The skeleton watch was in black…

By Frank Declerck

The skeleton watches are very popular among the collectors because they offer a continuous sight of the ongoing time. Blackened, they are even more intense and mysterious. Here is the absolute proof.

Skeleton watch: Tempus fugit

The skeleton watches, ones which movements have bridges and bottom plates that are open worked to let the light in to discover part of the components, came into existence from the invention of the Lépine calibre, at the very end of the 18th century. The exercise was liked by the craftsmen and buyers. This speciality was very quickly reused by the Val de Travers’ watchmakers, in Switzerland. They sawed with a “bocfil” saw the different fixed parts of the calibres and showed themselves to be very creatives to attract customers who, in the first years of the 19th century and for this speciality, was already Chinese ones. 

One of the most beautiful examples of skeleton-work combined with a major function: the rotonde de Cartier mysterious double tourbillon watch

Later, this discipline served the delicate movements and the evening watches’ causes. Many pocket watches, called « knives » due to their incredible thinness, often had these movements because they offered to these references to come back to the very origin of their name. Because the French word for watch “montre” comes from “monstrance”, a word expressing the idea of showing. We must say that at the beginning of the history of the mechanical measuring instruments for time, the idea was not to have the exact time, but a kinetic jewel that was able, by its presence, to assert its owner’s power. From their invention, the owners of these watches liked to show the movements supposed to give to the watch.

The skeleton watch is born to allow the enthusiasts continuing to show the mechanism without putting at risk the whole calibre. The watchmakers have then very quickly invented a new way to highlight their work by removing the dial and case back and by cutting with broad fabric panels in the material to create an arachnoid structure where the moving components seem to be suspended.

In this version the Cartier Skeleton watch is a sobriety wonder.

From the middle of the 19th century, the work method stayed almost unchanged. The saw has just been replaced by a massive Electrical discharge machining, but the finishes always stay for talented and patient craftsmen. They file here, polish there, engrave in places then when they see it fit to assemble these metal laces to make a kind of structure where the transparency guarantees to give the watch that is equipped with this type of movement, a kind of life that is contradictory to the name of skeleton that we give it. Because the skeleton deduces something lifeless and sad when an open worked watch to the extreme exudes joie de vivre, depth drunkenness and light. Here are some of them that, using a cutting with a modernised design and more geometrical, celebrate the work of the watchmakers and the very assured taste of those who have chosen them because they sublimate the beautiful work.


Cartier –Santos-Dumont Squelette XL Edition 

The Cartier –Santos-Dumont Skeleton watch XL Edition in black DLC.

In this set-up, the Santos-Dumont Skeleton watch XL demonstrates that a modernised open work pays tribute to the mechanism and changes a simple movement into a kinetic carving. The Manufacture calibre 9612 MC with manual winding cuts to the extreme according to a modern design has been studied so that the Roman numerals XII, III, VI and IX can be built into the structure. Finished and assembled by hand in the manufacture located at La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland, this heart is 28.6 mm-diameter and 3.97mm-thick through which is possible to see most of the 138 components through the crystal dial and sapphire case back, features regulating organs vibrating at 4 Hertz (28,800 vibrations per hour).

The Cartier Santos-Dumont Skeleton watch XL Edition also exists in grey gold or rose.  

Individually numbered this heart has a 72-hour power reserve, once completely wound. To protect it from the water splatter and dust, it is airtightly contained (3 bars) in a titanium case as it had a black ADLC coating, a coating ultra-resistant to the erosion made from amorphous carbon like diamond. Both fashionable and almost rot-resistant, this watch for which each detail matters have a crown with fabric panels decorated with a faceted black spinel and is worn on an alligator strap fastened to the wrist by a double folding clasp not made of titanium but of grey gold that is also ADLC coated. 

Price: €51,500

Technical specifications of the Santos Skeleton


The Santos de Cartier collection

Corum Golden Bridge Round 43 mm Edition Dubail

The « bridge » baguette calibre of Corum gives to the watch a better transparency to the one of a classic skeleton watch.

This baguette calibre made by Vincent Calabrese after having discovered the ones of the decorative carriage clocks offered by Jaeger LeCoultre is a pure wonder that the Maison Corum managed to change into a miniature carving contained in a sapphire case. This elegant 43mm-diameter black titanium PVD coated piece is only available in 10 exclusives pieces for Dubail, the Parisian family house specialist of the high-watchmaking watches and high jewellery.

The Corum Golden Bridge Round 43 mm Dubail Edition is a skeleton watch that gives itself airs of suspension bridge.

In this setup, the manual winding in-line movement is a minimalist masterpiece that nothing disrupts. To avoid being captivated by the surrounding void, the Maison Corum has chosen to set up a tubular structure inspired by suspension bridges around this kinetic jewel. 

A limited edition only available at Dubail in Paris.

Il s’agit évidemment d’un clin d’œil faisant référence au nom de ce modèle qui se porte ici sur un bracelet en  alligator noir. Infiniment habillée, cette merveille de sobriété s’inscrit dans la tradition des plus belles montres de smoking et sera choisie par les passionnés pour les accompagner dans des soirées où sa transparence et son original mouvement baguette la feront intensément remarquer. 

It is obviously a nod to refer to the name of this piece that is worn here on a black alligator strap. Infinitely elegant, this sobriety wonder is part of the tradition of the most beautiful dress watches and will be chosen by the enthusiasts to come with them in parties where its transparency and its original baguette movement will make it intensely standing out.

Price: €27,500

The technical specifications of the baguette calibre on another Golden Bridge

The Golden Bridge collection of Corum

Franck Muller – Curvex 7 Days Power Reserve Skeleton Dubail Edition

On this Franck Muller Curvex 7 Days Power Reserve Skeleton Dubail Edition, the wonderful work of the watchmaker masters is to be highlighted.

Black is fashionable at the beginning of second semester for the watches designed to come with the enthusiasts during parties a bit formal. Here, the colour and the barrel-shaped so particular of the piece will make noticeable this reference even hidden under a shirt’s sleeve. It is necessary to give you its large measurements because it is 39.6 mm X 55.4mm. Voluptuous with its curved shape, it perfectly follows the curves of the wrist and is discreet so its carbon case and its open worked to the extreme calibre are light.

The small red lines along the motion work identify the Dubail limited edition.

This watch offered in an available version of 20 pieces only is exclusively for the very Parisian Maison Dubail. Satisfying as we say nowadays, its manual winding calibre is equipped with a 7days-power reserve and open worked to the extreme features a design which curves remind of circular marks left by drops of water on a lake and give the whole a certain sensuality. The contrast maintained by the watchmakers between the fixed components black coated will be liked as the bottom plate and the open worked bridges and those moving that has a silvered metallic coating. Modern and dynamic, this watch is worn on a black alligator strap to be matched to the rest of this exceptional timepiece that will get it talked about among the night owls who have the means for their ambitions.

Price: €47,800

The Cintrée Curvex™ collection of Franck Muller