5 Skeleton Timepieces Revealing Mechanical Beauty For Only Watch 2019
Since its launch in 2005, Only Watch has been one of the most – if not the most – significant auctions in the watch world. A biennial charity auction founded by Luc Pettavino, Only Watch is organized by the Monegasque Association Against Muscular Dystrophy (MAAMD) under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco.
Brands donate unique timepieces to be auctioned with 100 percent the proceeds are used to help finance research against Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a debilitating and life-threatening genetic disorder that affects around one in 3,500 boys, including Pettavino’s own son, who died of the disease in November 2016.
Only Watch by Christie’s will be held in Geneva on November 9, 2019, where a surprisingly high number of skeletonized watches are among the 50 pieces for sale. A horological handcraft, skeletonizing demonstrates great technical and aesthetic art allowing for fascinating insights into the movements’ inner workings. As such, this type of watch expresses high respect for the tradition and original purpose of horology: to measure the time as precisely as possible.
Here is a selection of five examples that all feature skeletonized and meticulously finished movements. Some of them sport a sophisticated tourbillon, the very device that Abraham-Louis Breguet once invented to improve the accuracy of a pocket watch movement. All of them provide quite a long power reserve as if they wanted to symbolize the commitment and energy needed to the fight the disease.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic: the ultimate sophistication of simplicity
When connoisseurs talk about Jaquet Droz’s Grande Seconde, the buzzwords are most likely simplicity, sophistication, and elegance for it is one of the cleanest, clearest, and most puristically inclined wristwatches of our time.
This signature model made its debut in a skeletonized version two years ago and was available in red gold, white gold, and ceramic to celebrate the brand’s 280th anniversary.
Marking a true stylistic turning point in the history of the Grande Seconde, its goal was as simple as it was convincing: to allow light to shine deeply into the watch’s sophisticated inner workings while preserving the “figure 8” shape that is its hallmark.
In keeping the shape, Jaquet Droz maintained the pure character of the dial distinguished by keeping the signature hour-and-minute subdial at 12 o’clock that intertwines with the large subdial for seconds positioned at 6 o’clock.
The composition stays true to the original layout of the Grande Seconde but plays with decorated surfaces that stand out against the transparent background, thus offering an entirely new aesthetic.
The sapphire crystal dial housing the large second hand allows a panorama view right into the skeletonized movement constructed in successive layers. Both the base plate and the rotor are also entirely openworked.
In this one-of-a-kind edition the railroad track, the hour, minute and second hands, and the strap are executed in a vibrant red that contrasts with the black ceramic of the case and hour ring.
Jaquet Droz chose this color as a nod to the flag of Monaco, where the charity is based.
Quick Facts Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic
Case: 41 x 12.3 mm, ceramic
Movement: automatic Caliber 2663 SQ with twin spring barrels, silicon balance spring and pallet fork
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: one unique piece
Auction estimate: $28,000 – $35,000 / €25,000 – €31,000 / 28,000 – 35,000 Swiss francs
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch Edition: a true visual treat
The haute horlogerie brand from Le Brassus created a beautiful one-of-a-kind tourbillon piece that delights not only with a superbly crafted openworked movement that is finished to the highest standards but also highlights the art of case manufacturing and the charisma of two-tone combinations.
This piece stems from the new Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet line that was introduced at SIHH 2019 as an entirely new collection. The watch family comprises several automatic chronographs and three-hand models, a minute repeater with the Supersonnerie movement, a perpetual calendar, an automatic flying tourbillon, and an openworked tourbillon with manual winding.
The Only Watch piece is an offspring of the latter and thanks to its openworked architecture it provides a front-row seat to its inner workings in all of the stunning details.
Its sophisticated movement is equipped with a rhodium-toned openworked plate, which is finished with vertical traits-tirés, a particularly painstaking finishing method. The highlight of the movement, though, is a pink gold-toned titanium tourbillon and barrel bridges with polished rhodium-toned angles.
This masterpiece is framed by the complex Code 11.59 case. Echoing the color scheme of the movement, it consists of a combination of pink and white golds.
The central part, which is shaped like an octagon, is made of 18-karat pink gold, while the modest bezel, lugs, and case back are crafted in white gold. This composition creates cool contrast.
Quick Facts Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch Edition
Case: 41 mm, pink and white gold
Movement: manually wound Audemars Piguet Caliber 2948 with one-minute tourbillon, 80-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: unique piece
Auction estimate: $190,000 – $240,000 / €171,000 – €216,000 / 190,000 – 240,000 Swiss francs
Hublot Classic Fusion Tourbillon Sapphire Orlinski Only Watch: sculpting time
Richard Orlinski and Hublot are two of a kind: the Parisian sculptor, famous for his open-sky art installations, and the Swiss high-end manufacture share a passion for the exceptional, both testing the limits in their respective fields.
In teaming up, we can expect an extraordinary piece of art that is tailored to the wrist of demanding watch collectors. At Baselworld 2019, we saw some beautiful examples of the cooperation such as the Aerofusion Chronograph Orlinski with faceted ceramic case and the dressier Classic Fusion Orlinski, one of my favorite Hublots of all time. This watch just competed in the Ladies category of the 2019 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
For this year’s Only Watch Edition, Hublot, which has supported the charity auction right from its start in 2005, has pulled out all the stops: the Classic Fusion Tourbillon Sapphire Orlinski Only Watch highlights several of the brand’s signature components, some of which have set some new industry standards.
First, the prominently sized case is made from a block of sapphire crystal, a material that is highly scratch resistant as it is almost as hard as diamonds. The result of the total transparency it offers, which allows unobstructed views from all sides, is certainly worth the challenge of making it – due to its hardness, sapphire crystal is one of the most difficult materials in the world to machine.
Previously only seen in the brand’s Big Bang cases, here the case shape certainly added to the difficulty of the task as the Classic Fusion Tourbillon Sapphire Orlinski for Only Watch features the artist’s signature edges, bevels, and facets.
The signature silhouette of the white gold bezel is highlighted by the radiance and color of 54 baguette-cut topazes, building a precious frame for the entirely skeletonized HUB6021 caliber offering a comfortable power reserve of 115 hours. The bridges visible on the dial side were specially designed to be in harmony with Orlinski’s signature style.
The visible features of the composition culminate in the sophisticated tourbillon cage at the 6 o’clock position and the power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock.
Quick Facts Hublot Classic Fusion Tourbillon Sapphire Orlinski Only Watch
Case: 45 x 16.3 mm, faceted sapphire crystal and resin with white gold bezel set with 54 baguette-cut topazes
Movement: automatic Hublot Caliber Unico HUB6021 with one-minute tourbillon, openworked, 115-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitations: unique piece
Remark: delivered in a gift box decorated with a sculpture by French contemporary artist Richard Orlinski
Auction estimate: $160,000 – $180,000 / €144,000 – €162,000 / 160,000 – 180,000 Swiss francs
Ulysse Nardin Exo-Skeleton X: inspired by medical research
For this edition of Only Watch, Ulysse Nardin has closely linked the development of its unique piece, an offspring of the Skeleton X launched at SIHH 2019, with the very cause supported by the Only Watch charity auction: the research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
In this spirit, the Le Locle-based manufacture presents a skeletonized timepiece whose case is inspired by Autonomyo, an exoskeleton that was designed by the research group REHAssist (Rehabilitation and Assistive Robotics). The orthotic device allows people who suffer from neuromuscular diseases to walk without crutches by mimicking the human skeleton and detecting intended movement.
This very design was the inspiration for the superlight titanium case of the Exo-Skeleton X with its four flexible blades that improve the wearing comfort, as the system allows for flexibility between the lugs and the case.
Just like the regular-production watch, the Exo-Skeleton X is powered by skeletonized Caliber UN-371. Its ingenious architecture features bold, clean-cut lines with modern aesthetics.
An innovative technical refinement of the manufacture movement is the use of a superlight silicon balance wheel with nickel flyweights and stabilizing micro blades.
Quick Facts Ulysse Nardin Exo-Skeleton X
Case: 42 mm, titanium, flexible blades between lug and case
Movement: manually wound Caliber UN-371, silicon balance wheel with nickel flyweights, 96-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitations: unique piece
Auction estimate: $35,000 – $45,000 / €31,000 – €40,000 / 35,000 – 45,000 Swiss francs
Maurice Lacroix Aikon Mercury Only Watch 2019: chaos with precision
When the Aikon was introduced earlier in 2019 I instantly fell in love with it as it offers an intriguing way to tell or not tell time.
Even though one might think today that everything has already been invented, the Swiss brand delights us with a surprisingly fun watch.
At first glance, the Aikon Mercury looks like a classic three-hand timepiece in a beautifully skeletonized style. As soon as you move it, though, its dauphine-style hands spin freely. Once held in an upright position, the hands stop at the precise position to tell the exact time.
Move your wrist again and the cat-and-mouse game starts afresh.
It literally makes you forget about time when you are busy and fully perceive it when at rest (or resting your arm).
This playful take on time reminds me of the Temps Suspendu by Hermès, one of the most charming timepieces of recent watch history (and winner of the 2011 Aiguille d’Or of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève). Brought to life by Agenhor and the Hermès team under the aegis of creative director Philippe Delhotal, it literally “suspends” time until the wearer pushes a button to see it.
The Aikon Mercury’s movement is also running the whole time, but uses a different mechanism benefiting from gravity and a double snail cam mechanism. One is connected with the display of hours, making one complete rotation every 12 hours, while the other is coupled with minute display and makes a full revolution once every 60 minutes.
When the wearer turns his wrist to look at the watch with the movement perpendicular to the ground, gravity acts on two weighted levers, pulling them into contact with the snail cams. Controlled by the continuous rotating snail cams, the levers then drive the hour and minute hands to indicate the correct time.
Once this position is changed the connection is interrupted, and the hands are released from their duties. As is the case with the Temps Suspendu, the movement keeps on running and is ready to display the time as soon as its wearer wants to read it.
Aside from its patented creative mechanism, which was developed over the course of three years, the Aikon Mercury offers a superb skeletonized design with a decidedly avantgarde impression.
A signature feature of some of Maurice Lacroix’s timepieces since the 1990s, the style has been updated here with a combination of circular brushing and hollowed, sandblasted bridges toward the center of the dial.
For this unique piece, the hours and minutes are indicated by hands covered in white Super-LumiNova as well as a blue coating. The visible rack and cams of the movement and the topstitching on the strap all sport the same shade of blue in honor of the color chosen as this year’s corporate color of Only Watch.
Quick Facts Maurice Lacroix Aikon Mercury Only Watch 2019
Case: 44 mm, titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber ML225 (based on the Sellita SW-200), 38-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, small seconds; time memory function
Limitations: unique piece
Auction estimate: $10,000 – $15,000 / €9,000 – €13,000 / 10,000 – 15,000 Swiss francs