Reviewed & updated: March 28, 2023 by Jamie Wilson BA
Ever seen the inner workings of your watch?
While your watch face may be sleek and minimal, it’s hiding a carefully designed and intricate mechanism. Skeleton watches use an open face to celebrate the craftsmanship of watch making.
Skeleton watches or openwork watches as they are also called, come in a variety of colours and styles that will see you through from casual hangouts to black-tie events. While the rest of the world is becoming increasingly fixated with smartwatches, making themselves constantly and unavoidably accessible, wearing a skeleton watch is a way to step back from the rush of the modern world and appreciate the finer details in life. Here’s a guide to the best see through watches out there:
Want to appreciate the beauty of an openwork watch at an everyday price? This BENYAR model is the affordable skeleton watch for you. Waterproof up to 30m, with a stainless steel case, blue dial and genuine leather strap, the watch runs on Japanese quartz movement, giving you precise and reliable timing. A steal at just £51.95 this men’s automatic skeleton watch is excellent value for money.
D1 Milano Rubber Watch
Don’t run out of time when it comes to snapping up this well priced openwork watch from D1 Milano. Fusing a modern stainless steel case and rubber strap with the traditional feel of an openwork watch, this piece will add the perfect finishing touch to any casual urban outfit. With a scratch resistant sapphire crystal dial window, automatic movement and water resistance up to 50m, this £893 model is one of the best skeleton watches under 1000 and will see you through whatever the city’s elements may throw at you.
Savatore Ferragamo F-80
Say hello to your new favourite watch with this classic silver model from Savatore Ferragamo. The company specialises in stylish accessories for men and women and with a two tone design made from a stainless steel case, complete with a glass back, this watch enhances the wonder that wearing an openwork timepiece brings to your day. At £1,800 this is a wise purchase that is worth saving up for.
Roberto Cavalli By Franck Muller Swiss Watch
This crossover between fashion designer Roberto Cavalli and watchmaker Franck Muller will compliment any outfit. Made of a black stainless steel case with a sapphire crystal dial window, the Swiss company brings tried-and-tested haute horological design to high-end fashion for £3,010. If you want an openwork watch that doesn’t compromise on looking modern and sleek, this is the perfect choice for you.
The self winding mechanism in this men’s automatic skeleton watch means your natural movements will help this model wind itself, so you can relax and appreciate it’s inner workings. With a genuine leather band, this alligator embossed 24mm strap with the stainless steel case adds to the timeless feel that an openwork piece has and would look great paired with a simple black denim jacket. At £249.95 this is one of the best skeleton watches under 500 for men who want to celebrate each component of their openwork watch, with Stuhrling having crafted the beautiful mechanism to be seen and appreciated.
British style has been inspiring watchmakers worldwide for years, and this Streamliner skeleton watch from Briston is no exception. Born from an admiration for British sports, the French company creates traditionally athletic looking pieces. At £540 this model pairs a silver-tone face with a stainless steel and acetate cushion-shaped case to give a modern twist to classic tortoiseshell watches. Matching the rich case colour with the green calf-leather strap completes the detailed look of this reasonably priced watch and will make you the envy of passers by.
Tissot Men’s Steel Case Automatic
Thanks to this piece’s domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal dial window, the Tissot skeleton watch at £1,545.09 is perfect for those with active lifestyles who want a high-quality but wearable timepiece. The hand-wound mechanism and see-through case back will make you savour the small pleasures of wearing an openwork model. With a 46 hour power reserve and water resistant up to 50m the Tissot is a great everyday watch.
Founded in 1904, Oris lives up to the Swiss watch making standards we have come to know and respect. The stainless steel case and brown leather strap give this openwork watch a truly classic and timeless feel. The automatic movement is perfect for those who want a no-fuss swiss skeleton watch while the luminescent dial will make using it at night effortless. At £1,620, this piece uses sapphire crystal which is known for it’s hard wearing properties, and an anti-reflective coating to truly show off the inner beauty of this timepiece.
Tag Heuer Carrera Chronograph
If you are looking for quality, classic craftsmanship, you can’t go wrong with this Tag Heuer Carrera Chronograph at £4,150. Created on the racetracks in 1963, the Carrera model is inspired by high performance and elegant design. With a 12 hour self-winding chronograph function and 80 hour power reserve, this impressive stainless-steel case and strap of this openwork watch is water resistant up to 100m – perfect for those who want to take their style to the beach or the pool.
HYT H1 Alinghi Silk Satin Watch
Time for something completely different. On the other end of the price spectrum, this sleek watch from HYT is an investment at £47,100. Designed by a multidisciplinary thinktank, the watch features a beautifully understated titanium and carbon case, with a silk strap and titanium buckle. This semi-revealed skeleton watch is the perfect addition to any tuxedo or black silk suit, having been created for black tie events. What makes this watch so captivatingly unique is the black retrograde fluidic hours that visualise the passing of time through the movement of liquid and bring a whole new meaning to the world of skeleton watches. Based in the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry, this team of 43 are making HYT a brand every watch lover needs to own. With a mechanical manual-winding movement and 65-hour power reserve, this is a timepiece for men who want to appreciate the form and function of horology at its finest.
Zenith Defy Classic
A slightly more affordable investment piece at £6,500, this Defy Classic from Zenith is set apart from many of the other skeletons watches out there with its white ceramic case and strap. The overall result is a striking and fashionable timepiece with an almost sci-fi feel. It’s no wonder then that Zenith was the choice of watch worn by daredevil Felix Baumgartner on his incredible highest ever free-fall jump from space. Though It’s not all about the show when it comes to a Zenith watch – established in 1865 the company have been making quality watches for over 150 years and have a large range of skeleton models. The gold case Defy Classic is particularly worth checking out.
Chronoswiss Flying Grand Regulator
If you’re looking for a technically sophisticated piece of swiss craftsmanship, it’s impossible to go wrong with this beautiful Flying Grand Regulator watch from Chronoswiss for £8,100. Limited to 30 pieces, this openwork watch is a good option for men who want to appreciate the art of horology but still wear a watch that is simple and modern. Composed of a stainless steel case, sapphire crystal face and black rubber strap with contrast stitching, you won’t regret taking this watch on your future adventures.
How To Decide Which Skeleton Watch Is Best For You
If you want to appreciate the intricacy of your watch, but not compromise on modern, sleek design, then choose a model that uses materials such as a black stainless steel case or rubber strap and a semi transparent face to reveal select parts of the mechanism. To embrace the full craftsmanship of your timepiece, it’s best to opt for openwork watches with a glass back case that requires manual winding. If you don’t want your watch to take up your time, make sure you choose a self winding model with automatic movement and a large power reserve. It’s important to think about which skeleton watch best suits your lifestyle – if you’re a very active person you will want a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal dial window.
12 Best Skeleton Watches: Ranked
- Chronoswiss Flying Grand Regulator
- Zenith Defy Classic
- HYT H1 Alinghi Silk Satin Watch
- Tag Heuer Carrera Chronograph
- Oris Automatic
- Tissot Men’s Steel Case Automatic
- Briston Streamliner
- Stuhrling Original
- Roberto Cavalli By Franck Muller Swiss Watch
- Savatore Ferragamo F-80
- D1 Milano Rubber Watch
- BENYAR Automatic
Feature image: Jisu Han