10/25/2021
 5 minutes

Top 3 Skeleton Watches: Watchmaking Art That’s Scary Good

By Donato Andrioli
Omega-Speedmaster-Halloween-Skelettierte-Uhren-2-1

Innovative, intricate, and a bit mystical: These are probably some of the words that come to mind when you think of skeleton watches. In an age of cell phones and tablets, the main attraction in owning a wristwatch is probably the beauty of the timepiece. Skeleton watches take things up a notch and transform that beloved piece of jewelry on our wrists into a true work of art. These timepieces uniquely allow us to gaze into the very heart of the device – the movement – and to marvel every day at its inner workings. In this article, I’ll show you three skeleton watches that are not to be missed. Not only are they artistic masterpieces to behold, but they’re also very wearable in day-to-day life. 

The Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon lets you look deep into its inner workings.
The Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon lets you look deep into its inner workings.

The Dark Side of the Moon

“We’ll see you on the other side.” This was the final message Jim Lovell, commander of the Apollo 8 crew, radioed to ground control shortly before his spacecraft disappeared behind the Moon and all communication was subsequently interrupted for 35 minutes and 52 seconds. December 1968 was the first time in human history that astronauts orbited and saw the dark side of the Moon with their own eyes. Lovell’s words appear on the back of the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon, which honors this historic event with great attention to detail. The name, therefore, surprises few watch enthusiasts. You might describe it as a skeletonized version of the legendary Speedmaster Professional, but that would hardly do this timepiece justice. It’s’ much more than that. It takes the classic design of the original Speedy and encases it in modern black ceramic befitting of the theme. Furthermore, it transforms the dial into a mysterious lunar landscape inspired by what astronauts saw for the first time back in 1968. Meanwhile, the hand-wound movement visible through the display case back depicts the Moon. 

I won’t blame you if you think I’m reading too much into the design. I did, too, when I read the similarly euphoric description of the timepiece on Omega’s website. But then I looked at the case back at a distance and found myself appreciating the imaginative, beautiful display. In my opinion, the Dark Side of The Moon is unique among skeleton watches, as it doesn’t limit itself to just showing the inside of a timepiece. Instead, it takes a historical event and puts its own creative spin on it. Thus, Omega succeeds in creating more than just a thoughtfully designed work of art with the Dark Side of the Moon. They have also made a timepiece that fits wonderfully into your everyday life. While the 44-mm diameter may seem a bit large at first, the short distance from lug to lug makes this model wear like a classic Speedmaster. I once had the opportunity to try on this watch and was surprised at how good it looked on my 17-mm wrist. The strap is extremely comfortable, and the ceramic case and bezel make this watch nearly indestructible. Coming in at just under $11,700, the price of the Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon is not too far off from its classic counterpart and is absolutely fair considering what you get with this watch. 

A Skeleton Watch for Everyday Use?

Every time I look at the second watch on my list, I can’t help but think of a villain from the Transformers movie series. Aside from the fact that the watch’s “dial” (if we can still call it that) looks incredible, the Zenith Defy Classic is one thing above all: a perfectly wearable skeleton watch for everyday use. Amazingly, it flies under the radar despite its skeletonized design. For one, the classic diameter of 41 mm, rather than the more typical 44+ mm for skeleton watches, helps this timepiece blend in. At the same time, its general appearance is rather unusual, with gray and light blue accents. And still, this skeleton Zenith watch goes with just about any outfit. 

The name “classic” says it all because everything about this timepiece resembles a traditional wristwatch. The titanium case with the integrated titanium bracelet offers a familiar, pleasing design, not to mention 100 meters (10 bar, 328 feet) of water resistance. However, when it comes to the dial, the Zenith Defy Classic departs from the beaten path, offering instead a stunning look inside the entire movement, which is called “Elite.” While the futuristic, industrial-looking dial is a sight to behold, its incredible complexity comes at the price of easy readability, despite the blue trim around the sapphire crystal. The date, however, is perfectly legible on a white, slightly raised date-disc at 6 o’clock, which offers an extreme contrast to the rest of the dial. I personally am a big fan of this specific detail. If you like skeleton watches, the Zenith Defy Classic might be a perfect choice for you. Not only does it come at an attractive price of $8,200, but it is also very easy to wear on a daily basis, thanks to a classic design that tones down the drama of the skeleton dial. 

The visible movement of Zenith Defy Classic looks incredible.
The visible movement of Zenith Defy Classic looks incredible.

True Art

Rolex is not exactly known for taking big risks. Their watches feature classic designs that have hardly changed over the decades. So, what about a movement visible through a display case back or, dare I say, a completely skeletonized watch? For purists, Daytona fans, and the Rolex brand itself that would be (in a word) unimaginable. And yet, that’s exactly what the creators at Artisans de Genève have done. They’ve taken the traditional Daytona and completely transformed it. The result is a breathtakingly beautiful, fully skeletonized Rolex Daytona with a modified movement. Limited to 50 pieces, “La Montoya” is a tribute to the famous Formula 1 driver and three-time winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona, Juan Pablo Montoya. 

Die „La Montoya“ Daytona ist eine liebevolle Hommage an den Rennfahrer Juan Pablo Montoya. Dieser gewann dreimal die 24-Stunden von Daytona.
“La Montoya” Daytona is a loving tribute to the race car driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the 24 Hours of Daytona three times.

“La Montoya” is a true work of art that was crafted with extreme attention to detail. The small design elements are where this meticulous care comes out the strongest: The tachymeter scale is made of carbon and, fittingly, reminds me of asphalt when I look at it. The numerals on the subdials are hand-painted. The yellow, blue, and red accents are a nod to the national flag of Colombia, Juan Pablo Montoya’s home country. The wholly redesigned Daytona is recognizable only by its iconic case shape, bracelet, and logo on the sapphire crystal. Artisans de Genève has done a great job of implementing the skeleton theme by literally giving the Daytona a whole new look. 
 
What’s more, they have also created a perfect tribute to the racer Montoya, who was so successful on the legendary track that shares the watch’s name. Like the other two skeleton watches, this one would theoretically be very wearable for everyday use – if there weren’t two little snags. For one, at just 50 pieces, it’s pretty hard to find. And if even you do come across this rare watch, the $232,000 price tag makes it virtually unattainable for most of us. So instead, let’s just enjoy the fact that the watch world can produce such magnificent works of art. 

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About the Author

Donato Andrioli

With the purchase of my Tudor Black Bay 41, I discovered a passion for mechanical watches. I am particularly drawn to iconic watches with long and exciting histories.

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