Watches-skeletons — skeletons on wrists
A very curious modern person often wonders how this or that hidden movement of some device works, therefore, he disassembles this device into parts and small details, which are almost impossible to assemble again. If our reader ranges among such people, then this article is especially for him. The wrist watches-skeletons, both men and women, demonstrably and clearly shows us complicated movement, which is usually hidden inside the case in usual wrist watches. Today many world watch manufactories are specialized in making such “naked” watches, as they have won glory and enjoy wide popularity among “watchmen” around the world. Well, let’s try to find skeletons in the closets of world watch companies.
Appearance of watches-skeletons or modern past
Any encyclopedia will give us a very simple definition for watch-skeleton, which sounds in the following way: “Watch-skeleton is a mechanical (sometimes quartz) watch, in which all details of the movement are seen through transparent glass of dial or back case”. These watches specific with bridges and plates of the movement, from which the watchmakers remove all “unnecessary” metal, and it allows the owner of “watch skeleton” perceiving all mysteries of movement’s work. However, not every fan of sophisticated wrist watches knows that watches-skeletons appeared at the beginning of watch production not to amaze, shock or overwhelm people. They were forced to appear, as the movement of wrist watches, becoming more and more complicated each year, simply couldn’t be placed in case – it turned out to be a difficult task for watchmakers to put it inside and hide from eyes. And only in the second half of XVIII century the most qualified watchmakers managed to hide the movement from all sides with the help of case. However, following the traditions, the watchmakers equipped its watches with folding back and front cases for especially curious ones could look inside the “time device” at their pleasure. A bit later the masters learned to cover the dial with glass, which protected hands and dial surface from environment. You see what an interesting paradox – for many years the world watchmakers were trying to make watches more laconic, to hide all inner parts, and now the masters returned to the start point that is proved by total tendency to watch skeletonizing. So, the history really repeats itself. In the XVIII century the floor watches with skeletonized dial in “gothic” style became very popular in France and Italy. The dials were often made so pompous and figured that it was very difficult to read the time. Such time meters served sooner as expensive and sophisticated adornments of luxurious hall. And now the watchmakers, having seized the “gold mine”, create incredible wrist watches-skeletons, which speak about sophisticated taste of their owners. It should be noted that mechanical watches are already works of art, but when they are presented in such unusual way – they become a miracle. According to history, a special contribution into development of watches-skeletons was made by Swiss watchmaker Armin Strom, who was specialized in restoration of antique watches at the beginning of his brilliant career. Then the master discovered magic power of watches with skeletonized dial and got seriously engaged in their design. Today Armin Strom is famous all over the world as a creator of the smallest women wrist watch-skeleton, appeared in 1989. So, the watchmaker won total recognition, and his masterpiece was recorded in Guinness Book of Records.
Transparent elegance of watches-skeletons
The wrist watches-skeletons can be justly referred to the category of “the most”, they are an outstanding proof of professionalism and craftsmanship of best watchmakers in the world. The skeletons are special watches, and just because they have an unusual appearance, they represent standards of watch perfection. The design of wrist watches-skeletons requires special attention to absolutely all elements, starting from complicated appearance and finishing by complicated movement, provided with all necessary functions of men and women wrist watches. Although now in the XXI century the watch art achieved high level and closely approached to perfection, even now it’s very difficult to assemble a watch-skeleton. To provide proofs and fully understand delicate art of skeletonizing, let’s look in the workshop of one watch company for a minute and see the wrist watches-skeletons manufacture process. In the beginning the master carefully cut out unnecessary metal of bridges (sometimes its quantity is 70% reduced). They face a serious problem at this stage: because of bridges thinning the masters have to make enormous efforts to keep movement accuracy and wheel gearing quality. That’s why the watches-skeletons with complications are valued much higher than simply complicated watches. The cutting out movement bridges metal that is mostly made by hand is called “motif-making” by professional watchmakers. Then the finishing is made. It is, perhaps, one of the most complicated processes in watchmaking. The tiniest details of watch movement are polished and adorned by master: the visible parts (almost all parts of watch movement are visible in skeleton) are adorned by precious metals and various patterns, most famous of which are “Cotes de Geneve” and Perlage. The jewels, set right in bridge or plate, sometimes in chaton (jewel mounting, screwed to movement detail) make movement look finished. Oftentimes decorating is not finished here, and the master makes engraving, sacrificing durability of bridges and plates. However, a few watch companies shoulder such hard movement finishing hand-work. The most risky brands-decorators are Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-leCoultre, Girard-Perregaux, Breguet and some others. The rest manufactories put accent on creation of high-accurate and extra-complicated movements to the detriment of adornment. Today, in the epoch of computerization and robotization of all life fields, for creating skeletons many watch companies replace hand work by electroerosion machines, cutting metal in thin wires, provided with high tension. However, many punctilious collectors and fans of “watch skeletons” prefer masterpieces, made by hand. We present apologies to our dear reader for such oversimplified skeletons manufacture process plan. In practice it’s not so easy to achieve transparent sophistication and elegance of watches-skeletons, keeping in mind accurate and complicated movement.
Wrist watches-skeletons popularity secret
Everyone, who has seen men or women wrist watches-skeletons once and imagines how they look like, will make his opinion about these watches for sure. The wrist watches-skeletons arouse rather strong emotions: they are liked or not. For example, some people will be filled with admiration for looking at movement, which is only under thin “curtain” of transparent glass. And others would find it useless to overpay for only unusual appearance of wrist watch. The skeletons opponents also point to not very friendly interface of such wrist watches, which reminds of piece of cheese after mice attack. They say it is difficult to put numerals and other indexes on thin details of dial, that’s why time reading is quite difficult. The watchmakers solve this problem by putting numerals on glass or bezel of wrist watches. “But is there any sense to lighten the movement and weight the case?” – the opponents of watches-skeletons will ask. The Swiss watch company “Cartier” managed to originally solve such difficult task, as setting numerals on dial of men wrist watches. The model of Swiss men watch “Rotonde de Cartier Tourbillon Sapphire Skeleton” is provided with plate of skeletonized movement, made in the form of Roman numerals. The watch-fans, who managed to see special magic and incredible charm in these wrist watches, stand for “naked” watches. Aren’t the skeletons beautiful? The movement of such watches is as if flying in weightlessness, in thickness of glass. These watches are really alive. Besides being incredibly fashion and stylish accessories, the watches-skeletons are perfect devices for relaxation. They say one can endlessly admire water flow in the river or tongues of flame in fireplace. But can you take your eyes off the dial of watch-skeletons with its movement beyond the glass, which, generally speaking, is the essence of all watch art. The wrist watches-skeletons don’t leave anyone indifferent. Someone takes them as adornments, because everything is running, moving, etc., - on the whole, they are funny toys. But most of true connoisseurs of watch art take the skeleton as a demonstration of movement finishing and high technical results. The skeletonizing is aimed at not just removing the dial, but also demonstrating what is under that dial, i.e. the watch movement must look worthy and work very accurate. The modern Swiss and world watch companies pay much attention to manufacture of wrist watches-skeletons, as they come into fashion again. The watchmakers offer different degree of movement openness for beginners and new “skeleton-fans”, for example, sometimes the master slightly lifts the veil from time mystery and opens only a part of skeletonized movement in dial with the help of aperture or skeletonizes part of movement. It’s interesting to know that the legendary Swiss watch company “Rolex” almost didn’t make wrist watches-skeletons (only in 1930s and in the beginning of 1940s), and you can’t find any watch-skeleton with tourbillon in collections of Rolex. Nevertheless, unique design, high-accurate movement, often complicated with various functions, amazing attractiveness and magic of wrist watches-skeletons make them incredibly popular in modern society. It seems from the first glance at these watches that the powerful time itself shuffled its thin veil on motifs of cut bridges and movement’s tiny wheels of wrist watches-skeletons.
Panerai Radiomir Tourbillon GMT Ceramica Skeleton 48mm Lo Scienziato (PAM348)
As they often say, if you know what to look for, you will find a skeleton in any cupboard. As a result of short search you will easily discover a sophisticated skeleton in the cupboard of legendary watch company Officine Panerai, which presented an incredible men wrist watch-skeleton under the title “Lo Scienziato” in 2010. Even the name, which means “scientist” in Italian, says that it’s not a simple wrist watch. True, it’s difficult to name the wrist watch-skeleton, complicated with tourbillon and function of second time zone indication, simple or “nonscientist”. On the contrary, the men watch-skeleton from Panerai is a great scientific achievement of the company, which won wide recognition in Italy and all over the world. The Italian wrist watch “Panerai Radiomir Tourbillon Skeleton” (PAM348) is the first watch from Radiomir collection, presented in skeletonized variant, where almost whole unique movement is seen through titanium PVD-treated lattice of deep black color. Such “arrested” watch movement of new caliber P.2005/S has three barrels, two of which are situated one above another, and the power reserve reaches six days, the indication of which is made by means of scale on the back panel. The watch movement of Italian wrist watch-skeleton from Panerai consists of 277 elements, works on 31 jewels with the frequency of 28800 alterations per hour and is a result of enormous work of best maestros from Italian watch company. A unique complicated tourbillon is specific feature of this men watch. The watchmakers made monumental efforts for this tourbillon rotated about axis, perpendicular to balance axis, and made as many as two rotations per minute instead of usual one. Even Breguet, the creator of tourbillon, couldn’t imagine such improved device, which guarantees maximum accuracy of movement and, therefore, proves that there is nothing impossible. The main reason we’ve drawn our reader’s attention to this model from Panerai, is undoubtedly skeletonized dial and opened movement. It should be noted that such men wrist watches-skeletons are not specific for Italian watch company at all, however, the appearance of skeleton in collection of Panerai is not by chance. It is, perhaps, one of the most durable models of wrist watches-skeletons in the world, which are provided with built-in anti-shock device “Incabloc”. The Italian watchmakers and designers of Panerai wanted to emphasize by means of such “lattice” construction that men wrist watches-skeletons could also be very durable. The talented masters managed to play the contrast and combine incompatible things: transparency and durability, by making the case from zirconium oxide, which is also called “nonmetal ceramics”. Zirconium oxide is ultra-hard metal (for experts: its hardness makes up 1200 on Vickers scale); it is resistant to scratches and high temperatures. You see, zirconium oxide is used for race car wheels, medical instruments and cosmic shuttles, and Panerai uses it for wrist watches. For making the case of men watches, zirconium oxide was pressed, then the 48-mm case was cut from whole piece and protected by titanium ring from back side, reliably “guarding” the movement plate. Thanks to such construction, the Italian engineers set one more record, besides ultra-hardness, - water resistance up to 10 bars (about 100 meters) that was earlier considered to be unreal for skeletons. Apart from hour and minute hands, the titanium lattice of dial is provided with two additional counters: of lateral seconds (at “9” hours) and of day/night (at “3” hours). The third central hand with luminescent end is responsible for GMT indication. The movement, “put behind bars” by designers, is protected by ultra-solid glass of 1,9 mm thick corundum from both sides. The skeleton is equipped with brand leather strap from Panerai of brown color with buckle from tempered steel with protecting treatment. Well, let’s admit after all, that although such construction of skeleton with tourbillon gives incredible scientific complexity to wrist men watch “Panerai Radiomir Tourbillon Skeleton”, but it deprives the dial-lattice of clarity and readability that are specific for almost all wrist watches-skeletons, but not for laconic and accurate models of men watches from Officine Panerai. Nevertheless, the dial is provided with usual Arab numerals and indexes with luminescent treatment. The latter “notice” can’t be referred to disadvantages of this perfect model of Italian watches-skeletons from Panerai, which represents an outstanding example of perfection and advanced technologies of Italian watch manufacture, as good as the Swiss one. And the limited issue of men wrist watches-skeletons “Panerai Radiomir Tourbillon Skeleton” (only 30 pieces) only emphasizes incredible value of this skeleton, which Panerai had taken out from its cupboard by Genevan SINN in 2010.
Tissot Sculpture Line Skeleton
Almost any world watch company has original wrist watches-skeletons in its collection, which won wide popularity among collectors and fans of elite watches thanks to their sophisticated “mechanical motifs” that don’t hide any secrets from their owners and show whole essence of “time” things. The Swiss watch company “Tissot” also decided to reveal all mysteries of time by making incredible men wrist watch-skeleton “Tissot Sculpture Line Skeleton” in 2011, which became a visible embodiment of traditional watch art. First of all designed for connoisseurs of watchmaking, the skeletonized Swiss hand-wound movement ETA Untias 6497 represents a tortuous maze, consisting of tiny details, which can be seen through transparent back case or through two big apertures on dial. The Swiss wrist mechanical watch-skeleton “Tissot Sculpture Line Skeleton” is a perfect example of “naked” and “dressed” movement at the same time. So, the manual winding movement has 49-hour power reserve and works on 17 jewels. The case of Tissot watch-skeleton is made of 18-carat pink or yellow gold (two variants of model); the diameter of golden case is 45 mm; its water resistance makes up 30 m. A very beautiful and powerful dial of this watch with hour and minute arrow-headed hands is of great interest. Moreover, the designers set big Roman numerals with little Arab ones on dial. The model with dial of black color and case of pink gold looks rather modern, although it is a skeleton, but the model with silver dial and case of yellow gold has some spirit of past, tone of nostalgia. The scratch-resistant sapphire glasses complete the perfect image of perpetual time movement-skeleton from Swiss company “Tissot”. The men wrist watch-skeleton “Sculpture Line” is provided with brown strap with printed surface, imitating the crocodile leather; and the elegant and sophisticated “butterfly”-buckle with buttons amazes with its perfect performance. The men wrist watches-skeletons of Tissot are created to satisfy man’s curiosity; they count the time endlessly in front of their owners’ eyes, who are fascinated with spectacle of decorated movement wheel, balance springs and jewels. It should be noted that the Tissot watchmakers chose expert position of “cuts” on dial, which open an excellent view at movement and don’t prevent from time reading at all. Despite the skeletonized movement, these men wrist watches perfectly match both casual clothes and business suit, that’s why “Sculpture Line” is an excellent variant for skeleton-fans, who don’t want to leave their favorite accessory even for a minute. It may be said without exaggeration that this model of wrist watch-skeleton combines all elements of watch perfection: the modern design merged with nostalgic details, which have an aura of antiquity and luxury. The Swiss men wrist watch “Tissot Sculpture Line Skeleton” will undoubtedly become a precious “skeleton on wrist” and subject of admiration for watch art connoisseurs, who desire to look inside the time and perceive its essence.
Piaget Emperador Tourbillon Skeleton (Ref. G0A29109)
The Swiss watch company “Piaget”, famous around the world as a manufacturer of high-accurate wrist watches with thinnest case and a creator of ultrathin movements, continued its victorious march on wrists of watch art connoisseurs and presented a thin model of complicated time meter-skeleton “Piaget Emperador Tourbillon Skeleton” (Ref. G0A29109) to fans of elite watches. The watchmakers of Piaget managed to play on lightness and transparency of watches-skeletons by creating a skeletonized version of its famous men wrist watch “Emperador Tourbillon”, provided with thinnest in the world rectangular movement with tourbillon. The rectangular case with sophisticated movement inside has elegant lines and manly, powerful appearance. Not without reason the watch is named “Emperador”, meaning “Imperator” in Spanish, as you’ve guessed. Perhaps, the men wrist watch “Piaget Emperador Tourbillon Skeleton” is one of the greatest watch masterpieces, ever created in workshops of La Côte-aux-Fées, owned by Swiss company. And now our dear reader will make sure in it. Let’s start from the main part – watch movement. The men wrist watch “Emperador Tourbillon Skeleton” is provided with in-house manual winding movement-skeleton of caliber Piaget 600Р, which is equipped with thinnest flying tourbillon of only 3,5 mm thickness, situated at “12” hours, and the thickness of wrist watch model itself makes up 9,1 mm. A year of hard work was spent on design of that finished and engraved by hand complication, many details of which were patented. And, as we see, it wasn’t for nothing. In this case the union of jewelry and watch art has achieved supreme harmony and perfection. The aforementioned strict and domed rectangular case (41 х 32 mm), made of 18-carat pink gold, “embraces” the flying open-work movement of wrist watch “Emperador Tourbillon Skeleton”. There are only two hands “Dauphine” from pink gold – hour and minute – at the center of skeletonized dial, and a small indicator of power reserve at “6” hours, therefore, nothing prevents from admiring an open movement, the elements of which move in order, set by genius masters, and count minute after minute. All this beauty is under the dome of sapphire glass with anti-glare treatment, which also represents transparent back case, fixed by four screws. The Swiss wrist watch-skeleton from Piaget is water-resistant at up to 30 m depth that is rare for skeletonized models. And, of course, such elite wrist watch can’t do without excellent watch accessory – a black classic strap from thinnest crocodile leather of high quality with unfolding golden buckle! No one collector and connoisseur of watch art will be surprised by fact that the men wrist watch-skeleton “Emperador Tourbillon Skeleton” from Swiss company “Piaget” is issued by limited series of only 11 pieces. Also the company presented a similar model of wrist watch-skeleton, made of 18-carat white gold to its plauditory audience. It seems that the modern watch manufacture and engineering do not know any limits of perfection, and the watchmakers, who are not afraid of any difficulties, are ready for everything in their zeal to conquer unknown time spaces. Piaget Emperador Tourbillon Skeleton is an outstanding proof. We hasten to assure our reader that undoubtedly it is only the beginning, as endless and powerful time has hidden many skeletons in its secret cupboards, which people are only going to find.
Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton Automatic (Ref. rg09-sa.70)
In the beginning of our telling about amazing wrist watches-skeletons we mentioned about talented person, created the smallest women wrist watch-skeleton and, therefore, won a worthy place at the pages of Guinness Book of Records. Speaking about skeletons, we can’t but say about work of Armin Strom and his company, named after its founder Armin Strom. The name of Strom is a synonym of elite watches-skeletons of high quality, assembled and engraved by hand, among watchmakers and connoisseurs of watch art. Over 30 years the watchmaker is working on wrist watches-skeletons, which are unexpected and improved every time. In 2009, the watch company “Armin Strom” presented the men wrist watch-skeleton “Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton Automatic” (Ref. rg09-sa.70) to connoisseurs of elite watches in order to show its craftsmanship in skeletonizing to the world and, as a result, it completed its brilliant collection “Blue Chip” with another masterpiece-skeleton. According to experts, the wrist men watch from Armin Strom is one of the best watch-skeletons, ever created by watchmakers. You can feel the sense, laid by talented Armin Strom, from the first glance at this watch. Strength and power, individuality and complexity – altogether makes an incredible combination of style and emotions in one model of wrist watches-skeletons. Everything that could be skeletonized is skeletonized indeed in wrist watch “Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton Automatic”, and all tiny details of movement are engraved by hand, each square millimeter of metal from both face and back sides is adorned in this way. The fully skeletonized self-winding movement of caliber ASB09, working on 24 jewels, is set in rather massive case of 46,5 mm diameter and about 16 mm thickness, made of 18-carat pink gold. The watch company “Armin Strom” also offers more democratic variant of watch-skeleton “Skeleton Automatic”, provided with steel case (Ref. st09-sa.70). The back case of sapphire glass with anti-glare coating, protecting the dial, opens the perfect movement, adorned with engraving. As we’ve started talking about dial, we should note that it is provided with hour, minute and second hands of pink gold and laconic hour indexes. Contrary to established opinion of watch-skeleton opponents that open movement makes time reading more difficult, this watch is skillfully made, and it will be easy to know the current hour, minute and second. Anthracite, the most ancient and rarest fossil coal, used for dial finishing, also speaks about enormous value of this wrist watch model. Apart from mentioned technical characteristics, the wrist watch-skeleton is provided with 46-hour power reserve and water resistance of up to 50 meters. An excellent appearance of Armin Strom Blue Chip Skeleton Automatic is completed with crocodile leather strap of dark-brown or black finishing by hand with golden buckle. The men wrist watch-skeleton “Blue Chip Skeleton Automatic” attracts all connoisseurs of elite watches. So, the world-known famous Czech choreograph and actor Vlastimil Harapes, fan of hand creations by Armin Strom, got present from the watchmaker: exclusive watch “Blue Chip Skeleton Automatic” in steel case. Strom is very punctilious about each model of men watches-skeletons and fulfills individual orders from his clients, at that he personally delivers his watches to his customers. “I devote weeks of work to my timepieces, so I can’t just pack them into a box and hand them over to the postal service” – says the master. The men wrist watches-skeletons from Armin Strom are a demonstration of excellent craftsmanship of best watchmakers under the guidance of most qualified master. And the completely “naked” movement of these watches simply cries that it is perfection and has nothing to be ashamed of.
Azimuth Militare-1 Officer-Squelette Art Deco
Following the total tendency to “baring” the movements of wrist watches and fashionable changing watches into “skeletons”, the relatively young Swiss watch company “Azimuth”, which already won great popularity at the world watch market, supplemented its incredibly manly collection of men watches in military style under the title “Militare-1” with unique masterpiece. The Swiss watchmakers from Azimuth literally revealed the soul before their fans by presenting the men wrist watch-skeleton “Azimuth Militare-1 Officer-Squelette Art Deco”. The watchmakers of Azimuth brilliantly managed to create a model, which radiated manly spirit and strong man will, in spite of the fact that “Azimuth Art Deco” was a watch-skeleton that seemed to attract by its mechanical motifs and lattice patterns. But everything is accurate, laconic and, frankly speaking, incredibly strong here. So, let’s start describing it. Two luminescent hands – hour and minute – are built in the foreground; the supplementary dial with second hand and Arab numerals “stands at attention” a little bit lower, at “6” hours. The proud and brave Roman numerals line up the outer ring of wrist watch dial. The skeletonized dial, protected with sapphire glass, reminds of pocket watch dials of the XIX century, and the case of model from Azimuth is made of strong steel and noble pink gold. The manufactory also offers a variant of men wrist watches “Officer-Squelette Art Deco” with silver case. The skeletonized self-winding movement of rare caliber UNITAS 6498, allowing its owner watching the “central force grouping” of mechanical watch “Azimuth Militare-1 Officer-Squelette Art Deco”, is set in rather big round case “Officer-Squelette Art Deco” of 47 mm diameter and 12 mm thickness. The water resistance of case is 30 meters. The strict high-quality crocodile leather of 22 mm width provides reliable protection from flanks. The back case of men wrist watch “Officer-Squelette Art Deco” is made from transparent sapphire glass, showing the work of excellent movement, skeletonized by skillful hands of Swiss masters. The men wrist watches from Azimuth create impression of strong watches with delicate and sensitive “soul”, seen through transparent glass on dial and back case. It should be noted that this model has become a unique opportunity for young Swiss watch company “Azimuth” to show its incredible abilities in design of accurate time meters. The appearance of this wrist watch allowed the fans of watch art to see always strict “military” Azimuth from other, “transparent” side. The creation of wrist watches-skeletons is an incredibly difficult task even for the most qualified watchmakers, but how hard this work wouldn’t be, the best masters and engravers of many watch companies keep on sweating over design of this, perhaps, most amazing and unpredictable representative of the world of accurate mechanisms.
To be continued ...