Home » A Brief Tour of Skeletonizing a Wristwatch

A Brief Tour of Skeletonizing a Wristwatch

The skeletonized Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Presnel Kimpembe’ by Skeleton Concept, is a tribute to the French 2018 FIFA World Cup champion and PSG player, who was highly involved in the creating process. The 40mm watch features a skeletonized dial with blue details and has the classic ‘Batman’ bezel. The number 3 on the date module is a special nod to the player since it is his pitch number. Photo: Skeleton Concept


A timepiece design known as a skeleton or a skeletonized piece is nearly exclusively associated with mechanically powered timepieces. In general, skeletonizing a wristwatch is an easy operation. A skeleton watch’s designer may see the “bones” underneath the top by removing significant portions of the movement elements, breaking up the dial, as well as the caseback.

Practically speaking, skeletonizing a timepiece could be done little or to an extreme degree, and in both cases, the outcome is frequently divisive. Skeleton pieces are usually a surefire debate spark among lovers of automatic watches, regardless of whether you adore or despise the aesthetic.

Open-worked table watches served as the original inspiration for skeleton pocket pieces. The skeleton idea gained popularity when watchmakers discovered methods to miniaturize movements to pocket-watch form. Throughout the 20th century, skeletonized timepieces spontaneously emerged.

In most cases, the watchmakers often use precious metals, gold or platinum, because of the intricate nature of the movements. However, there are components made of steel and two-tone steel with gold, which is regaining popularity among high-end watches.

The following is a thus brief tour of skeletonized timepieces:

  1. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Openworked

The Royal Oak Double Balance Openwork helped spread the skeleton aesthetic within the most prominent Swiss manufacturers, especially during its earlier iterations. AP Caliber 3132 is the movement founded on the well-known AP Caliber 3120 and upgraded with the incorporation of a second balancing for optimum exposure to light. The combination of black, slate gray, and gold is rich and striking. Furthermore, the timepiece wears much more like a valuable metal item, unlike a stainless steel one, since it has a substantial weight on the wrist physically and visually.

Nicky Jam is wearing a 41mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked in 18k white gold featuring a baguette-cut diamond bezel and an openworked dial. Photo: Nicky Jam


  1. Richard Mille RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough

Polo is undoubtedly the riskiest activity on the planet. This is because an abrupt turn of the horse or an unintended stroke from the hammer can result in fatalities or catastrophic injuries. To build a timepiece that could resist the tremendous shocks and strikes of the “Sport of Kings,” Richard Mille collaborated with Polo veteran Pablo Mac Donough.

Making a tourbillon-equipped device that is skeletonized makes this process more challenging. The architects developed a movement that is held by cables over the RM 53-01 caliber as one of their many inventions. In addition, two different baseplates are used in the structure. The tensioner systems are supported by the initial “peripheral” baseplate, which is fastened to the casing.

The wound system and caliber rotors are integrated into the second baseplate that serves as the “center” baseplate and is connected to the outer baseplate by cables. The outcome is a core baseplate suspended between two 0.27mm-diameter woven steel cables like a spider in a web. Four tensioners that are in turn operated by four spinning spline screws secure the cables and the ten pulleys. The pulley mechanism ensures that the entire system is balanced.

On the other hand, greater shock protection is provided by the hanging movement and the utilization of 5th-grade titanium for the dual baseplate as well as bridges.


Richard Mille RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough. Photo: Getty Images


  1. Cartier Privé Tank Asymétrique

A magnificent reinterpretation of a historical piece from the 1930s, the limited-edition Cartier Privé Tank Asymétrique has intriguing visual aspects that are exceptional even for a skeleton timepiece. The 12 and 6 indicators are positioned on the sides of the casing, thanks to the driver’s alignment of the dial as well as movement, which involves rotating it all clockwise by a quarter round.

In order to display almost just the gear system and hourly markings, plus an almost totally visible balancing mechanism with the shaft in clear view, Cartier has stripped the majority of the dial. This also includes movement covers from the manually wound Cartier Caliber 9623 MC.

Photo: Cartier


  1. Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton

Octo Finissimo Skeleton Power Reserve is another watch with exceptional technological qualities. The 2.35mm ultra-thin, hand-winded BLV-128SK Finissimo movement is housed within the piece. Despite the fact that it is manually wound and lacks a turbine, this movement is even smaller.

The openworked display and arches with their blackened finishes are evident via the sapphire crystal. The open barrel reveals the mainspring, the power reserve marker close to the 10 o’clock indicator, and the sub-second counter below it with the identical border-only dial aesthetic as the power reserve. Also, the overall level of finish implemented to all the dial components are a few visual highlights.

Real Madrid and Spain national team back/winger Lucas Vázquez is wearing a 40mm 18k rose gold Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton with a fully skeletonized dial and a black alligator strap. Photo: Getty Images

  1. Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One

This watch initially seems to be more in tune with conventional skeleton clocks. However, closer inspection shows a clean, modern finishing and outstanding material utilization. The number “8” form, which is the architectural hallmark of this timepiece and features a huge seconds display and separate small hours and minutes display at 12 o’clock, is still present in this open-worked version. The Caliber 2663 SQ skeleton movement, which is built in sequential layers, is exposed beneath the big second indicator mounted on a sapphire dial. Likewise, the whole platter is openworked. The casing-up ring is no longer present. However, a sapphire hourly ring mounted on a gold base rotates the minutes as well as hours.

Five indexing screws hold the two displays together. The engineering teams of the company from an already-existing armory technology modified this process, which is being utilized for the first period by Jaquet Droz. Additionally, openworked is the golden oscillation weight.


Photo: Jaquet-Droz


Bottom Line

A skeleton timepiece historically represents the union of advanced technology with artistic crafts, transforming a watch into a miniature work of fine art and structure. It is considered one of the most difficult old globe craftsmen methods used in conventional watchmaking, sometimes known as openworked. In essence, the main plate, as well as barrel bridges of a timepiece mechanism, are removed using engraved approaches, including intaglio, sculpture, or carving.

The skeleton concept aims to fulfill the customers’ demands and desires with the notion of how special they need their watch to be. In today’s fashion world, skeleton timepieces have emerged as valuable collectibles and major status symbols.



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