For a few years now Breil has been producing relatively cool Italian designed watches at mostly affordable prices. I recall some of their more expensive Swiss mechanical watches going for close to $2,000 - and really lusting after them (like the Manta 1970 automatic). Then I didn't really hear much from Breil for a few years - until recently. They seem to have an interesting new sales model with their Breil USA website. I can't say for sure, but it looks like they are selectively testing online sales with certain collections. The first of which is the Orchestra - for men and women. Their other watches are still available in some more traditional retail settings.
The Orchestra is a very large collection of men's and women's pieces that share a similar case shape and design ethic. There are mechanical and quartz models, and some very interesting skeletonized pieces like this Orchestra Ref. TW1020 piece. It is the Orchestra model that really caught my eye the most. Being relatively affordable and offering a pretty nice skeletonized dial and movement.
Skeletonized watches are often pretty expensive - at least the good ones are. The key is to not only skeletonize a movement, but to do so in a natural way that still looks authentic. Maintaining dial legibility isn't a bad thing either. What Breil did here is work with Japanese watch movement maker Miyota for a skeletonized version of one of their automatic movements. I have a feeling Miyota does the skeletonization themselves, and the result is pretty impressive - from the front and back of the watch.
The skeletonization is very thorough and you can see each of the important elements of the watch in detail. Those who appreciate mechanical movements will enjoy seeing the escapement and balance wheel moving while viewing the front of the watch. Pulling out the crown to adjust the time provides a clear view of how all the gears work together to move the hands and adjust the time. The skeletonization is not only visually satisfying but really helps you appreciate a mechanical watch movement without having to spend a fortune.
Breil was smart to give the dial legibility as well. The hands are lume-covered and bold enough to be read easily - something which I cannot say for many skeletonized watch dials. There is still a prominent set of hour markers which means that the skeletonzied view is nice, but not distracting to see. A ring of perlage polish and some other special finishes give the dial a classy, yet interesting industrial feel.
The case for this Orchestra model is 45mm wide but wears small due to the case shape and very thick bezel. This is not a watch for those looking for deliberately functional design - as it has some quizzical properties. The steel case is comfortable but quirky. It has a bowl shaped mineral crystal that sits over much of the dial, and some unique cutaway sections on the sides of the case. The idea is to help the entire watch look more skeletonized, but they just end up looking... well quirky as there is not much of a view. The watch actually has two bezel sections, with one being under the crystal. You can even see the crown stem, which is cool or unpleasant looking depending on your subjective tastes.
Coming in a few color styles, the Orchestra mechanical skeletonized watch comes on a leather strap or steel bracelet. The bracelet is fine, nothing fancy, but doesn't really integrate well with the case. I would have much preferred a fitted bracelet that does not leave gaps between the lugs. Breil has done that with some other watches and I think it would be really appreciated here. With the case and dial being as unique as they are, I think the best customers will simply find their own straps or bracelets to match with the Orchestra.
As a beginner's skeletonzied watch, the Orchestra ref. TW1020 is a good choice. It is also not bad for style conscious types looking for a unique watch that isn't several thousand bucks. With a retail price of $495, the price is fair for the interesting design and nicely executed skeletonized mechanical movement.