John Baltes, Author at Exquisite Timepieces
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Author: John Baltes

12 Best Open Heart Watches

Like many watch collectors, I’m a sucker for a beautiful movement, but I find my friends’ patience is tested when we’re having dinner or drinks, and I keep staring through a crystal case back at a ticking movement. Some people are addicted to their screens; me – I’m a watch guy.

A watch with an “open heart” exposes its movement through an aperture, giving you a glimpse of the mechanical complexity and precision normally hidden by the dial. I’m not always a fan of this design, and it’s tough to get it just right. But when it’s done well, I like the sophisticated addition to the dial that an open heart creates, and there are some amazing examples out there that are worthy of closer attention.

About Open Heart Watches

Open heart watches have an aperture cut into their dial that reveals the escapement, a small part of the movement that converts rotational energy into lateral movement, or the balance wheel, which acts like a pendulum.

At their best, they combine beautiful dial design with a stunning glimpse of the mechanism behind the time and complications. They differ from skeletonized watches in that the dial exposes only a part of the movement; a skeletonized watch reveals as much of the inner workings of the watch as possible.

For me, the best examples of open heart watches marry an elegant, simply sophisticated dial to a small window into the movement. A busy dial, paired with an open heart, can make the watch hard to read – and it can look really gaudy if it’s overdone.

But when executed properly, using high-end movements that have been polished and decorated, there’s nothing like glancing at the dial and seeing the movement beating away.

History of Open Heart Watches

Open heart watches are a relatively recent development in horology, dating to Revue’s use of the name “Open Heart” in 1979. A his and hers pair, the men’s version was skeletonized; the women’s featured what we now call an open heart.

But it wasn’t until 1994, when Frederique Constant revealed its “Heart Beat” model, that this dial design became truly popular, spreading across the watchmaking world.

Since then, a wide array of brands and models feature an open heart design, made all the more complicated by the need to balance beauty and function.

12 Best Open Heart Watches

The best open heart watches work real magic, like sleight of hand in reverse, revealing exactly what’s in the magician’s hat. Instead of concealing the mechanical wonder that keeps the hands moving in perfect time with the movement of the sun, they give you a glimpse of what’s behind the curtain.

And like the magician’s assistant, the open heart needs to be eye-catching without being too revealing. It should draw your attention but not steal the show from the other elements of the dial and case. Let’s take a closer look at how the open heart design can be executed to perfection.

Chronoswiss Open Gear Flying Tourbillon Paraiba (ref. CH-3123-PABL)

Chronoswiss is known for its fascination with color, pattern, and aesthetic balance, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Open Gear Flying Tourbillon Paraiba.

Limited to just 15 pieces and priced at $44,400, this exquisite watch features a 44mm stainless steel case with both polished and vertically brushed finishes and an onion crown. Knurled details add to its elegance, but one glance at the dial is all I need to know that this watch is a Chronoswiss.

The multi-level dial’s bold textures and striking colors recall the blues and greens of prized Paraiba tourmalines, and as light plays across your wrist, the dial will change color and hue. The textures themselves are works of art: the Côtes de Genève and hand-guilloche details are breathtaking.

A subdial at the 12 tells the hour, while the minute hand rotates from the center of the dial. And, of course, at the 6, you’ll see the Flying Tourbillon, the heart of the manual-winding Caliber C.303 movement.

Frederique Constant Heart Beat Automatic 41mm (ref. FC-310B4NH6B)

Frederique Constant Heart Beat Automatic 41mm (ref. FC-310B4NH6B)

In 1994, Frederique Constant’s Heart Beat Automatic brought the open heart concept out into the open, as it were, and there’s little question as to why once you see this watch. Its 41mm stainless steel case is an elegant combination of brushed and polished finishes that remind everyone that sophistication and simplicity go hand in hand.

And it sets off a matte black dial with an embossed globe that adds a touch of texture. Simple sword hands tell the hours, minutes, and seconds, and even the indexes are simple illuminated markings – nothing fancy.

But that’s as it should be because, at the 12, you’ll find the open heart of this watch, visible through a window centered under the double index at the top of the dial. In imitation of anatomy, the central jewel on which the balance wheel turns is just left of the center, right where a heart should be.

Inside, you’ll find the FC-310 movement, based on the Sellita SW300-1. Retailing for $2,295, Frederique Constant’s Heart Beat Automatic demonstrates how the open heart should be designed.

Seiko Presage Classic Semi-Skeleton Shiroiro (ref. SPB469)

Seiko Presage Classic Semi-Skeleton Shiroiro (ref. SPB469)

Seiko’s Presage collection constantly threatens my bank account, and Seiko may as well have my credit card info stored for permanent use. Seiko’s Presage Classic Semi-Skeleton Shiroiro is understated, as you’d expect, offering casual luxury and the option for daily wear.

Priced at $1,125, it’s within reach of most enthusiasts, but it looks a lot more expensive than that. Shiroiro is Japanese for the color of unbleached textile, and this watch’s design is centered on the traditional use of that material in Japanese culture.

From the dial’s soft texture and delicate color to the rounded details of the case to the curved and recessed sundial and open heart, this watch is all about elegance and sophisticated design details. Familiarize yourself with the Presage Shiroiro, and you’ll catch the Seiko bug, too.

Chronoswiss Flying Regulator Open Gear Blue Spark Limited Edition (ref. CH-8756.1-BKBL)

Chronoswiss Flying Regulator Open Gear Blue Spark Limited Edition (ref. CH-8756.1-BKBL)

The second limited-edition Chronoswiss I’d like to discuss today, the Flying Regulator Open Gear Blue Spark, is another masterpiece of design and precision, retailing for just $11,600. The 41mm case is machined from stainless steel and then coated with an electric-blue CVD finish.

The case and crown are identical in every other respect to the Open Gear Flying Tourbillon Paraiba. But the dial – wow! Amazing texture, incredible detail, and stunning design.

As you’d expect from Chronoswiss, it’s a multi-level affair: the bottom layer is hand-guilloched, while the top features screwed-on skeletonized train-wheel bridges for the hours and seconds displays. The seconds display – with an amazing hand design – reveals the open heart of the Flying Regulator. The minute hand rotates from the center, balanced by the seconds and hours displayed above and below.

Seiko Presage Style ’60s (ref. SSA425)

Seiko Presage Style '60s (ref. SSA425)

Seiko’s Presage collection tends to be dressy, but the mid-century looks of the Style ‘60s capture the essence of Sean Connery’s Bond in You Only Live Twice: elegant, refined, and yet incredibly capable.

An undeniably homage to the Seiko Crown Chronograph from 1964, the Style ‘60s has a brushed 40.8mm stainless case on which a black bezel rides. Gold markers on that ebon ring add a sporty flair, transforming what would otherwise be a purely dress watch into something more – something ready for wherever the evening might take you.

The dial design is simple and elegant: black with silver and gold details. The hands are illuminated, and at the 9 and 10:30, slightly overlapping, you’ll find a 24H compilation and the aperture revealing the heart of the mechanical Caliber 4R39 movement. At just $460, this watch is a steal!

Frederique Constant Heart Beat Moonphase Date 40mm (ref. FC-335MCNW4P26)

Frederique Constant Heart Beat Moonphase Date 40mm (ref. FC-335MCNW4P26)

You’ll remember that I praised the elegant application of an open heart on a sophisticated dial. Is it any surprise that Frederique Constant gets this just right? Their Heart Beat Moonphase Date model is everything a dress watch should be and then some.

The refined, simple 40mm case stands out behind a detailed dial that gets all the little things right. From the multiple rings delineated by carefully applied textures to the Clous de Paris guilloché center to the Roman numeral hours and outer date complication, this watch is all class.

At the 12, you’ll find the open heart – and yes, the central jewel on which it turns is ever so slightly left of center. Below that, at the 6, Frederique Constant has placed a moonphase window that adds visual interest without subtracting from the elegance of this timepiece. Priced at $1,995, this watch punches well above that price point on the wrist.

Orient Bambino Open Heart (ref. RA-AG0002S10A)

Orient Bambino Open Heart (ref. RA-AG0002S10A)

Orient’s Bambino Open Heart demonstrates that luxury needn’t break your budget. With a 40mm stainless case featuring an elegant pairing of brushed and polished finishes and a pure white dial that enhances the beauty of the polished hands, indexes, and yes, even the escapement bridge visible just a touch south of the 9, this watch channels old-money understatement.

Everything about the Bambino Open Heart is dialed-in, polished, and refined, down to the onion crown and brown croc-embossed strap. If you appreciate simple refinement and unadorned luxury – the look that says wealth rather than money – the Orient Bambino Open Heart is perfect for you at an unbelievable $225.

Hamilton Jazzmaster Open Heart 40mm Black Dial (ref. H32565735)

Hamilton Jazzmaster Open Heart 40mm Black Dial (ref. H32565735)

If you’re the kind of guy who just oozes cool, a modern-day Miles Davis, so to speak, the Hamilton Jazzmaster Open Heart can help you chill a room and smooth your vibe like careful aging polishes a good whiskey.

The sophisticated stainless case holds a dial that refuses to be nailed down as either open heart or skeletonized – giving free play to the beating movement it reveals. Against a black-as-night dial adorned with funky Arabic numerals at the 3, 6, 9, and 12, as well as polished hour, minute, and second indexes, the open aperture makes a statement that can’t help but be heard.

The carefully polished and engraved H-10 automatic movement is a show-stopping background to the dial. Effortlessly cool always stylish, the Jazzmaster Open Heart will only set you back $995.

Tissot Gentleman Powermatic Open Heart (ref. T127.407.11.041.01)

Tissot Gentleman Powermatic Open Heart (ref. T127.407.11.041.01)

For fans of open heart designs, Tissot offers the Gentleman Powermatic Open Heart, a watch that’s perfect for daily wear, white-collar work, and casual evenings with friends. The key to that versatility is refined simplicity. The 40mm case combines brushed and polished surfaces, harmonizing with a polished bezel that enhances the beauty of the deep blue dial.

Polished silver-tone hands, indexes, and minute and second markers really stand out against this dark color, and the open heart—really two open hearts slightly overlapping—gives you a glimpse of the automatic caliber 80.601 movement. Paired with a brushed and polished bracelet, the Tissot Gentleman Powermatic Open Heart takes work and play seriously and is available for $895.

Bulova Classic Automatic Open Heart (ref. 96A201)

Bulova Classic Automatic Open Heart (ref. 96A201)

It’s not easy to make a watch that is both elegant and sporty, perfectly wearable when you’re in a suit, and just as fitting when you’re dressed casually and just hanging out with friends. But Bulova gets that balance perfect with its Classic Automatic Open Heart.

A 41mm matte stainless case encloses a soft black dial punctuated by crimson lines that divide the dial into quarters. Simple, polished hands mark the time against elegant indexes, and of course, you’ll see the beating heart of the automatic movement.

That balance of red and silver against a dial as soft and dark as fine velvet allows this watch to move seamlessly with you, wherever you are, however you’re dressed. Available for $499, the Bulova Classic Automatic Open Heart is always whatever your style needs it to be.

Rado Centrix Automatic Open Heart (ref. R30178152)

Rado Centrix Automatic Open Heart (ref. R30178152)

Rado’s Centrix Automatic Open Heart is a study in contrasts, pairing a ceramic brown so dark it looks almost black with polished stainless – and a polished and decorated movement. Certainly closer to a skeletonized design than an open heart, the angular dial is barely there, revealing more of the in-house automatic movement than it covers.

Simple lance hands tell the time, matched by simple indexes at the edges of the dial. We don’t need watches to keep track of the time these days, and timepieces are statements more than necessities, jewelry rather than tools.

That’s certainly true of the Rado Centrix Automatic Open Heart, and legibility has been sacrificed for a closer look at the movement. That said, the result is handsome, elegant, and eye-catching. And for the fashion-forward, this $2,495 watch will turn heads, just as it should.

Zenith Chronomaster Open El Primero (ref. 03.3300.3604/69.M3300)

Zenith Chronomaster Open El Primero (ref. 03.3300.3604/69.M3300)

Zenith’s Chronomaster Open El Primero is a greatly improved and updated version of the original Chronomaster Open, down-sizing the case to more manageable proportions and – to me, at least – upgrading the aesthetic appeal of this watch.

This new Open El Primero retails for $10,300, and every penny is well spent if you like open heart watches. The new case measures 39.5mm, and it sports both brushed and polished finishes. The bezel is slim and highly polished, a bit more than some would want on a chronograph that’s designed for a sporty appearance.

The matte silver dial shows off tri-color counters, as well as a transparent counter for the running seconds. And not one, but three, open heart apertures overlap from the 7 to the 10. The Caliber 3600 chronograph rotates its hand around the chronometer ring 10 times a second – an impressive feat of design and engineering – adding to the horological street cred this watch undoubtedly deserves.


Open heart watches may not be for everyone, and there are certainly poorly executed examples aplenty. But when manufactured by a company with the horological chops to design them well, they are a stunning testament to the watchmaker’s art.

And for those who just can’t get enough of the open heart design, the good news is that many excellent brands produce them, offering a wealth of choices for the discerning buyer.

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