Skeleton designs present watchmakers with a practical conundrum. How does a designer balance the desire to showcase the intricacies of a movement with the very real concerns of legibility? Rather than navigating the narrow path that balances skeleton aesthetics and utility, independent Swiss boutique brand Zeitwinkel has instead opted for a cleaner and materially simpler solution – a transparent blue sapphire dial. Transparent dials are nothing new in watchmaking, with examples across the industry going back decades, but many modern examples are confined to the more affordable end of the market. The new Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Bleu sets itself apart with a truly luxe take on the transparent dial concept, offering wearers the best of both a visible movement and a solid dial design.
Compared to the intricacy of the dial and the movement, the 42.5mm stainless steel case of the Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Bleu keeps things visually simple. The rounded smooth bezel, angular lugs, and chunky pillbox crown at 3 o’clock all sport a dressy fully polished finish. That said, the relatively long sloping lugs could lead this piece to wear even larger than the numbers suggest on the wrist, nudging this design to the far end of dressy sizing for most. A sapphire display caseback completes the package here.
Of course, the blue sapphire dial surface is the signature dish of the new Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Bleu. Zeitwinkel allows this dial to breathe with a widely spaced, airy asymmetrical layout, featuring delicate applied scales to further the sense of depth and ease legibility for the 6 o’clock sub-seconds subdial and the 1:30 power reserve indicator. Likewise, both the big date display and the main handset are far more readable than most skeleton designs, thanks to a wide framed display window and a solid applied outer chapter ring in midnight blue. Taken as a whole, this vibrant blue transparent sapphire layer adds a funky and vibrant early-‘70s character that plays in unexpected ways with the clean and classical approach of the rest of the dial design. The bright hand-applied polish of all the applied dial hardware, from the seconds scale to the slim alpha handset, both adds a flash to the overall look and firmly establishes the dial surface as a distinct visual layer from the movement beneath it.
Inside the Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Bleu beats the brand’s manufacture ZW0103 automatic movement. While the ZW0103 features a fair amount of decoration across its German silver plates and bridges through the caseback (unfortunately the brand was unable to provide images from this angle), including Côtes de Geneve across the three-quarter plate and balance cock, the real visual spectacle is underneath the sapphire dial. Here, nearly every surface except the big date display wheels is finished in brilliant perlage, with polished chamfers for the edges of the bridges and three-quarter plate. Performance is robust, with accuracy adjustment in five positions, along with a healthy 72-hour power reserve at a 28,8000 bph beat rate. The Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Bleu is finished with either a hand-sewn alligator pattern calfskin strap in gray, brown, black, or deep navy blue — or with a sporty black rubber strap.
With a richly dynamic new look for the dial and a focus on both legibility and spectacle, the new Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Bleu elevates the transparent dial concept to luxe new heights. The Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Bleu is available now through authorized dealers at an MSRP of 15,500 CHF. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.