Skeletonized watches are popular right now, and named for the view (complete or partial) of the watch movement in the dial. Some skeletonized watches provide glimpses all the way through the watch, while others provide mere hints of the gears and mechanism which together power the watch. The reason skeletonized watches are popular is because they offer mechanical credibility. No one needs a mechanical watch, but its nice to know that your timepiece is a sophisticated piece of machinery, and there is no better way to show that than by actually showing you such machinery.
The problem with many skeletonized watches is that they are limited by the actual mechanics of the watch. Meaning that gears, springs, and bridges must often be located in specific places to work. You cannot simply arrange them in an aesthetic manner all the time. Designers would love to arrange things with a sense of symmetry and style, but that requires significant complexity starting with the design of the movement. Only the most expensive skeletonized watches have the benefit of movements that are specifically designed to be “viewed.” The rest however must work with existing movement and make the best of it.
A few months ago, Piaget released the Altiplano Petit Seconds which I discussed here. I heralded the watch as a beautiful achievement in design simplicity, and compactness in a mechanical watch. Piaget has taken the same movement and watch, but now created a skeletonized product. The watch is called the Piaget Altiplano Squelette (meaning Skeleton in French), and to me, is no ordinary skeletonized watch. First, the movement is ultra-thin at 2.7mm. Because the watch has a sapphire front and back, you can see right through the movement clearly. It is amazing being able to appreciate the delicacy and intrigue of a machine that tells the time. The movement itself is the in-house Piaget caliber 838P, manually wound with a 65 hour power reserve. The clustering of the gears at the top of the movement and the location of the main spring barrel is done with aesthetics and function in mind. You are able to see each function of the watch from the beating balance wheel in the rear of the watch to the gear train moving as your wind the watch or it passes the seconds away.
Bridges are nicely cut, not only to be minimally obstructing, but also to flow naturally creating synergy among the elements of the watch. Notice the slight spiraling pattern of the three-arm bridge securing the main spring barrel, or how bridges bend in order to enhance exhibition of the gears done in gold. These are touches that a company like Piaget never fails to give attention to, and an artistic value received in few watches.
Many higher end skeletonized watches have what are called “decorated” movements. Meaning exposed areas are machined with patterns and polished to enhance the look. Piaget takes a different direction and uses a radial burst of lines flowing not from the center of the watch, but the seconds hand which is placed in the upper left corner of the dial. This clever approach to dressing up the movement adds a sense of flow, but does not distract from simple nature of the design.
The watch is a nice size at 40mm and the case is in 18k white gold. Due to Piaget’s popularity, expect these watches to sell well, but enjoy respectable levels of production. I am always happy to see such beauties coming from watch master Piaget, especially naked like the Altiplano Squelette.