The skeleton watch is, simply, a watch that allows you to see its inner workings. The name skeleton probably comes from the fact that when you talk about minimalism, you can use the word “skeleton” to describe the pared-down aspect of the thing. In this case, skeleton watches were, originally, a way to sort of streamline a nice watch. Renowned watch expert Ariel Adams, creator and publisher of the online watch magazine aBlogtoWatch, says “Skeleton watches began as existing movements that a trained person “cut up” in order to remove as much “extra” as possible in order to expose the workings of the movement to the viewer.” The look apparently appealed to a lot of people, as many watch makers incorporated the skeleton style into some of their designs. Mr. Adams points out that’s it’s better, perhaps, to simply call them “open dial” watches. With one exception in this list, all the watches not only feature the open dial (to a greater or lesser extent, as you’ll see), but they also feature an “exhibition back,” which means that you can see the inner workings of the watch from the backside, too. For this list, we looked to present a variety of skeleton watches each with a unique look, while trying to keep focus on reputable makers. Whether you’re looking to begin building your watch collection or you’re just seeking a great gift for someone — including yourself, natch — this list of the Top 10 Best Skeleton Watches for Men is a solid place to start.
1. Stuhrling Original Symphony Maestro Automatic
Stuhrling, the Brooklyn-based watchmaker, offers many skeleton watches, but we think this one is particularly unique. The Stuhrling Original Symphony Maestro Automatic is an automatic self-winding piece featuring 29 jewels. The outer stainless steel bezel is goldtone while the inner mechanical parts are rose tone. You’ll be able to easily enjoy looking at this men’s skeleton watch, as this piece is rather large at 48mm. The four sub-dials include the day, date, month and a 24-hour time indication. Another interesting option from Stuhrling — that you really could call “playful” — is the Stuhrling Rosary, which features big, almost Pop Art style hour markers.
Price: $189 (71 percent off MSRP)
2. Fossil Grant Watch
Fossil features a whole lotta watches, and this one could be one of the best looking of the bunch. It’s an automatic self-wind movement and it features traditional Roman numeral hour markers, as well as an outer minute track. The sub-dial, at six o’clock, is the seconds dial. The watch face features a skeleton element that is somewhat inset, which adds to the appeal and uniqueness of the look. Great contrasting blue hands, with the hour and minute hands featuring luminescent application. The band is black leather with tonal stitching and a buckle closure. The back is an exhibition caseback.
3. Michael Kors Jetmaster Automatic
A really cool looking timepiece here. This Michael Kors Jetmaster fashion watch has a great contrasting look with the silver stainless steel band and mechanics, the black bezel and red highlights on the second hand, one of the four dub-dials and on the two pushers. The sub-dials are comprised of the month, the day, the date and a 24-hour dial. The band features the double push-button safety fold-over clasp and the caseback is an exhibition back. This 45mm piece features automatic Japanese quartz movement. Another Michael Kors option at a substantially higher price point (around $500) is the Halo Blue.
4. Kenneth Cole New York Skeleton Dial
While skeleton watches are, just as a matter of appearance, quite complex, this Kenneth Cole New York piece is, probably, the simplest, cleanest watch of the list. The It features a Japanese 21-jewel automatic (self-winding) movement. The 44mm case burnished stainless steel case offsets the blue silicone strap, which features a sold stainless steel buckle closure and solid silicone keeper/safety. The back is an exhibition caseback and the hour and minute hands are luminescent, as are the tops of the hour hash marks. Another option from Kenneth Cole New York is a great looking silver/black skeleton watch, at a tiny bit lower price point.
5. Invicta 1257 Pro Diver
While this Invicta Men’s Pro Diver is a great looking piece, we do want to point out a tiny frustration (that’s easy to overlook…and easy to overcome): despite its name, it is NOT a dive watch. In fact, it’s not water resistant to any significant degree. Don’t shower in it…don’t get it wet, as it’s rated to just 50 meters water resistance. (To get a bit more in-depth – haha – about water resistance, take a look at this post featuring the Top 10 Best Waterproof Watches for Men. That said, let’s get back to the looks: it’s got a very chunky, almost industrial polyurethane strap with stainless steel inserts, as well as a fold-over safety clasp. It’s a large piece at 49mm for the case that gives a bold look at the blue skeleton dial. The dial also features a 60 second sub-dial at 9 o’clock. The bezel — the outer ring of the watch — is “coin edged” and is multi-directional, meaning you can turn it in any direction. This one features the exhibition case back, so you can see the mechanics from either side.
6. Bulova Silvertone Rectangular Watch
We’re including two rectangular pieces in the list. The first is this Bulova Silvertone, which comes with a pretty hefty discount (51 percent). Speaking of hefty, this is quite a large watch — 49mm stainless steel case. The skeleton aspect of the front is an open aperture, sort of a peek-a-boo into the mechanics, that sits between six and eight o’clock. It’s overlapped by two sub-dials: the 24-hour dial and the 60 second dial. The hour hash marks and the hour and minute hands are luminous and the bracelet is stainless with a double press deployant closure. It’s an automatic with a 40 hour power reserve (meaning you can wear something else in your collection and the watch will keep ticking for almost two days until you wind it with movement again). While the front skeleton is small, the entire back is an exhibition back, so you can see it all.
Price: $291.21 (51 percent of MSRP)
7. Charles-Hubert 3888-A
Let’s stay with the rectangular shape. This one is a beautiful rectangular fashion watch from Charles-Hubert Paris.The goldtone 17 jewel movement is viewable both front and exhibition back. It’s a 40mm by 14mm case in goldtone, with a lighter brown alligator pattern calfskin leather strap. Hand wound mechanical movement. The watch features luminescent hour, minute and second hands.
8. Seiko Men’s Coutura
You absolutely cannot go wrong with a Seiko. The Coutura line by Seiko is quite popular, but skeleton watches in this style aren’t necessarily easy to find. This piece features the skeleton peek-a-boo (rather than the entire watch face) at the nine o’clock position. The stainless steel case is 40mm wide, 12mm thick. It features a two-tone (stainless and yellow gold plated) stainless steel bracelet with the sapphire crystal. It is an automatic mechanical, so just keep movin’ and it’ll keep tickin’! For the record, it’s powered by Seiko’s 4R39 automatic movement with 24 jewels. The hands are luminous, as are the index hour markers. The Seiko Men’s Coutura does feature the exhibition back — the full back. A lovely watch from a top quality maker.
9. Ingersoll Arizona II
Quite the busy little (actually, big — 47mm case) watch here, with a variety of colors. Ingersoll is an American company that got its start, according to the website, thanks to Henry Ford’s successful application of automated systems to mass produce products. This traditional looking piece certainly doesn’t look mass produced. It features a mechanical hand wind movement and it has a sub-dial for the seconds. The strap is genuine leather and this one does feature the exhibition back, so you can see the mechanism from either side of the watch.
10. Reef Tiger Chronograph
A very manly, very dark black presentation with the Reef Tiger Chronograph skeleton watch for men. Reef Tiger’s roots go back to pre-20th century times, when Stephane Reef and Leandro Tiger formed the company. It was revived by family heirs in 1995 and continues making watches in Gelchsheim, Germany today. This piece features Swiss Reef Tiger RT685 Quartz with Chronograph Movement. The bubble-style crystal is scratch-proof mineral. Three sub dials include the 24-hour dial, seconds dial and 60-minute dial. Strap is leather and this one does not feature the exhibition back.
Price: $128 (14 percent off MSRP)