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The bare bones of Fine Watchmaking
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The bare bones of Fine Watchmaking

Thursday, 07 June 2018
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

“Thirty years in journalism are a powerful stimulant for curiosity”.

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6 min read

Once an exercise in style intended to leave only the pith and marrow of an existing movement, skeletonization has expanded its territory to include complicated calibres as well as the mechanical movements in women’s watches. A virtuoso illustration that less truly can be more.

It all began with sapphire casebacks. As if suddenly wristwatches had decided to reveal their secret gardens, meaning mechanical calibres that are not only functional – their principal virtue in our grandfathers’ eyes – but also beautiful to behold. It soon occurred to watchmakers that these hidden workings could also be exposed through careful skeletonization. By carving and hollowing the various components, plates and bridges in particular, they have created a view of every nook and cranny of the mechanisms beneath the dial – or rather not, as these whirring ballets are admired from the front of watches that are now sans dial. Never short of imagination, these same watchmakers quickly found ways to apply the rules of skeletonization to complicated movements, then those designed to fit the slimmest cases, and more recently ladies’ watches. Now skeletons are everywhere, happily haunting the closets of Fine Watchmaking. Here’s our selection from 2018.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked

Calibre 3132, distinguished by its two balance wheels on the same axis for increased precision, made its debut in 2016 inside a 41mm Royal Oak case. This year it returns in a smaller diameter of 37mm, still with the same compellingly beautiful finishes. Ladies welcome.

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Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked © Audemars Piguet
Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked © Audemars Piguet
Arnold & Son Nebula Lady

For Arnold & Son, female fans of mechanical timepieces should never be left wanting – particularly if they happen to be English and lean towards tradition. This Nebula is for them. Its skeleton movement reveals a very British symmetry thanks to the bridges which are positioned at regular intervals around the entire circumference.

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Nebula Lady © Arnold & Son
Nebula Lady © Arnold & Son
Bulgari Lucea Skeleton

Livening up its BVL 191SK in-house skeleton movement, Bulgari’s base calibre with a shot of openwork, the Italian firm has given its logo a good shake-up. The result is a watch with precisely the right amount of high-mech appeal and playfulness that’s also the first in the Lucea range to open its heart.

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Lucea Skeleton © Bulgari
Lucea Skeleton © Bulgari
Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon

A skeleton movement, a mysterious double tourbillon, openworked bridges transformed into Cartier’s signature Roman numerals around the contours of the dial, this Rotonde is a shining example of the technical expertise and superlative design that set Cartier’s Fine Watches apart.

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Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon
Rotonde de Cartier Skeleton Mysterious Double Tourbillon
Chanel Boy•Friend Squelette Calibre 3

Coco Chanel’s favourite flower, the camellia, blossoms in the flowing lines of Calibre 3, Chanel’s third in-house movement, a delicate contrast to the otherwise sober construct. Fitted inside the Boy.Friend watch, it is a reminder that technique must be at the service of the artist’s inspiration.

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Boy•Friend Squelette Calibre 3 © Chanel
Boy•Friend Squelette Calibre 3 © Chanel
Girard-Perregaux Laureato Flying Tourbillon Skeleton

Girard-Perregaux has reinstated the Laureato to its rightful place – and justly so. Launched in 1975, making it a perfect match for the ever-popular vintage trend, it lends itself gracefully to the brand’s every extravagance, including this highly persuasive skeleton version complete with flying tourbillon.

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Laureato Flying Tourbillon Skeleton © Girard-Perregaux
Laureato Flying Tourbillon Skeleton © Girard-Perregaux
Hublot Big Bang Meca-10 Shepard Fairey

Never short of an interesting idea for a partnership, Hublot has teamed up with contemporary street artist Shepard Fairey for this Big Bang Meca-10. The movement boasts an architectural design that borrows from kids’ construction sets.

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Big Bang Meca-10 Shepard Fairey © Hublot
Big Bang Meca-10 Shepard Fairey © Hublot
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One

Created for the brand’s 280th anniversary, this is the first execution of the emblematic Grande Seconde with a sapphire dial incorporated into a skeleton composition that allows light to penetrate deep into the movement while preserving the characteristic figure-of-eight shape.

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Grande Seconde Skelet-One © Jaquet Droz
Grande Seconde Skelet-One © Jaquet Droz
Louis Vuitton Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Flying Tourbillon

A vertical skeleton movement having no visible connection to the case together with a flying tourbillon escapement… Louis Vuitton plays in horology’s premier league thanks to its manufacturing wing, La Fabrique du Temps. Originally famed for its sophisticated travel trunks, the brand continues to explore new territories in watchmaking.

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Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Flying Tourbillon © Louis Vuitton
Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Flying Tourbillon © Louis Vuitton
RJ X Spider-Man

At last, Marvel’s friendly neighbourhood superhero becomes the star of his very own watch, courtesy of RJ. The choice of a skeleton execution couldn’t be more appropriate, with its web-like intricacy and meticulous construction.

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X Spider-Man © RJ
X Spider-Man © RJ
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Aventador S

The automotive world has become second nature for Roger Dubuis, confirmed by partnerships with Pirelli and Lamborghini. Hence why the watch brand now builds its movements like engine blocks. The RD103SQ is a case in point. It drives the Excalibur Aventador S, inspired by the namesake supercar.

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Excalibur Aventador S © Roger Dubuis
Excalibur Aventador S © Roger Dubuis
Zenith Defy Classic

Having made its debut as the Defy 21, a one-hundredth-of-a-second mechanical chronograph, the Defy collection continues to expand with the introduction of the Defy Classic in several executions, including a skeleton version, to ensure a grand entrance in the Zenith catalogue.

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Defy Classic © Zenith
Defy Classic © Zenith
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