Decorating watch dials for aesthetic purposes is an age-old technique that has been passed down from generations to generations in the world of watchmaking. These days, the techniques ranges from artisanal hand paintings to advanced laser engravings, but the particular technique — skeletonising — still manages to capture the intrigue of watch and non-watch lovers alike. It showcases the mechanisms of the watch working harmoniously to record the enigmatic element known as time. Apart from fully skeletonised watches, watchmakers of present have reinterpreted the meaning of skeleton watches ranging from open heart dial to fully skeletonised watches.
Pictured Above: Openwork – Zenith Defy El Primero
Zenith’s Defy El Primero is an example of an openwork dial, doing away with a traditional dial piece to showcase its 293-component high-beat chronograph calibre El Primero 9004 in all its glory. The El Primero 9004 features two escapements — one for regular timekeeping operating at 5Hz while the other for the chronograph operating at 50Hz! The 50Hz chronograph is able to record 1/100th of a second. To put into context, a regular chronograph seconds hand records 60s in one revolution, the El Primero 9004 chronograph seconds hand records one 1s in one revolution which is what your iPhone stopwatch is able to record. Actuating the chronograph has never been this fun as one is able to watch ultra-high beat chronograph whiz away as the cam and gears click into action.
Open Heart – Rado Coupole Classic Automatic
An open-heart is a partial opening made on the dial to expose the balance wheel of the watch. The Rado Coupole Classic Automatic is an example of an open-heart watch with the opening made at the 12 o’clock position to showcase the beating heart of the watch. Rado chose to make an additional dial opening to showcase other elements of the mechanism — in this case the barrel and mainspring of the watch which stores a watch’s power. It is a simple execution that makes an otherwise ordinary watch stand out from its counterparts.
Partial Skeletonise – Bell & Ross BR01 Laughing Skull
The BR01 Laughing Skull by Bell & Ross twists the conventional concept of watches and skeletonising with an emblematic laughing skull set on the dial. While it is not a full skeleton watch, it is a partial skeleton watch with openings in and around the skull. Bell & Ross designed the mechanisms to be fitted within the skull, with the balance wheel (the heart) positioned cheekily as the brain of the skull. Completing the Jolly Roger inspired watch are scimitar-shaped hour and minute hands placed in the nasal cavity of the skull.
Full Skeletonise – Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Pirelli Automatic Skeleton
A fully skeletonised watch is one that is stripped of its dial and non-essential components that allows viewers to look at the movement and through the watch. The Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Pirelli Automatic Skeleton is a mouthful for sure but in terms of execution, it is literally stripped to it bare bones. It is an example of a fully skeletonised watch done in avant-garde fashion that showcases Roger Dubuis’ signature star bridge and micro rotor at 5 and 11 o’clock respectively. Manufacturing a movement like this is no easy feat as the components need to be strong enough to withstand the rigours of daily wear.