The phrase ‘less is more’ gets bandied about a lot when minimalism is on the agenda. There are few more literal interpretations of the idiom however than skeleton watches. In stripping them of dials, bridges and most of the metal holding them together, they’re not only mesmerising to look at but are far more difficult to make.
That said, plenty of good watchmakers have their fair share of skeletonised pieces. From pieces as reserved as any skeleton can be to masterpieces that makes an F1 car seem old hat by comparison, here are the watches for which less is much, much more.
Cartier Tank Cintrée Skeleton
Not content with the nine separate pieces I mentioned in my previous piece on the 100th anniversary of the tank, Cartier also brought out two new versions of the Cintrée, what many collectors consider the most beautiful version of the iconic timepiece. It’s simply beautiful. It doesn’t matter whether you go for the rose gold or platinum, the masculine, elongated shape and curved, perfectly-fitted movement are something special.
Rather than going over the top as some watchmakers (including those on this list) seem to like doing, there’s something delightfully unassuming about the Cintrée. Maybe it’s the tiny blue steel hands, maybe it’s simple the unassuming elegance of the shape. Either way, the final flourish of the maison’s signature sapphire cabochon ensures that this is Cartier through and through. I’ll be making sure I’m on the waiting list for one of the 100 released in rose gold; I’d suggest you do the same but I really don’t want the competition.
Corum Golden Bridge Round 43
Corum’s golden bridge has been the watchmaker’s most spectacular collection since the 80s and it’s not hard to see why. The entire movement has been condensed into a single strip of components hidden under the namesake golden bridge. It’s hard to explain just how miraculous this movement is. Watches by nature work in circular motions; the difficulty of it into a line and get it all to work perfectly is why Corum are the only ones that are known for linear watchmaking.
This version places that movement dead centre in a circular timepiece, flanked either side by miniature golden girders like a horological construction site. It’s a good thing there’s some structure there too; without that aesthetic flourish, you’d see more of your own wrist than you would of the watch. I for one don’t have a wrist worth gazing at quite that often.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Pirelli Edition Blue
Plenty of watchmakers have automotive inspirations, but few wear it on their sleeve quite as literally as Roger Dubuis in their partnership with performance tyre specialist Pirelli. The Excalibur is defined by its skeletonisation and the star-shaped bridge the process reveals, and its little wonder it’s become the watchmaker’s flagship collection. Here the machine-turned finish has been brightened up with a flash of blue – one of the three colours (the others being red and yellow) of Pirelli’s performance rainbow.
It’s more than just a partnership in colour too; the actual strap has been made from winning sets of Pirelli tyres, and the shape of the tread has been referenced plenty across the design. The Excalibur is already an eye-catching watch, the kind that you can’t miss from across a crowded room; the Pirelli edition you can see from across a crowded pit lane.
Words by: Sam Kessler