A skeleton dial is not just a window into the inner workings of a timepiece; it is a celebration of the meticulous craftsmanship and technical excellence that goes into creating a high-end mechanical watch. By removing parts of the dial and exposing the inner components, a skeletonised watch offers a glimpse into the delicate interplay of gears and the oscillations of the balance wheel, creating a mesmerising display of mechanical artistry within. Skeleton dials also enhance the visual appeal of the timepiece, transforming the watch into a wearable work of art. For watch connoisseurs who love skeleton dials, 2023 has been a great year, with many major Swiss watchmakers coming out with stunning pieces with openworked dials. Here we look at four of the best skeleton dial luxury watches of the year so far.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph
The Reverso, with its iconic rectangular case that can be flipped to protect the dial, has been a symbol of elegance and versatility since its introduction in the 1930s. With the Reverso Tribute Chronograph released this year, Jaeger-LeCoultre has combined a time-only dial and a skeletonised chronograph dial in the same watch, making it a versatile timepiece that caters to different preferences and occasions.
Available in steel and rose gold options, the Reverso Tribute Chronograph maintains its classic and elegant proportions measuring 49.4mm lug to lug, 29.9mm wide, and 11.14mm thick. The steel model featuring grey-blue accents provides a modern and contemporary look, while the gold example with black and gold accents exudes a sense of luxury and sophistication. This is in fact a complete wristwatch as the time-only dial offers a classic and refined aesthetic, whereas the skeletonised chronograph dial adds a level of complexity and visual interest. The JLC 860 movement, with a power reserve of 52 hours, is manually wound, emphasising the traditional watchmaking aspect, and offering a tactile experience for the wearer.
Cartier Privé Tank Normale Skeleton
This modern reinterpretation of the Tank Normale Skeleton combines the timeless Tank design with a skeletonised dial, a day-and-night motif, and a 24-hour display complication. The reimagined model draws inspiration from the 1917 original and retains the distinctive Tank case design while incorporating new elements and complications. The dial of the Tank Normale Skeleton serves as the movement base plate, which has been openworked in a day-and-night motif. The upper portion of the base plate represents a stylised sun, while the lower portion features a crescent moon, creating a visually striking design. Powering the Tank Normale Skeleton is the calibre 9628 MC, a newly developed movement specifically designed for this model. While it shares some basic elements with Cartier’s other skeleton movements, the 9628 MC stands out with its 24-hour display and symmetrical layout. The watch is available in yellow gold or platinum case options, with each version featuring a matching cabochon on the crown – a blue sapphire for yellow gold and ruby for platinum. Additionally, there is a platinum version adorned with diamonds for those seeking a more luxurious and extravagant option.
TAG Heuer Monaco Skeleton
TAG Heuer continued its tradition of releasing a special Monaco chronograph to coincide with the annual Formula 1 race in Monaco, this time celebrating the event’s 80th anniversary. The new Monaco Skeleton Dial represents a departure from the vintage-inspired designs of previous editions, embracing a modern aesthetic. While it retains the iconic square case and many other familiar elements, most of the dial has been chiselled away to expose the movement underneath and showcase parts of the barrel and the lower pivot of the balance wheel. The date disc has been skeletonised as well. The new Monaco is available in three versions: ‘Original Blue’, inspired by the iconic, blue-dialed Monaco ref. 1133 famously worn by Steve McQueen in the film Le Mans; ‘Racing Red’, which adopts the classic red and black auto-racing livery; and ‘Turquoise’, reminiscent of the vintage and highly sought-after Monaco ‘Dark Lord’ model. Despite their different aesthetics, all three versions share the same 39mm Monaco case made of sandblasted titanium with a matte finish and are powered by the Heuer 02 in-house movement, a self-winding calibre with a column wheel, vertical clutch, and an impressive 80-hour power reserve.
Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton
The Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton watch, powered by an El Primero high-frequency movement, is the world’s first skeletonised watch to feature a 1/10th-of-a-second indication. The 41mm steel case has a total thickness of 11.6mm and a lug-to-lug measurement of 46.3mm, making it a versatile watch for different-sized wrists. The watch is available with a black or blue open-worked dial, where a symmetrical four-pointed star pattern takes centre stage, with ample space between each point to provide a captivating view of the movement in action. This design of the skeleton dial apparently pays homage to Zenith’s ‘double Z’ logo from the 1960s. Visible through the openworked dial is the high-beat El Primero 3620 SK movement, operating at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour and boasting a power reserve of 60 hours. Building upon the architecture of the iconic El Primero 3600 1/10th-of-a-second chronograph, this in-house automatic movement features a silicon escape wheel and lever for enhanced magnetic resistance.