Before we get into our good looking list of skeleton watches for men, first let’s have a definition. Skeleton watches are, simply, watches that allow you to see the inner workings of the timepiece. 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.
UPDATE: This list was updated on June 25, 2018. We replaced some models (unavailable) with new watches. We updated all pricing, which includes several discounts from the original prices. The watches are not ranked, they’re numbered for simplicity.
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. That sort of open back design is sometimes referred to as a “display back.”
Traditionally, a skeleton watch is a mechanical watch — a watch that doesn’t have a battery and relies on either manual winding or automatic winding via the arm movement of the wearer. With this list, there are actually two watches that feature quartz movement (i.e. battery powered). We’re not saying one type of movement is better than the other, but it is, generally, the mechanical watches that you’ll find as you go up the fiscal ladder. Although there are some very expensive, very excellent quartz watches out there.
For this list, we sought 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 10 Best Skeleton Watches for Men 2018 is a solid place to start.
1. Stuhrling Original Men’s Legacy Automatic Watch
Stuhrling, the Brooklyn-based watchmaker, offers many skeleton watches, but we think this one is particularly eye catching and quite unique. The Stuhrling Original Men’s Legacy Automatic is an automatic self-winding piece: it’s powered by the arm movement of the wearer.
The outer stainless steel bezel is silver tone while the inner mechanical parts are silver, blue and gold. You’ll be able to easily enjoy looking at this men’s skeleton watch, as this piece is rather large with a 46mm case size.
There are two functional sub-dials: one is for an additional time (dual time indicator) and the other is an am/pm indicator (featuring very attractive sun/moon imagery). Besides the skeleton dial, this piece also has an exhibition caseback.
The watch features a buckle clasp and the band is an alligator-style genuine leather. It is a great looking piece but as with many of the watches on this list, the water resistance factor is just about meaningless: it’s water resistant to 165 feet. It shouldn’t be an issue, since this isn’t the kind of watch you’re going to want to wear into the shower, pool, lake or ocean.
2. Fossil Grant Watch
Fossil features a whole lotta watches, and this one is one of the better looking pieces the company produces. The Fossil Men’s Grant is 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. In other words, it allows for the dial time marker details to still be prominently displayed, while giving that exhibition look into the inner workings of the watch.
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. Total size of the watch case is 44mm, so it’s not too small and not too big.
The watch is water resistant to just 165 feet, so this isn’t something you want to get wet. Although with this watch — as with any timepiece that features a leather band — why would you ever want to get it wet in the first place?
Fossil says its Grant Collection blends “old school styling and contemporary construction…modeled after vintage clocks.”
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 Japanese quartz movement. It’s one of just two watches in the list that feature quartz movement rather than mechanical. As mentioned in the intro to this list, it is usually the mechanical watches that feature an exhibition (see through) case, either in the front or the back or both. Obviously, quartz watches can be exhibition style, too.
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. It features a Japanese 21-jewel mechanical 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. Watch water resistance is limited: just 165 feet.
5. Tissot Men’s T-Complication Squelette Mechanical Stainless Steel Display Watch
Tissot is a luxury Swiss watch maker founded in Le Locle, Switzerland in 1853 by Charles-Félicien Tissot and his son, Charles-Émile Tissot. This beautiful piece features a 48mm stainless steel case, so it’s definitely on the large side.
It’s got a kinda-tough-to-see-but-very-cool sub-dial at 9 o’clock, which features the seconds hand. The predominant color of this men’s skeleton watch is silver (the inner mechanism) with a little gold. The hands and hour markers are blue and white and they are luminescent.
This is a mechanical watch but it isn’t an automatic. To put it simply, it’s a watch that requires winding: a classic mechanical watch from an extremely reputable Swiss brand. Customer reviews are through the roof, with a 4.9 out of 5-star rating average.
The watch’s water resistance is just 165 feet and it does have the exhibition caseback.
6. Bulova Men’s Stainless Steel Automatic Watch
We’re including two rectangular pieces in the list. The first is this Bulova piece, which features a very large 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. Water resistance is just 99 feet, so it’s not something you want to be getting wet. (For more information on water resistance, check out our post on “waterproof” watches here.)
Bargain alert: the discount on this watch is exception, at 64 percent off the MSRP you’re saving more than $370.
Price: $216.19 (64 percent off MSRP)
7. Charles-Hubert 3888-A Men’s Gold Plated Stainless Steel Automatic Watch
Let’s stay with the non-round shape. This one is a beautiful square fashion watch from Charles-Hubert Paris, which has been available in the U.S since 1990.
The stainless steel 17 jewel mechanical movement is viewable both from the front and the exhibition back. It’s a 40mm by 14mm case in goldtone, with a lighter brown alligator pattern calfskin leather strap. This is not an automatic watch. Instead, it features a hand wound mechanical movement. The watch features luminescent hour, minute and second hands.
This is an extremely good looking piece in what the company calls “retro and contemporary” design.
8. Seiko Men’s SRP-318 Coutura Automatic Watch
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. The water resistance on this watch is the highest water resistance on the list, at 330 feet. Although it’s not really the kind of watch you want to be getting wet. A lovely watch from a top quality maker.
9. Hamilton Men’s Khaki Field Display Automatic Watch
This beauty from Hamilton is Swiss made and it is an automatic movement (i.e., self winding). It features the black skeleton dial with luminous hands and index hour markers. It’s got the Arabic numerals at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. The seconds indices — with Arabic numerals every five seconds — are an inner ring under the hour markers.
The stainless steel case is 42mm and the back is an exhibition back. The strap, which features a tang clasp, is leather. Water resistance is just 165 feet.
Hamilton started out in 1892 as an American maker of pocket watches. It branched into wrist watches but stopped producing watches in 1969. It was acquired by other brands and, eventually, became part of the Swatch Group, which is the largest watch manufacturer and marketer.
10. Reef Tiger Chronograph Men’s Sport Watch
A very masculine, 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 Seiko VK 68 quartz movement. The bubble-style crystal is scratch-proof mineral. Echoing the crystal, the pushers and winder are in a unique type of bubble style, too. 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.
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