The History Of Skeleton Watches

The History Of Skeleton Watches


It shouldn’t come as a surprise when you hear watch collectors talk about how much they love and value their timepieces with pride. And while some purchase watches simply for the looks and the class that these timepieces afford, the appreciation and high adoration for them is still all the same. After all, with most luxury watch brands being made with incredible craftsmanship, details, and technical excellence, owning one of these timepieces is comparable to owning a piece of art or a high-value painting.


Watchmakers then began exploring the idea of showing off the technical marvels that go into these watches. This meant allowing watch owners to purchase watches that gave them an actual look into the heart of the timepiece and it was this point that the skeleton watch was born. Moreover, in the past decade or so, many watch manufacturers and companies that specialize in making OEM watches have begun manufacturing and releasing more and more skeleton timepieces into the market. This is because people are beginning to show a keen interest in the design specifics that go into making these mechanical watches.


What is a Skeleton Watch?


A skeleton watch is a timepiece that essentially lacks most of its dial, meaning all its instruments are visible. However, a skeleton watch is more than than just a watch without a dial, as most high-end pieces employ much more intricate and detailed craftsmanship, to further strip down the movement to its bare essentials. These movements are customized with unique finishes and engravings, which results in a beautiful timepiece that is akin to a miniature work of art.


However, contrary to what most people may believe, these watches are not a new concept. They have existed for a very long time. The concept behind their creation goes back as far as the 1700s. When the French watchmaker, André Caron elected to design a pocket watch that came without a dial for his clients, who were primarily wealthy 18th century Parisians. He mostly did this so that they could be amazed by the brilliantly designed inner workings of his watches and their movements. Moreover, he realized that by removing all these extra components, he could design even thinner timepieces. However, the concept was not adopted or used again until over a century later.


The Re-emergence of The Skeleton Watch


The skeleton concept wasn’t seen again for over 150 years, until Audemars Piguet launched their own models and introduced them to the public. The brand clearly took note of what Caron did, but interpreted it differently. This is because pocket watches were no longer the preferred method of telling time, Audemars Piguet had to take the concept but use it in much smaller scale. This made things even more difficult for the watchmaker but it did not discourage them.


The brand inevitably created their own skeleton timepieces that did well to showcase the artistic craftsmanship and ingenuity that the movements produced, showing that they were just as fascinating, as they were magnificent. However, even after its introduction, it was only until the late 90s, that the concept began to pick steam.


This happened around the 70s and 80s when Switzerland’s watch industry was under pressure and close to economic collapse, due to the infamous quartz crisis. Many of the watchmakers in the country had to find a way to justify the importance of their mechanical watches, which at the time were cheaper than those timepieces that functioned off battery power. As a result, some Swiss brands started to craft skeleton watches that highlighted the impressive designs that these hand-crafted mechanical timepieces were made of. The good news for them is that it worked out, and sooner rather than later, other brands like Patek Philipe, Vacheron Constanti, etc… elected to keep making these timepieces.


Skeleton Market


These days, there are quite a few other big watchmaking brands eg. Cartier, that have incredibly well-designed skeleton timepieces in their catalogs. However, the biggest and most impressive skeleton watchmaker of them all in the current market is Richard Mille. Their philosophy i purely focused on utilizing state-of-the-art materials and engineering timepieces with the least amount of weight possible. It is for this reason that most of the watches in the brand’s catalog lack dials. This principle goes on to emphasize the initial concept that André Caron came up with, which is to eliminate the need for clunky watches and instead push the limits of what makes watch craftsmanship such an art form.




This article should have given you a bit more information on what these watches are and how they came to be. Hopefully, your next watch purchase will be a skeleton watch, as we can guarantee that you won’t regret adding one to your collection.

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