5 incredibly intricate skeleton watches

Is there anything more beautiful than the inner workings of a timepiece?

Matthew Priest December 17, 2014

With such intricate, accurate and delicate features, the inner mechanics of timepieces are like works of art. The mechanics of a watch have a certain hypnotic quality that's more captivating than any painting or photograph; they give us a window into the incredible skill and craftsmanship of the maker, and the visible movement makes them seem almost alive.

The only trouble with inner workings is kind of self-explanatory: they're on the inside, so they can't be seen until you take the watch apart. But with skeleton watches, where all the unnecessary material has been stripped away, the delicate moving parts are well and truly out on show.

Here, we celebrate some of our favourite skeleton watches that deserve to be marvelled at:

Richard Mille RM56-02 Saphir Richard Mille RM56-02 Saphir

Building on the success of 2012’s RM56, the 2014 RM56-02 Saphir has focused on two major components: first, the unprecedented use of sapphire to create transparent components, and second, a cable and pulley system that suspends the movement from the sapphire case. A staggering 960 hours of around-the-clock machine work goes into creating every single case, and that is before factoring in the additional 400 hours it takes to manufacture the sapphire bridge in each watch. The result is a near unbreakable and remarkably beautiful timepiece.

Thanks to the transparent properties of sapphire, the grade 5 titanium baseplate is completely visible and you can see the movement suspended within the case by a system of pulleys, all held together with a .35mm braided cable. Producing just 10 editions takes around two years, but, as with everything from Richard Mille, if it isn’t a challenge, then there’s no point in doing it. Details: visit richardmille.com

Corum Admiral's Cup AC-One 45 Skeleton Corum AdmiralCup AC One 45 The flagship of the Corum brand since it launched in 1960, The Admiral’s Cup collection is easily the most recognisable of the watchmaker’s models thanks to its 12-sided bezel. However, its latest incarnation the AC-One 45 Skeleton – released at BaselWorld earlier this year – has seen it adapt into a more modern, and strikingly visceral from.

With a large 45mm titanium case, there is no missing the piece’s intricate open-worked bridges and careful layering of its dials, which gives the model a real element of depth and complexity – especially on the date disc, which has been etched into a single piece of metal. Details: visit corum.ch

Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec Chopard L.U.C XP Skeletec Launched in 2012, the L.U.C Skeletec is another impressive addition to Chopard’s enviable XP collection. As far as skeletonised watches go, the piece is elegantly understated, while still managing to exhibit a high level of watchmaking.

This, the house’s first skeletonised piece, comes with the ultra-thin, mechanical self-winding movement of the L.U.C Calibre 96.17-S. The skeletonised nature of the watch allows the wearer to see Chopard’s two-barrel, twin technology in all its glory. Details: visit chopard.com

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Perpetual Calendar 8 Days Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Perpetual Calendar 8 Days Earlier this year, inspired by the brand’s 1928 pocket watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre gave further proof of its technical prowess by creating an ornately skeletonised 8-day perpetual calendar movement in an elegant white gold case. The skeletonised structure of the watch takes a modern geometric form with many straight lines, especially on the three-quarter plate visible on the back. Much of the movement also has hand engravings with short, sharp strokes that complement the piece’s aesthetics.

Powered by the house’s famed Caliber 876SQ movement, the distinctly modern timepiece is made up of 260 parts (including 37 jewels) and has a manually wound, two-barrel reserve. The piece also features the company’s usual dual perpetual calendar sapphire discs, a night and day function and a power reserve indicator. Details: visit jaeger-lecoultre.com

Piaget Altiplano 38MM 900P Piaget Altiplano 38MM 900 Perfecting the art of thin watchmaking, Piaget has carved itself a special niche in horology. Despite multiple world records for the thinness of its various timepieces, it is the Altiplano series that has long been the Swiss company’s showpiece.

This year Piaget celebrates its 140th anniversary with the release of the Altiplano 900P – the world's thinnest mechanical watch. A wonderful work of craftsmanship, the 900P is a staggering 3.65mm thin thanks to its integration of the movement and the case into the same unit. The result is a beautiful, wearable and record-breaking timepiece. Details: visit int.piaget.com