Laid bare for all to admire, openworked (or skeleton) watches present their incredible internal mechanisms, with movements stripped down to basic essentials. A challenging art in itself, it requires a meticulous process of cutting away metal on plates, bridges, and other areas to reveal a precisely engineered time machine. Through openworked timepieces, watchmakers are able to hone their skills transforming what is already a complex mechanism into a beautiful work of art. Here are seven openworked masterpieces that show the results of exceptional technique, creativity, and horological craftsmanship.
Audemars Piguet continues to impress with its range of openworked timepieces, including the Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin Openworked, previously available in platinum but is now in yellow gold. The 41mm watch features one of the brand’s most impressive complications, the tourbillon, and an extra-thin, hand-finished Calibre 2924 movement at only 4.46mm. It boasts a 70-hour power reserve and has a slate grey openworked dial the perfect contrast to the yellow gold applied hour-markers, luminescent-coated Royal Oak hands, and parts of the movement.
Striking a balance between openworking, decoration, and functionality, the Blancpain Villeret Squelette 8-Day features the manual wound Calibre 1333SQ movement which can be seen in all its glory through the sapphire crystal on both front and back. One can admire the titanium balance, Breguet balance-spring, and three series-coupled barrels, which ensure an eight-day power reserve. Entirely hand-worked, the movement is housed in a 38mm white gold and diamond case. It features an intricate gem-set movement that is decorated and hand-engraved on both sides, elevating it into a unique, technical, and beautiful timepiece.
Breguet’s Classique “Grande Complication” 3355 openworked wristwatch with tourbillon is a masterpiece. Encased in platinum, the hand-engraved, hand-wound Calibre 558 SQ1 movement has running seconds on the tourbillon shaft and compensating balance spring with Breguet overcoil. Despite its complexity, time remains legible on its chapter ring and seconds semi-circle in silvered gold, hand-engraved on a rose engine. Water-resistant to 30 metres, it comes with a black alligator-leather strap which adds to the “classique” look of the timepiece.
Corum adds a dash of fun and glamour to openworked watches with the Bubble High Jewellery Skeleton. Available in pink rubies and blue or black sapphires, each is a one-off, unique piece. Like the iconic Bubble first introduced in 2000, this new 2016 skeleton version features baguette-cut diamonds and gemstone hour markers against a sea of brilliant-cut white diamonds. Under the dazzling dial is CO 055 Calibre, slightly off-centre in keeping with the playfulness of the watch. The domed sapphire crystal also serves as a loupe to magnify the delicate details of the skeletonised movement, the remains of which are hand-engraved with a floral motif.
The Grande Date collection by Franck Muller stands out from the crowd with its sporty-looking, sometimes colourful openworked models decked with large decorations and characters. Housed within each tonneau case is an openworked dial where its hand-bevelled, circular-grained movement can be admired. It features a circular chronograph, a minute counter at 3 o’clock, a second counter at 9 o’clock, and a big date at 7:30. The automatic movement offers a power reserve of 46 hours and comes with an alligator-leather strap.
Slithering onto the wrists of watch lovers is Ulysse Nardin’s Royal Python Skeleton Tourbillon where the unusual combination of python skin motif on a skeleton movement brings a wild and innovative touch to the timepiece. One can easily appreciate the in-house-developed flying tourbillon constructed with a silicium balance spring, anchor and escapement wheel, but the hand-painted Royal python motifs on the bridges and flange take it to a new level of style. In addition, the exotic snakeskin strap provides the perfect complement to the 44mm 18k rose gold case.
The gorgeous Métiers d’Art Fabuleux Ornements collection comprises four elaborately decorated ladies’ watches, each inspired by Ottoman architecture, Chinese embroidery, Indian manuscripts, and French lacework. Featuring skeletonised ultra-thin movements, it combines artisanal crafts such as enamelling, hand-engraving, and precious stone inlays to produce a wristwatch with lightness and beauty. The Chinese Embroidery timepiece is one of the exceptional pieces, with the dial crafted in white gold and jade using the stone-cloisonne technique and decorated with flowers made of mother-of-pearl and pink opals. At its heart is the off-centre hand-engraved movement, Calibre ultra-thin 1003 in 18K gold.