When watchmakers spend hundreds of hours perfecting the movement of a watch, it’s really a pity when it’s hidden behind the facade of a dial. Which is why some have taken to stripping down the watch and leaving only the bare essentials, revealing all of the watch’s inner workings and making that the focus of the timepiece.
For many aficionados, the beauty of a timepiece is more than skin deep, and the philosophy “the watch is the movement, and the movement is the watch” certainly applies here. These technical openwork masterpieces combine the best of watchmaking skills, where artisans have to ensure structural integrity and accuracy are not compromised in exchange for visual interest in the skeletonised watches, yet keeping in mind ways in which the movement will intrigue as the star of the timepiece.
Louis Vuitton ups the ante for its Tambour watch series here with a slimmer silhouette and an unusual concave side case, but the star of the Tambour Moon Flying Tourbillon “Poinçon de Genève” watch is really what lies within. The in-house manual-wind LV 97 movement, developed by La Fabrique de Temps in Geneva, is arranged in line with the barrel at 12 o’clock and the one-minute flying tourbillon encased within a cage — which is inspired by the iconic monogram flower — at six. Like the label’s luggage, you can also make this watch truly one-of-a-kind by having your initials engraved on a bridge, with a Geneva Seal Office certificate also bearing your name.
To honour 40 years of one of the brand’s (and world’s) most lauded movements, the calibre 240, Patek Philippe released the fully skeletonised 5180/1R Squelette timepiece in rose gold this year. The ultra-thin automatic movement is a miniature opus of art, with the plate and bridges pierced to the maximum extent to create the best view without compromising the movement’s functional integrity. The limits of skeletonisation are pushed to the limits, with more than a week spent on creating the intricate filigreed details that make this dial so remarkable. Beneath the Calatrava cross — a trademark of Patek’s — lies the coiled mainspring, a delicate finish to the labour-intensive tribute.
Angelus takes weight-cutting very seriously, so in designing its latest U22 watch, it decided to use a titanium and carbon fibre case that weighs in at just 54 grams. With a focus on showcasing the movement’s architecture and tourbillon, a carbon fibre main plate was used, which make it appear to be a part of the case itself. The 42mm watch is given a more motorsport-centric look with its red SuperLuminova accents, which emphasise the Angelus A-250 calibre that operates within. You’ll notice hand-chamfered and polished components, and the titanium mainspring barrel bridge fitted directly to the main plate via slim pillars, giving the watch a three-dimensional look.
Cartier’s classical mystery clock design elements really shine through in this one. The first thing that should catch your attention is the large sub-dial at nine o’clock with two small sapphire disks and white hands that appear to float in the middle of the abyss. Though a big portion of the movement is visible, the connection to these disks are kept a secret by Cartier — a clever play on the concept of secrecy and openness. Cartier’s hand-wound calibre 9983 MC is proudly shown behind the etched-out Roman numeral hour markers, which sweep around the timepiece in an elegant crescent shape.
With a cushion-shaped case that’s only 8.85mm thick, the Piaget Emperador watch gets bragging rights as the thinnest self-winding tourbillon skeleton model in the world. Without a dial to obstruct the brilliantly constructed calibre 1270S, you’ll see the tourbillon, bridges, automatic micro-rotor and small dial in all of their 225-part glory. Piaget keeps the focus on the bridges’ elegant curves by applying a brushed finishing, while the off-centre micro-rotor and tourbillon cage intertwine to form a bold ‘8’.