Inside Geneva, Switzerland’s prestigious Watches and Wonders trade show—where dozens of luxury watchmakers present their annual “novelties,” an industry term that means new releases—VIP collectors and journalists (COOL HUNTING among them) had numerous opportunities to peer at the exposed inner-workings of skeletonized timepieces. The skeletonized classification refers to a technical and aesthetic style, wherein the mechanical components that power a watch are visible through the dial and an exposition caseback. Though the category is always intriguing, this year’s fair provided truly mind-bending innovations. For Watches and Wonders 2022, we’ve already documented wristwatches with surprising visual texture; here, we chronicle seven open-worked timepieces of exceptional merit.
For many—us included—the Cartier Masse Mystérieuse marked the highest point of Watches and Wonders 2022. A creation of staggering genius, the automatic timepiece condenses an entire movement (the module that powers a watch) into a semi-circular, skeletonized oscillating weight visible through sapphire discs on the front and back. It took a team of 10 engineers eight years to configure. This in-house innovation is not only a technical feat, it’s simply stunning to observe swirling around the case interior. Only 30 pieces of this 43.5mm platinum wristwatch will be produced.
Pioneering Swiss maison Vacheron Constantin drew much attention for the updated reissue of one of their ’70s icons, the “Jumbo” 222, now fondly referred to as the Historiques 222. The fervor was deserved and the watch is an undeniable design masterpiece. It was, however, far from the only attention-grabbing novelty. The Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton features a redesigned and ultra-slim open-worked Manufacture Calibre 2160 movement of immense complexity. It sets a tourbillon complication at six o’clock in a cage inspired by the brand’s Maltese cross iconography—an inspired invention.
Utilizing a movement (entitled the Caliber 9ST1) composed of 340 components, that’s been reengineered from a 2020 concept, Grand Seiko‘s Kodo Constant-force Tourbillon is a record-setting first for the brand. As the name implies, it integrates one constant-force mechanical mechanism and a tourbillon, both of which are done here for the first time. All of this technical mastery is visible through the skeletonized presentation of the Kodo—an apt name as it’s a word that means “heartbeat” in Japanese. Limited to 20 pieces, the watch comes on a calfskin strap that’s been treated with Japanese Urushi lacquer composed of sap that’s been harvested from Japanese trees.
Housed within a playful purple sapphire crystal case (a technical feat unto itself), the skeletonized movement of Hublot‘s Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Purple Sapphire incorporates a tourbillon, micro-rotor and three sapphire bridges. This skeletonized power source, dubbed the HUB6035 Manufacture Automatic Tourbillon Movement, is a new in-house invention and it’s a wonder to observe in motion. As for that vibrant purple hue for the case, Hublot tapped expert chemists. The result is a covetable 44mm wristwatch limited to 50 pieces.
Though the diamond paving on Piaget‘s Polo Skeleton might be the most pronounced attribute (thanks to a whopping 1,747 brilliant-cut gemstones), it’s the ultra-thin skeletonized movement that’s the most powerful demonstrations of the maison’s watchmaking expertise. In fact, the Polo Skeleton’s 2.4mm-thick Calibre 1200S1 is one of the world’s thinnest self-winding movements. It’s masterfully intricate and hypnotizing when gazed upon.
Part of a refreshing array of debuts from Parmigiani Fleurier that affirm its sophisticated yet understated design language, the Tonda PF Skeleton centers around the new PF777 caliber movement, which was engineered to be seen. Inside the 40mm case, the graphite-colored, open-worked dial’s hand-chamfered latticework lends it the look of an artistic carving. Even the hands are skeletonized.
H. Moser & Cie
Known for their vivid fumé dials (among many other premier attributes), the Schaffhausen-based independent watch manufacture H. Moser & Cie adeptly incorporated something similar into their Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton. Situated atop the symmetrical skeletonized architecture, Moser’s “Funky Blue” fumé domed sub-dial (where the time can be read) aligns this release with their beloved aesthetic codes. Directly below, a one-minute flying tourbillon acts as a mesmerizing complication. It’s the first of its kind from a brand that knows how to infuse substance within spectacle.
Hero image courtesy of Cartier