-128SK Finissimo movement inside. This movement is even thinner than the Piaget 1200S, although it’s manual winding and therefore there is no rotor to occupy precious space. The openworked dial and bridges with their blackened treatments are visible through the sapphire crystal. Some visual highlights are the open barrel exposing the mainspring, the power reserve indicator near the 10 o'clock marker, the sub second register located beneath that in the same border-only display style as the power reserve, as well as the general level of finishing applied across all the dial elements.
Case: 40mm, Thickness: 5.35mm, Movement: Manual BVG128S Finissimo, Water-Resistance: 30m, Material: Ceramic, Price: $25,500
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra Thin Skeleton
Geneva based Vacheron Constantin is one of the greatest watchmakers in the world as well as one of the oldest in existence. Where Vacheron Constantin particularly excels is in its movement finishing, which is done at the highest standards as seen on the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra Thin Skeleton. Offered in either 18k white gold or 18k 5N pink gold the opened dial and caseback provide a clear view to many of the 276 finely finished components that make up the movement. Luxury sport models by Vacheron Constantin’s contemporaries Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet are trading at all-time high premiums around the world, which actually makes this piece a value proposition by comparison.
Reference: 4300V/120G-B946 and 4300V/120R-B547
Case: 41.5mm, Thickness: 8.1mm, Movement: Auto Caliber 1120 QPSP, Water-Resistance: 50m, Material: 18kt white gold or 18kt 5N pink gold, Price: $130,000
Cartier Privé Tank Asymétrique CRWHTA0011
The limited-edition Cartier Privé Tank Asymétrique is a luxurious take on a 1930s vintage piece, with interesting visual dynamics that are notable even for a skeleton watch. The dial and movement are arranged in a driver's orientation, meaning everything is turned clockwise a quarter rotation so that the 12 and 6 markers are aligned in the case corners. Cartier has removed most of the dial and movement plates of the manual winding Cartier Caliber 9623 MC to reveal almost nothing but the gear train the hour markers, including a nearly fully exposed balance assembly with the escapement in clear sight.
Case: 47mm x 26mm, Thickness: 7.8mm, Movement: Manual Caliber 9623 MC Water-Resistance: 30m, Material: 18kt rose gold, Price: $64,000, Limited Edition to 100
ORIS ProPilot X 01-115-7759-7153-set7-22-01tlc
The ProPilot X comes in a large titanium case with a matte finishing throughout and features a nonlinear 10 day power reserve, supplied by the massive mainspring visible at the top half of the in-house movement, Caliber 115. Dark greys and matte silvers dominate the color pallette of the remaining dial and movement. Even the large hands are finished in the same style as the other elements; however, they are treated with a healthy amount of luminous material to provide contrast with the dial. Oris does have other skeleton watches scattered throughout its collection, but this is the one to pick up.
Case: 44mm, Movement: Automatic Caliber 115, Water-Resistance: 100m, Material: Titanium, Price: $7600
Bell & Ross BR05 Skeleton BR05A-BLU-SKST/SST
The Bell & Ross BR05 takes the signature squared instrument panel language of the BR 01 and modifies it to a slightly more cushion-shaped execution and integrates a sporty bracelet as well. For this limited-edition BR05 Skeleton, the dial area features a distinct blue tint with a slightly translucent view of the movement inside, the Caliber BR-322. It’s derived from the Sellita SW300-1 base caliber and then rebuilt to the specifications of Bell & Ross. Rounded index markers and matching hands are treated with luminous material for contrast and low-light visibility. This style of tinted exposure to the movement does provide a level of consistent contrast between the markers, hands and the dial unlike.
Case: 40mm x 40mm, Thickness: 11mm, Movement: Auto Caliber BR-322, Water-Resistance: 100m, Material: steel, Price: $6,900, Limited Edition to 500
RGM 801 Skeleton
RGM was founded and established in 1992 by Roland G. Murphy, and today is widely regarded as the finest watch brand in The United States. Mr. Murphy began crafting in-house movements with Caliber 801 in 2007, becoming the first American watchmaker to do so in decades. Recently, RGM decided to offer a skeletonized version of this movement after a year of research and development. Ownership of this would put you in rare company as only about 70 of these Caliber 801 are made annually, so an allocation of that for skeletonization is just a fraction. RGM offers this model in either stainless steel or in 18k rose gold.
Reference: 801 Skeleton
Case: 43.3, Thickness: 12.3mm, Movement: Caliber 801, Water-Resistance: 50m, Material: stainless steel or 18kt rose gold, Price: $21,400 in steel, $34,200 in 18kt rose gold
Rado True Square R27083202
The Rado True Square Open Heart is more skeleton than open heart and offers up unique looks and impressive technical complexity. The case dimensions and integrated bracelet, which are constructed out of the brand's plasma high-tech ceramic, are more moderately proportioned than most of the other timepieces on this list and should accommodate a smaller wrist size well. There are a few different dial color offerings for this model, but the blue stands out from the other options. The ETA C07.631 provides up to 80 hours of power reserve and many of the compelling movement components are highly visible through the dial side.
Case: 38mm x 38mm, Thickness: 9.7mm, Lug to Lug: 38mm, Movement: Automatic ETA C07.631, Water-Resistance: 50m, Material: Plasma high-tech ceramic, Price: $2550
Maurice LaCroix Masterpiece Skeleton MP6028-PS101-001-1
The Maurice LaCroix Masterpiece Skeleton straddles the line of sporty and dressy with a large steel case that works best for larger-than-average wrist sizes while also offering a classical skeleton approach to the automatic caliber ML206 inside. The signature element to this piece is the chronograph, which plays a key role in the design language by not standing out, but rather complimenting the rest of the elements on the skeletonized dial. There are three versions of the Masterpiece Skeleton: the all silver version pictured, a silver-and-blue dial variant also in stainless steel as well as a steel case, and an 18k gold-bezel option.
Case: 45mm, Movement: Automatic ML206, Water-Resistance: 100m, Material: stainless steel, Price: $7400 in steel, $8400 in steel with gold bezel
Chronoswiss Opus Chronograph CH-7543.1S-SI
The Chronoswiss Opus Chronograph is one of the most iconic Swiss-made skeleton watches in existence. Introduced in 1995, the Opus has undergone a series of changes over the years, in particular the jump in size to a modern 41mm case while also shortening the lugs. Chronoswiss goes to great lengths to skeletonize the movement, Caliber C. 741 S, from both the dial side and the back side, including the rotor. On the dial, the four subdials are paired with classic blue steeled hands, producing that familiar Chronoswiss look. Beyond the steel and white dial combination, Chronoswiss offers an array of dial color combinations within the Opus collection.
Case: 41mm, Thickness: 14.8 mm, Movement: Automatic C. 741 S, Water-Resistance: 100m, Material: stainless steel, Price: $11,500
Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton
Ulysse Nardin’s nautical history as a renowned supplier of marine chronometers meets its modern-day rep as a pioneer of avant-garde technical watchmaking in the Diver X Skeleton, a limited edition of 175 numbered pieces. Its 44-mm-diameter, blue PVD-coated case has a rubber protector around its screw-down crown and a unidirectional dive-scale bezel sculpted from blue Carbonium, a high-performance, super-lightweight material used to make airplane fuselages and wings for the aeronautics industry. A blue PVD “X” motif dominates the skeletonized dial, whose hour markers and luminous-coated hands appear to float over its tiered, multi-layer construction, adding to the sense of depth. The Ulysse Nardin Caliber UN-372, a meticulously openworked version of the base Caliber UN-171, also bears the “X” shape on its oscillating weight and stores a lengthy 96-hour power reserve inside a mainspring barrel with a cover made of the same blue Carbonium as the bezel.
Case: 44mm, Thickness: 16mm, Movement: Automatic Caliber UN-372, Water-Resistance: 200m, Material: Titanium, Price: $24,300.
Louis Moinet Memoris Superlight LM.79.20.50
Louis Moinet’s Memoris Superlight offers up a unique skeletonized movement that comprises two distinct parts. One is the automatic base movement and the other part is the chronograph, which isn’t unusual for a mechanical watch, until you take into consideration that the chronograph is positioned to the dial side, rather than to the back. Opening up the dial takes advantage of this movement position and allows the wearer to not only see the impeccably finished movement parts of the caliber LM79, but also the chronograph parts in action when engaging the function. The Memoris Superlight comes in several variations, all limited to 28 pieces and all in titanium.
Case: 46mm, Thickness: 14.8 mm, Movement: Automatic LM79, Water-Resistance: 50m, Material: Titanium Price: On Request
Hublot Big Bang Unico Integral
Hublot introduced the Big Bang Unico Integral, its first-ever Big Bang with an integrated metal bracelet, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the original, brand-defining Big Bang model in 2005. The updated case design, which takes its cues from the existing Big Bang Unico 42 — including the emblematic porthole bezel with H-shaped screws — features a first link that’s fused with the bracelet and chronograph pushers that echo the look of those on the very first Big Bang watches. Behind a sapphire crystal, the skeletonized Unico HUB1280 caliber, which comprises the base of the open dial, has a built-in chronograph function driven by a column wheel (visible through the dial side) and a horizontal double-clutch mechanism. The automatic movement stores a power reserve of 72 hours, or three days, in its mainspring barrel. The bracelet, of course, is the major talking point, made up of triple links whose shaped edges resemble those of the chrono pushers.
Case: 42mm, Movement: Automatic Caliber HUB1280, Water-Resistance: 100m, Material: Titanium, Price: $20,900
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One
The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One brings the familiar figure-eight dial design of the flagship Grande Seconde model into a new arena with its use of a painstakingly openworked movement behind a sapphire dial. The 41-mm case of the recently launched plasma ceramic edition is made by treating white ceramic with gas heated to 20,000°C to give its surface an anthracite-gray metallic sheen, while simultaneously rendering it hard, lightweight and scratch-resistant. The gray tones of the case seamlessly blend into those of the gray-finished bridges of the Jaquet Droz Caliber 2663 SQ, which stores a 68-hour power reserve inside two mainspring barrels. As in other, more “conventional” iterations of the Grande Seconde, the hours and minutes are indicated on a modestly sized subdial at 12 o’clock, and the seconds, as per the name, represent the display on the larger subdial at 6 o’clock. The handsome gray textile strap completes the watch’s monochromatic look.
Case: 41.5mm, Thickness: 12.48mm, Movement: Automatic Caliber 2663 SQ, Water-Resistance: 30m, Material: Plasma Ceramic, Price: $23,600