While ghosts and goblins might have disappeared with the passing of Halloween, skeletons remain alive – figuratively speaking, of course – and well on the wrists of thousands of watch collectors worldwide during the early days of this holiday season. Skeletonization, in which the dial and all non-essential materials are removed from the movement construction, is one of modern watchmaking’s most enduring trends, with roots dating back to the mid-20th century. Each year, dozens of brands unveil skeletonized timepieces that range from over-the-top and garish to pleasantly subtle. Here, we’ve gathered five noteworthy timepieces that have embraced skeletonization to great effect.
BELL & ROSS
Earlier this fall, Bell & Ross debuted a new flagship collection focused on the concept of “urban luxury.” Among the variety of colorways, case materials and dial executions being offered, there is a single skeletonized movement, a rarity at Bell & Ross outside of its very limited “Experimental” pieces. Limited to 500 pieces, the BR 05 Skeleton features the BR-CAL.322 movement, which uses a Sellita SW300 as its base and is enhanced with an all-new, wheel-shaped, openworked rotor that spans the breadth of the movement. The model represents a relatively rare horological venture for Bell & Ross, which had previously reserved skeletonization for its most haute-de-gamme pieces, such as the BR X-2 Tourbillon. Price: $6,400. Read more about the BR 05 collection here.
RGM WATCH CO.
A little over a decade ago, Roland G. Murphy of RGM Watch Co. conceptualized and executed the first American-made, in-house movement since 1969. Named Caliber 801, Murphy followed it up with a number of variations, including this year’s skeletonized update. The PS-801 Skeleton features a solid gold plaque at the bottom of the dial, dividing the seconds indicator into thirds. The three-arm seconds hand enables a clear view of the movement and escapement. The different lengths of the arms of the seconds hand allow for easy reading. All of the movement’s components are hand finished. The PS-801 Skeleton is housed in a stainless-steel Pennsylvania-series case that is made in Lancaster County, PA, and finished by hand. Price: $21,400 in steel and $34,200 in rose gold. More info here.
The defining element of the new Executive Free Wheel from Ulysse Nardin, which is housed in a 44-mm case, is its innovative movement, developed entirely in-house, whose exposed gear trains and bridges appear to float in midair on the dial side and whose barrel stores a power reserve of seven days, displayed in an indicator at 4 o’clock. Manual-winding Caliber UN-176 is equipped with the Ulysse Nardin Anchor flying tourbillon and a constant-force escapement. There are four limited-edition versions available with a variety of dial treatments including Osmium, aventurine, straw marquetry and Carbonium. The watches are all mounted on alligator leather straps in either black or blue. Prices are $102,000 for the Osmium edition and $99,000 for the aventurine, straw marquetry and Carbonium editions. Click here for more on the Executive Free Wheel and to see additional models
The philosophy behind this out-of-the-box addition to the sporty Aikon family is “the quicksilver fluidity of time” (hence the name “Mercury”), here represented by an unprecedented “free hand” system in which the central hour and minutes hands dangle freely, obscuring the correct reading of the time, until the wearer tilts his wrist into place to read the watch, when the hands return to their proper stations and point to the correct hour and minute. This unique display, which took three years for Maurice Lacroix to develop, uses two snail-cam mechanisms hidden under the openworked dial – one for hours, the other for minutes – and harnesses the natural forces of gravity to manipulate them. Price: $7,690. More detail on the Aikon Mercury here.
Chronoswiss has never been afraid to express itself with bold colorways to match its equally recognizable regulator-focused designs. This year proved no exception to that rule with a number of electrifying looks, including a new option in the brand’s limited-edition series of Flying Grand Regulator Skeleton timepieces (click here to discover the 2018 edition) that combines baby-blue accents with apricot-orange hands. Produced in a run of only 30 watches, the new release is housed in a 44-mm stainless-steel case, with satin-brushed and polished finishes, composed of 21 parts. The knurled finish on the sides and vintage-look onion crown, longtime Chronoswiss hallmarks, add to the case’s distinctive look. The silvered, openworked dial offers a glimpse of the watch’s mechanical heart. Inside the case is the manual-wound C.677S caliber, whose plates, bridges and gear wheels have been painstakingly skeletonized. On the dial side, the multi-level construction features funnel-type subdials for the hours and seconds, plus Poire Stuart hands that sweep over the main dial and subdials to indicate the hours, minutes and seconds. Price: $9,150.
This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of WatchTime.