Those with discerning tastes know that a fine watch is a wardrobe essential. When we think of fine time pieces we usually think of genuine gold, gemstones, Swiss technology, and thin, embellished bands; none of which go out of fashion.
However, once in a while a different type of watch comes to light. An extraordinary piece that takes our breath away and that only the rich can afford. We've all seen a dream watch and it’s usually a technical and aesthetic virtuoso, like the skeleton watch (aka the open dial, or open face watch), whose mechanical or inner workings are visible through its face.
The skeleton watch has been around since the nineteenth-century, but only elite design houses have the resources to make them truly special - ingeniously designed to honor the beauty and complexity of horological technology.
The following are among the most luxurious skeleton watches that have come to light in recent years. Counting down to the priciest, the list doesn’t disappoint!
10 Audemars Piguet Millenary Watch: $40,300
Audemars Millenary (model 4104) is a self-winding unisex watch that can be worn during the day. A rich brown leather strap complements a solid rose gold rim and five inlaid rubies. Rose gold Roman numerals and hands tell time, while various overlapping circles with twelve bridges give the face depth and a three-dimensional appearance. The largest circle swells as if under a magnifying glass. All of the smallest spheres are little windows into the inside of this modern timepiece.
9 Piaget’s Altiplano Watch: $95,000
This beautiful women’s watch is a tour de force of texture and design. The rim is made of three concentric 18k rose gold circles softly studded with 160 brilliant cut diamonds. The movement pieces are curved in a random floral design and embellished with 219 brilliant cut diamonds and eight cabochon rubies. Altiplano’s whole casing is 18k rose gold; so is the watch’s diamond encrusted buckle.
Piaget’s lacey watch is soft, yet solid. With its pink and white palette, it’s perfect for spring and summer.
8 Bovet Fleurier Amadeo Skeleton Watch: $250,000
Bovet Fleurier’s Amadeo 7 is based upon the company’s original nineteenth-century pocket watches; notice the crown, the hinged bow, and the perfectly round center.
The Amadeo 7 has three glass faces, which allow more light to pass through the watch’s tourbillon carriage. That makes it easier to see the intricate details on top. Overlapping skeletal areas gives the wearer a deep look into the watch’s “brain.”
Bovet’s skeleton watches are among the most sculptural. This one in particular is rich in precious stones of contrasting color which throw the Baroque cut-outs into relief.
7 Breguet Classique Grande Complication: $329,000
Brequet’s black strap watch has a diamond embellished platinum case and a platinum face that shimmers with swirling beadwork. The center plate rotates, while two open circles reveal some of the 588 parts in a 69 jewel movement.
A solar system is engraved on the backside of the watch. In complementary fashion the face and strap conjure up a mini cosmos of sparkling stars and rotating planets.
6 Piaget’s Diamond Baguette Watch: $800,000
Luxury Swiss watchmaker Piaget has newly released the only baguette diamond set skeleton watch in the world. The piece’s 18k white gold case has 650 brilliant cut diamonds (4.4 carats), 92 emerald cut diamonds (2.9 carats) and 44 baguette diamonds (7.7 carats). As if that wasn't enough, the 18k white gold crown has eight baguette diamonds, and the movement 561 brilliant (1.8 carats) and 71 baguette cut diamonds (1.1 carats). The entire band is frosted with round and baguette diamonds set in 18k white gold.
This woman’s watch is ultra thin, as many Piaget time pieces are. It even boasts a flying tourbillon. The skeleton takes the form of circular cut outs and striations that mimic baguette faceting.
5 Ulysse Nardin’s Royal Blue Tourbillon: $1 Million
Ulysse Nardin’s Royal Blue Tourbillon is a limited edition piece (only 30 are available) that comes in two versions; one with a leather strap and another other with diamond wrist band. The more expensive variety has 567 baguette diamonds, 33.8 carats of top Wesselton diamonds and 234 baguette royal blue sapphires.
Both versions are made of water resistant platinum, which complements the glow of the baguette diamond. The sapphire crystal bridges and plate center the composition and make the tourbillon at 6 o’clock look like its flying in mid air. No other brand has designed a toubillon in this way.
4 Vacheron Constantin Tour de l’Ile: $1.5 Million
Christian Selmoni, artistic director of Vacheron Constantin, acknowledged that the Tour de l’Ile, presented in 2005, is the most complicated watch ever created in series. Why? It’s made of a staggering sum of 834 parts arranged in original horological configurations. Vacheron’s masterpiece features two time zones, an astronomical indicator of the night sky, and a sunset monitor. Some of these specifications are given on the reverse side: it’s a double faced head.
The skeleton features appear in the form of open circles on the front and back. A sphere on the top face represents the deep blue night sky. The gold is solid rose gold with crystal encasing.
3 MasterGraff Skeleton Watch: $2 Million
Only ten copies of this stunning new arrival to Graff’s collection are available; five in rose gold and five in white gold. The 48mm, multifaceted, bezel and case are typical Graff designs. They are faceted like a diamond and refract light as diamonds do. To complete the effect, 164 diamonds (over 21 carats) of various shapes encrust the watch’s dial.
Two scratch resistant sapphire crystals protect the case and give the effect of a tourbillon suspended in mid air. Two skeletonized disks have faceted spokes to match the diamond ornamentation.
The MasterGraff watch is not only super sturdy, it is also made with the finest technology; i.e. three days’ worth of power preservation is stored in the watch’s barrel alone.
2 Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4: $2.7 Million
The Aeternitas Mega 4 by Swiss brand Franck Muller has the most complications (36) of any watch in the world. It has 1,483 parts, three time zone indicators, a 999-year calendar, a flyback chronograph, and a three day power preserve for the movement and a one day reserve for the chime. Indicators are available for three time zones.
All of these complications are compartmentalized in the face’s many closed and skeleton disks, which are embedded in platinum and crystal. Another feature worth noting is the Carillon Westminster chime that plays at the top of each hour.
1 Patek Philippe’s Vintage Pocket Watch - $11 million
In 1932 Henry Graves created this pocket watch in an attempt to outdo his rival for owning the most complicated watch of the day. In 1999 the vintage beauty made its way from Patek’s company to a Sotheby’s auction, where it sold for $11 million. Rich, 24k yellow gold and 36 mm glass encases two faces that show off the watches impressive 24 complications. Patek’s watch has impossibly complex labyrinthine skeletonization punctuated with precious stones that add to its beauty and value.