Give Me Five! 5 Skeletonized Watches That Came Out Of The Closet At Baselworld 2017 From Patek Philippe, Chanel, Graff, Manufacture Royale And Glashütte Original
In recent years, the word “skeletonization” as it is used in the world of watches has shifted slightly in meaning.
Previously, it would have been used to denote a movement whose solid substance has been sawed and filed away by a watchmaker practiced in the art of skeletonization until it reaches the movement’s bare essentials, leaving air and space where previously metal had been.
Armin Strom (the man) solidified his entire reputation on this art form. Until this company’s reorganization in 2006, Mr. Strom’s name conjured up visions of latticed gold and brass twinkling with the interspersed shine of red bearing jewels.
Today, Armin Strom’s movements are conceived from the get-go to exhibit the type of airiness previously only attained by this painstaking and detailed hand work: the Swiss boutique brand’s plates and bridges are now pre-cut with a CNC machine to obtain the desired airy look.
Armin Strom is a great example of this new type of industrially produced “skeleton” watch, whose plates and bridges are conceived and designed right from the start as skeletonized elements and arrive on the watchmaker’s (or engraver’s) bench pre-cut.
This is not to say that those components are finished at that point: depending on the desired look, they must be hand-finished or even engraved, which can make for up to another week of work.
This new type of pre-conceived skeletonization certainly has its own place in the world of watches, even if it is a much different thing from traditionally obtained skeletonized movements.
Let’s take a look at a few different types of skeletonization as seen on five different timepieces at Baselworld 2017.
Patek Philippe Calatrava Squelette Reference 5180/1R-001
Patek Philippe’s Caliber 240, which turns a mid-life 40 years old in 2017, has been part of the brand’s regular collection in its skeletonized version since 2008.
Hand-skeletonized and hand-engraved in the traditional manner, achieving the feat of creating the Calatrava Squelette Refeence 5180 version of Caliber 240 calls for extreme skill: the watchmaker must precisely know where the limitations lie in taking material away so he or she does not cause the movement to stop functioning properly.
The complete skeletonization of this movement takes more than one week of work, after which the engraver invests another 130 hours to add a cornucopia of arabesques and volutes that decorate the highly visible metal remaining in the movement.
The movement of Reference 5180 is then plated with pink gold and polished before being framed by a movement holder ring, which is also skeletonized down to 12 spokes that serve as hour markers.
The purple of Patek Philippe’s Spiromax silicon balance spring becomes visible here, the only seeming concession to ultra-modern watchmaking to be found on this movement.
For more information, please visit www.patek.com/en/mens-watches/complications/5180-1R-001.
Quick Facts Patek Philippe Calatrava Squelette Reference 5180/1R-001
Case: 39 x 7 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 240 SQU with micro rotor, Gyromax balance, Spiromax (Silinvar/silicon) balance spring, Patek Philippe Seal
Functions: hours, minutes
Glashütte Original Senator Moon Phase Skeletonized Edition
The Senator Moon Phase Skeletonized Edition from Glashütte Original benefits from both modern technology and traditional technique, making it a cool hybrid symbolizing yesterday and today.
Caliber 49-13 is first skeletonized by CNC machine to get precise measurements, before being engraved fully by hand.
The movement’s typical Glashütte three-quarter plate is hardly recognizable as such once these actions are performed, but the interplay of gold, silver, blue, and red from the various components make the view of this now-openworked movement a colorful treat.
For more information please visit www.glashuette-original.com/collection/senator/senator-moon-phase-skeletonized-edition/49-13.
Quick Facts Glashütte Original Senator Moon Phase Skeletonized Edition
Case: 42 x 11.2 mm, white gold
Movement: manually winding Caliber 49-13
Functions: hours, minutes, small (hacking) seconds; power reserve indication, moon phase
Graff MasterGraff Structural Skeleton
The idea behind the MasterGraff Structural Skeleton was to create a super-light watch that is easy to wear yet still exudes typical Graff characteristics. The latter was achieved with the case frame in DLC-coated titanium that offers the sculptural shape of Graff’s own diamond facets without actually having any diamonds set into the watch.
This movement with its sapphire crystal plates and bridges and a micro rotor that is nearly completely hidden from the front is one that has fascinated me so much that I have continued to think about it since putting together an overview of pre-Baselworld 2017 watches. Visiting the Graff booth at Baselworld merely confirmed what I already suspected: that I would fall in love with the transparency of this watch.
The “skeleton” components within the nearly invisible caliber are pre-formed and need only to be finished by the watchmaker when they leave the CNC machine. While this is not hand-completed skeletonization, it is a perfect example of modern skeletonization, which is generally more perfect and symmetric than can be achieved by hand.
In this context, it is absolutely stunning.
For more information, please visit www.graffdiamonds.com/watches/watch/mastergraff-structural-skeleton-automatic.
Quick Facts Graff MasterGraff Structural Skeleton
Case: 46 x 13 mm, pink or white gold with DLC-coated titanium; watch head weighs a mere 46 g
Movement: automatic Caliber 6, a skeletonized movement with one-minute flying tourbillon; sapphire crystal plates and bridges, 72-hour power reserve
Functions: hour, minutes
Price: approx. 150,000 Swiss francs
Manufacture Royale ADN Art
Manufacture Royale’s ninth manufacture movement takes skeletonization to such an extreme place that it really can hardly still be called skeletonization.
The new ADN watch (“ADN” is the French equivalent of “DNA”), whose design was directly inspired by the marque’s first two models, Androgyne and Opera, boasts a 67-part case strongly resembling something from the steampunk era.
But it is Caliber MR09 that steals the show by continuing Manufacture Royale’s recent quest for transparency with a barely-there skeletonized movement that includes a flying tourbillon as well as jump hours and a second time zone capable of displaying every time zone, even those zones 30 or 15 minutes off GMT.
This Art edition caught my eye with its funky water-printed components inspired by street art. As Manufacture Royale now makes mostly unique pieces and very small editions of only a handful, as one might expect this too is a unique piece. But if you’re interested, the brand will certainly make you your own.
For more information, please visit www.manufacture-royale.com/collection.
Quick Facts Manufacture Royale ADN Art
Case: 46 x 11.72 mm, stainless steel with water-printed components
Movement: manually wound Caliber MR09 with one-minute flying tourbillon on ceramic ball bearings; 80-hour power reserve; screw balance, silicon escape wheel and pallet lever, water-printed components
Functions: (jump) hours, minutes, seconds; independent second time zone
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: 70,000 Swiss francs
Chanel Première Camellia Skeleton
Celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Chanel’s watch division, the Première Camellia Skeleton is a special watch not only because it houses the brand’s second manufacture movement (created with the help of Romain Gauthier and Châtelain), but also because it most beautifully demonstrates the very modern style of pre-meditated skeletonization.
The stunning openworked bridges and plates are put together to resemble the camellia flower, a traditional Chanel symbol. The effect is gorgeous and certainly ethereal, but the knowledgeable watch lover might no longer label this style “skeletonization” at all.
Maybe, just maybe, we traditionalists just need to get used to this modern way of creating this type of mechanical art. Our horological world would certainly be poorer without beautiful watches such as these no matter how the visual effects of the mechanics were obtained.
Quick Facts Chanel Premíère Camellia Skeleton
Case: 28.5 x 37 mm, white gold set with 92 brilliant-cut diamonds; bezel set with 104 brilliant-cut diamonds; white gold crown set with 24 brilliant-cut diamonds
Movement: manually wound Caliber 2 with 48-hour power reserve and skeletonized bridges shaped like a flower, 107 components; 28,800 vph, variable inertia balance
Functions: hours, minutes
Strap: black satin, double folding clasp set with 30 brilliant-cut diamonds
Total diamond weight: 5.54 ct
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Also published on Medium.