What to Consider When Buying a Skeleton Watch?

Mechanical watches are among the most valuable luxury watches in the world. One thing that makes them so special is the expertise that is needed to create the intricate systems that keep them running.

If you want more than just to be reassured of the high-tech interior of the watch when buying it, you can invest in a skeleton watch. These are built with see-through designs to let you appreciate the inner workings of a high-end watch.

What should you consider when buying a skeleton watch?

skeleton watch

What are Skeleton Watches?

The term skeleton watch describes a specific design for wristwatches. They include different levels of see-through materials and half-dials that allow you to see the inner workings of the watch.

Which Manufacturers Offer Skeleton Watches?

Since they are a type of watch design and not reduced to a single brand, you can find skeleton watches at Chrono24.co.uk made from a variety of manufacturers:

  • Audemars Piguet
  • Patek Philippe
  • TAG Heuer
  • Tissot
  • Fossil
  • Bulova

These manufacturers are listed in order of typical price classes, high to low.

Prices of Skeleton Watches

The price of a watch depends on both the manufacturer and the specific model you choose.

  • You can find timepieces from prestigious brands, like Rolex watches, in relatively affordable retail price classes, from $5,800 for the Oyster Perpetual to about $485,350 for the GMT Master II.

Similarly, skeleton watches exist in a wide price range. Depending on the manufacturer and the quality of the watch, you can pay between a few hundred pounds to 6-digit numbers.

  • Currently, the most expensive skeleton watches are made by Audemars Piguet, the Royal Oak Openworked Grande Complication for about $700,000.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, you can buy a Fossil skeleton watch, The Commuter, for as little as $200.

Important Factors When Buying a Skeleton Watch

There are some factors that can help you decide which brand and model of skeleton watch to buy:

Grade of Skeletonisation

The grade of “skeletonisation” is an important decision factor. Some watches only show small elements of the inner mechanics, while others are as see-through as possible.

  • Typically, the term “open-heart” describes a skeleton watch that only reveals a part of the inner workings through a hole in the dial.
  • True” skeleton watches forgo dials entirely.

Which kind of skeleton watch to choose depends on which part of the watch mechanics you want to see, or which parts should remain visible in your opinion. The most important elements include:

  • The Dial, Hands & Hour Markers: The dial is what makes the watch, the hour markers, and its hands easily readable. Typically, these three are made from contrasting materials and colors, so you can easily tell the time.

When we remove the dial entirely, we lose the hour markers and must rely on the hands to tell the time. Fully skeletonized watches can be challenging to read if their inner workings are complex, and the hands are not clearly visible.

  • The Case & Bezel: The case is essential for the longevity of a watch and how robust it is. Watch cases are made from a variety of materials, from synthetics to precious metals.

In skeleton watches, the back of the case can be made from sapphire glass, like the crystal in the front. Not all skeleton watches have or need to feature a see-through back since you rarely look at the backside of your watch.

To make up for a lack in the display, the bezel (the ring surrounding the crystal) can remain solid and give hints at the hour markers.

The more of the watch is removed or designed to be see-through, the harder it is to build a robust watch. Most “true” skeleton watches are created by prestigious manufacturers by hand and thus have higher prices.

Watch Movement

If you want to benefit from the see-through built, it pays off to either invest in a mechanical or automatic movement watch. They are built from an intricate system of cogs and springs that power the watch, in contrast to the battery cells present in quartz watches.

The movement of these gears is what truly makes the skeleton watch worth buying.

  • The difference between a fully mechanical and an automatic watch is, that the mechanical watch needs to be wound by the wearer daily, while the automatic watch is wound by movement sensors automatically throughout the day.

Watch Materials

Naturally, the skeleton watch is not entirely see-through. That would make reading it extremely difficult, and many of the interesting movements would not be as presently visible as they are when their material colors are shown through the see-through crystal of the watch.

  • The strap, the bezel, some parts of the case, and – if present – parts of the dial are still made from traditional watch materials.

Because of this, you still must consider which type of color or material you would prefer, visually, as well as which grade of material is appropriate for the intended use.

  • If you plan to wear the watch day-to-day, it pays off to buy a skeleton watch made from a tough material, like stainless steel.
  • The color of the metal should be matching to your typical choice in accessories and personal taste.


Skeleton watches let us see the intricate movement of a mechanical or automatic watch. They are created by several manufacturers in different price classes.

You can decide, which materials or colors the watch should have. Additionally, you can select between various degrees of skeletonisation; from an entirely see-through dial to watches that only reveal a part of the inner workings through a semi-dial.

The most stunning skeleton watches have a high degree of skeletonisation and were made by hand by prestigious manufacturers. This determines their high price and quality.

Charu Verma
Charu decided to unite her Honors Degree in New Media and lifetime of geekiness to pursue a career in tech and gaming journalism. You can usually find her writing about a variety of topics and drooling over new gadgets and games.