Many of today’s watch enthusiasts, especially in the U.S., know the Swiss brand Eterna solely for being the wellspring from which the movement-making colossus ETA, now a part of the Swatch Group, emerged. But the Eterna brand, albeit with a number of ownership changes over the years, has continued to innovate in the area of watchmaking and this year celebrates its 160th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, Eterna has released an elegantly simple, limited-edition skeleton watch, the Eterna Skeleton 1856.
The Eterna Skeleton 1856 (the numeral, of course, refers to the year of the brand’s founding) carries into the modern era the design codes of Eterna’s Matic Skeleton from 1991, which was in turn inspired by designs from the 1950s. It has a classically round case, 42 mm in diameter and 10.5 mm thick, made of polished stainless steel and featuring subtly convex curved sides and two-step lugs. The scratch-resistant, nonreflective sapphire crystal is set into a light metal return. The notched winding crown is emblazoned with Eterna’s “five ball” emblem, a visual reference to one of the company’s most significant horological inventions, the rotor balls for self-winding movements.
The narrow, bright-colored bezel features matte-black hour numerals (another version with simple metal points is also available). The time simple time display consists of dauphine hour and minute hands — a hallmark of Eterna watches — and a slightly curved central seconds hand.
The movement in the watch is the manual-winding Caliber 3902M, one of the 88 different variations on the groundbreaking Caliber 39, the modular base caliber on which Eterna has added numerous additional components and subassemblies for its various complicated watches.
Here, however, simplicity reigns: the manual-wind system ensures that the movement — and thus the watch — can be appealingly thin, and the highly finessed skeletonization of the parts allow the wearer to see the various mechanisms in action. Visual interest is added with contrasting NAC anthracite and silver-plated finishes on the bridges and other components, which can be viewed through the sapphire caseback of the watch as well as from the dial side. Moreover, those who don’t necessarily want to manually wind their watch often will appreciate this one’s lengthy power reserve of 65 hours.
The finishing touch on the Eterna Skeleton 1856 is the strap, made of woven leather in the tradition of Italian tanners and artisanal furniture designers — available in dark brown, light brown, or black, and all fastening by means of a simple pin buckle. Eterna will release 160 pieces of each strap color.