A feature that often goes underappreciated when discussing wristwatches’ attributes, from the pricey luxury choices to the more common brands, is the trait of luminosity.
Aviators, divers, military personnel, and others have depended on this particular specification as an essential characteristic to perform their various tasks with success and distinction. Whether using a watch to plumb the depths of the sea or pilot a flight, luminescence has been a significant factor in the success of these undertakings.
Governments and militaries have repeatedly turned to the watch industry to commission timepieces to help their armies, navies, and air forces have an advantage over their enemies and perform their tasks excellently.
In this article, I will provide a history and evolution of how we arrived at the luminescence in the watches available today.
History of Watch Luminescence
In 1908, the first radium-based paint was developed. Radium, a radioactive material, was a good choice at the time because it produced a luminescence naturally and did not rely on an outside source to maintain its glow. The radioactive decay of the radium bromide stimulated by zinc sulfide led to a permanent glow that possessed a half-life of 1600 years.
Guido Panerai patented the name “Radiomir” in 1916 and, according to the company’s website, was actively using the radium-based luminescent material in his watches. “Radiomir” is the result of combining the terms “Radio”, meaning radium, with “Mire”, meaning sights.
At that time, Panerai had improved sighting devices by incorporating this radium based luminesce for firearms sights and torpedo tubes. The upgrade in these sights permitted these weapons to be fired at night with greater accuracy.
Unfortunately, Panerai’s contribution to using and incorporating radium-based luminesce into a watch seems more an offshoot of his contribution to advanced military use and not the radium-based luminous mixture itself.
Dr. George F. Kunz is credited with inventing and patenting the radium-based mixture in 1903, so there is a bit of controversy surrounding the timeline and who receives credit for what. Nonetheless, the use of radium was widely abandoned by the mid-1960s due to the health hazards presented to humans by radioactivity.
Watchmakers and assemblers were the individuals most affected by the use of radium. Wearers of the watches had limited exposure, but because of the illnesses and deaths experienced by these two groups mentioned above, radium use was discontinued.
The following material to be used for illumination was Promethium (PM 147). It was less radioactive than radium and had a half-life of 2.5 years. This material was used for a limited time due to continued health concerns and thus led to the use of Tritium 3 starting in the 1960s.
Tritium 3 is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen with a half-life of 12.3 years. This material did require an outside source for the luminescence to be activated (like jump-starting a battery) and cause it to glow. But the glow lasted for quite a long time after activation. This became known as phosphorescence. Since there were still risks in using Tritium 3, it was phased out of use in the mid-1990s.
The Arrival of LumiNova
In 1941, a Japanese businessman Kenzo Nomoto set about to develop and market non-radioactive luminescent paints. He was initially contracted by the Japanese military to make luminescent paint for WWll-era airplane gauges. Soon after, he turned his attention to creating a phosphorescent non-radioactive paint and established his company in 1962. This led to the creation of LumiNova.
LumiNova is a coating that acts as a light absorbing energy storing material, like a battery. The material doesn’t glow on its own. Instead, it needs to be activated and charged by an outside light source. LumiNova is composed of strontium aluminate and combined with europium to achieve its glow.
Typically, the lume will last anywhere from 30 minutes to eight hours after a full charge of approximately 30 minutes. The more coats of lume that have been applied will ultimately determine how long the lume will last and how bright the lume will glow.
In 1993, Nomoto formed a partnership with RC Tritec Ltd., a Swiss corporation, to distribute the LumiNova coating to Swiss-based watch manufacturers. The Swiss company manufactures LumiNova in Switzerland, and the coating is marketed as SuperLumiNova.
Other luminesce are employed in various watch brands, but most seem structurally versions of LumiNova or SuperLumiNova. For example, Rolex’s Chromalight is a patented name, but the technology appears to be a version of these coatings, and Timex’s Indiglo luminesce treatment.
The Outlier – Tritium H3 (Gas Tubes)
As mentioned earlier in this article, for a brief time, Tritium was used for luminescence, but it was found to be not without its own risks associated with radioactivity. There are some great advantages of tritium over SuperLumiNova. One such benefit of tritium is that it shines brighter and lasts longer than SuperLumiNova.
It also does not need to be charged repeatedly to provide luminesce. A process was created to use Tritium more safely to provide this superior luminosity. GTLS (gaseous tritium light sources) involves inserting small amounts of tritium gas into tiny narrow glass tubes.
The tubes are treated on their inner surfaces with luminous powder activated by the gas’s electrons. These tubes can then be placed at key positions on the watch dial or other parts of a watch for maximum effect.
This includes hands, hour markers, numerals, and any place a watchmaker’s imagination can fathom. Another feature of using these tubes is that they can be manipulated into many colors, enhancing the appearance and legibility of the dial.
The Ball Watch Corporation is perhaps the most renowned watch brand to incorporate this technology. The Ball timepieces include the Self Powered Micro Gas Tubes (H3) system, which Ball touts as having a luminescence of 100 times that of SuperLumiNova. Other brands employing the tritium gas tube technology are Luminox and Tracer.
The history of luminescence and its incorporation into timepieces has an interesting but relatively short and limited evolution. Obviously, most changes in the use of materials have revolved around the health risks associated with using radioactive elements.
LumiNova and SuperLumiNova have given the industry a safe and viable way to offer luminosity on any wristwatch. SuperLumiNova is the standard offered by the finest brands, and it has satisfied both avid sportspeople and watch enthusiasts alike.
Though, in my opinion, tritium-based glass tubes appear to be the superior choice if one desires maximum luminescence and the ability to offer a variety of colors. According to my research, most companies supposedly do not employ this technology because it is costly.
I don’t fully embrace this response because a predominance of watches using these tubes today is rather reasonably priced. There has always been an inherent pursuit of excellence in producing the finest quality product amongst the fine Swiss and other luxury watch brands.
So, it is perplexing to see that more are not wanting to step up their game and offer superior luminescence as a feature. The tubes, as hair-thin, as they are, would require some modification to incorporate into existing watch models.
Still, the ability to offer a watch with the very best lume specifications is an advantage and additional selling point. Whatever the reason that the tritium gas tube technology is not used more, it appears to be the superior choice for luminescence in a wristwatch.
Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling and English automobile manufacturer Bentley recently terminated their exclusive collaboration. This relationship lasted nearly twenty years and was marked by the creation of many watches and limited edition timepieces incorporating elements of the Bentley brand automobiles.
At the same time, Bentley commissioned the Breitling watch company to create clocks exclusively for their dashboards. The first clock appeared in the Continental GT. In retrospect, the relationship seems a match made in heaven as the founder of Breitling, Leon Breitling, was an avid racing fan from the very beginning.
In 1905 he developed and applied for a Swiss patent for his chronograph that was specifically designed to measure the speed of race cars. Even Leon’s grandson Willy drove Bentleys almost exclusively through the 1940s due to their technical excellence and craftsmanship.
The models created by Breitling over this period incorporated prominent features of the Bentley motorcars. Additionally, many of the dials reflected the exact paint colors available on the automobiles they celebrated. According to both companies, this is the longest collaboration ever between a Swiss luxury brand and a luxury car manufacturer.
The History of Breitling for Bentley Watches
The timeline of this collaborative period begins in 2002, culminating with the first Breitling for Bentley watch being presented in 2003. The first product of this partnership was the Bentley Le Mans Limited Edition Chronograph.
In 2003, Breitling also began sponsoring the Team Bentley racing group at the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race. This marked a return to where the original “Bentley Boys” achieved great success in the late 1920s.
In 2011, Bentley Continental GT Supersports set a new world speed record on ice. This was accomplished on the Baltic Sea. A Bentley driven by Juha Kankkunen wearing a Breitling Bentley Supersports Light Body Watch reached a speed of 205 mph, shattering the world record set four years earlier by Bentley Motorsports.
2014 saw the return of Bentley to motorsport competition in the GT3 category with the Continental GT3. Following numerous top finishes, Breitling launches the Bentley GT3 watch. The watch features a black titanium case and a race car-inspired carbon fiber dial.
That same year, Breitling and Bentley embarked on their most costly and over-the-top collaboration with the introduction of the Breitling clock with Tourbillon offered in the Bentayga SUV. This clock was the priciest item ever incorporated into a Bentley from an outside source.
In 2016, Bentley introduced seven limited edition automobiles at the Seattle Boeing Seafair Airshow. These were known as the Bentley Continental GT Speed Breitling Jet Team Series Limited Edition. They featured two-tone exteriors of onyx and hallmark with Breitling yellow accents reflecting the striking coloring of the 7 aircraft Breitling show-jet team.
2018 saw the unveiling of the Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley British Racing Green wristwatch. The timepiece featured a Breitling caliber 01 movement with a unique transparent case back and a metalized Bentley logo.
It also had an engraved plate with “Bentley” inscribed on the watch case hearkening back to the dashboard of the historic 1929 “Blower” Bentley model. In 2019 Bentley celebrated its 100th anniversary of luxury motoring excellence.
For this occasion, Breitling introduced the Centenary Limited edition. This model was available in either stainless steel or 18-carat red gold. The dial is offered in a unique burled wood nodding to the wood inserts in the Continental GT number 9 edition taken from the seat of Sir Tom Birkin’s legendary Bentley “Blower” from 1930.
The Breitling for Bentley Models
There are predominantly ten designs that encompass the collaborative period between Bentley and Breitling. Before elaborating on each of the individual collections, there are various specifications that are common to all the different models.
All have automatic movements and sapphire crystals. They are water-resistant to 100 meters and are all COSC-certified chronometers. Another prominent feature on most models is the knurled bezel or knurled decorative motif reflected on the dial.
This is an homage to the radiator grill and certain dashboard adornments of the Bentley motorcars. Any features distinct to the particular model will be in the following descriptions below.
Breitling for Bentley Flying B Chronograph & Flying B No. 3
The difference between these two models is that the Flying B is slightly larger at 38.5 by 52 mm and has a chronograph movement. The No. 3 case measures 34.5 by 40 mm and does not have the chronograph subdials.
The Breitling for Bentley Flying B ref. A4436512.B873 features a unique black dial with silver subdials. There are also other dial variations, including blue and silver. The Flying B No.3 ref. A1636212.Q551 features a unique bronze dial with a single silver sundial. Both watches are equipped with ETA-based movements modified by Breitling.
The Flying B honors the Bentley winged “B” emblem and features a guilloche knurled inner dial and subdials characteristic of the Bentley automotive radiator grill. The watch cases are cambered rectangular shaped with a beveled crystal. These watches are some of the most beautiful and distinctive dials in the Breitling for Bentley collection.
Breitling for Bentley B05 Unitime
The Breitling for Bentley B05 Unitime features a GMT complication, making it ideal for globe trotters. The dial features a globe in the center, serving as a backdrop to the three subdials of the chronograph. The dial’s outer ring also has twenty-four different destinations that fall in various time zones.
The particular reference AB0521U4B.C654.78X.A20B.A1 features a patented mechanism along with the double-disc system that makes telling time highly user-friendly. A date window is situated between the four and five o’clock positions.
The watch measures 49mm in diameter, making it one of the largest Breitling for Bentley watches. It has a twenty-four-hour hand, a chronograph function, and a date window, as mentioned earlier. It is powered by Breitling’s B05 caliber and bears the customary Bentley motif knurled bezel.
Breitling for Bentley Barnato 42
The Breitling for Bentley Barnato 42 pays homage to Joel Woolf Barnato, the British financier and race car driver who was part of the original Bentley Boys. He won three consecutive Le Mans races from 1928-1930.
His racing partner in each of the races was Bernard Rubin in 1928, driving a Bentley 4.5 liter, Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin in 1929 at the wheel of a Bentley Speed 6, and in 1930 with Glen Kidston racing a Bentley Speed Six (referred to as the Old #1). Barnato went on to invest in Bentley and become its chairman.
The reference M4139024/BB85 features a Breitling 41B caliber with an understated yet elegant dial. Three prominent subdials appear on the dial. In some later depictions, the subdials resemble race car steering wheels. The Knurled bezel surrounds the 42mm Diameter case.
Breitling for Bentley 6.75
The 6.75 was inspired by the 6.75-liter engine manufactured in the Bentley factory in Crewe, England. This engine is produced exclusively for the Arnage limousine. The watch was created in honor of this perfect blending of performance and tradition.
The watch case of the ref. M4436413.BD27.220S.M20DSA.2 measures 48.7mm in diameter and features the caliber 44b with a chronograph function. A unique characteristic of this watch is the large date window right over the center pinion of the dial.
Other than the Midnight Carbon model, there were several 6.75 designs with cases made from stainless steel, 18-carat yellow gold, and limited edition pieces in 18-carat rose gold.
Breitling for Bentley Motors
The Breitling for Bentley Motors is one of the only models that does not display the knurled motif on the bezel. Instead, this series has an engine-turned-bezel finish like that found on a Bentley dashboard. It also has a raised engraving on the case back depicting three legendary Bentley models; the Speed 6, the R Type Continental, and the Continental GT.
The ref. A2536212.L505 features a 48.7mm case with a distinct racing green dial and a date window between the four and five o’clock positions. The watch is powered by the caliber 25B, which features a “30 Second Chronograph function”.
This means that the center hand sweeps once around the dial in 30 seconds instead of the typical 60 seconds. This enables extremely accurate timing to within 1/8th of a second.
The second unique feature of the Breitling for Bentley Motors is the “Variable Tachymeter.” This enables one to measure the average speed of the race car regardless of time elapsed, the distance covered, or the speed reached.
Within the Breitling for Bentley Motors collection, there were also the Motors T watches. These were special editions of the Motors, which came in stainless steel or rose gold cases with black, blue, and white dials.
Breitling for Bentley Supersports Light Body
This limited edition collaborative timepiece was on the wrist of Juha Kankkunen when he broke the world record for speed on ice driving a Bentley Continental GT in 2011, as mentioned before. The Light Body refers to a case made entirely of titanium. In keeping with the lightness mandate, the watch comes with a rubber strap.
The Supersports Light Body measures 49mm in diameter. The dial is striking with two of the models available with either a green(ref. E2736536.BA37.220S) or red (ref. E2736529.BA622.20S) tachymeter outer dial ring.
The timepiece is powered by a caliber 27B automatic movement with a date window at the six o’clock position. The chronograph subdials are set horizontally across the” equator” of the dial. This model also displays the knurled motif on the bezel.
Breitling for Bentley GT
The “GT” in this Breitling for Bentley timepiece stands for Grand Tourer and celebrates the most powerful automobile in the Bentley collection. These watches come with mesmerizing dials that are reminiscent of automobile dashboards, and the Bentley etched on the caseback.
This particular ref.A1336212.K506 comes with a striking red dial and a 44.8mm case diameter, which is smaller than other Breitling for Bentley chronographs. It’s powered by the caliber 13B, an automatic movement with a date complication at the three o’clock position.
There are several other Breitling for Bentley GT references with different dial and sundial colors. There’s also the Breitling for Bentley GT Dark Sapphire ref. XB0613C1C984, a unique limited edition piece with a 48mm case and the caliber 10B.
Finally, there are the Japan Special Edition watches that came with incredible dials, such as the blue with mother of pearl dial on the ref. A133627X/BE63/980A.
Breitling for Bentley GMT
This Breitling for Bentley release is a fresh interpretation of the GMT watch. It reflects the Bentley styling in the larger knurled motif bezel and totalizer rims inspired by the automobile’s dashboard.
The ingenious multiple display system displays 24 different international locations representing the twenty-four different time zones. The tapered strap or bracelet gives the watch a distinct and modern appearance. The reference RB043112.G775.757P.R20.D1 comes in a beautiful rose gold case with a cream dial.
The watch is 49mm in diameter and sports the automatic caliber 47B. In addition to the watch’s timekeeping function, it has a twenty-four-hour hand, a chronograph function, and a date window.
Breitling for Bentley Mark VI
The original Bentley Mark VI was produced in the factory in Crewe, England, from 1946-1952. The design of the Mark VI is evident in the knurled bezel reflecting the dashboard controls in the automobile. The dial colors are inspired by the original colors available for the various models, and the case back features the Bentley emblem in relief.
The Breitling for Bentley Mark VI is powered by a caliber 26B automatic movement with a 60-minute totalizer, as evident on the dial. The case measures 42mm and is made of stainless steel with a platinum bezel. The timepiece also features a date window at the sixth position. There are two references to this model, one with a silver (ref. P2636212.G611) and one with a blue (ref. P2536212.Q529) dial.
There are also a few Breitling for Bentley Mark VI references with additional complications, such as a 1461 calendar, a chronograph, or a moon phase. These watches had very similar features to the classic Mark VI but were powered by the caliber B19.
Breitling for Bentley Premier Chronograph
The latest collaboration between Breitling and Bentley produced watches that reflect the styling of the original Breitling Premier watches launched in the 1940s. They are primarily characterized as elegant timepieces with a focus on everyday simplicity.
The most common among the Premier Chronograph watches is the Premier B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley Mulliner. The watch draws inspiration from the Convertible Mulliner Edition of the Continental GT and features a stunning white dial with blue subdials.
There’s also the B01 Chronograph 42 Bentley Centenary with a gorgeous brown dial inspired by the dashboard of the “Blower” Bentley that came out in 1929. Both watches feature the same specifications and are powered by the in-house B01 chronograph movement.
Finally, the king of the Premier Chronographs is the B21 Chronograph Tourbillon 42 Bentley. This remarkable timepiece features a 42mm rose gold case and a beautiful green dial. It’s powered by the manufacturer’s caliber B21 and is limited to only 25 pieces.
The collaboration of Breitling and Bentley produced many memorable watches and clocks over their almost two-decade-long partnership. I have assembled a starting point for those interested in these special models.
If you are an admirer of Bentley automobiles or a fan of Breitling watches, the information put forth in this article should serve you well in finding your next timepiece or your next addition to your Breitling for Bentley collection.
This article is a celebration of two of the most admired watchmaking advancements in the evolution of timekeeping. The first is the Tourbillon and the second is the skeleton design of timepieces that reveal all of their inner workings via see-through crystals.
One is a feat of watchmaking genius, and the other elevates the watch’s mechanical function to a work of art. The design, finishes, and adornments reflected in high-end luxury skeleton watches range from beautiful to mesmerizing.
Coupled with a tourbillon, this category of watches raises the bar for what can be achieved by a watchmaker who doesn’t limit themselves to the proven and ordinary but dares to shoot for the stars in creating breathtaking works of precision and art. I will start by defining what a tourbillon is and what defines a skeletal watch.
What Is a Tourbillon?
A tourbillon is a complication in a timepiece that counteracts the effects of gravity to improve the watch’s accuracy. The tourbillon was created and patented by Abraham Louis Breguet in 1801. It is an addition to the watch escapement in the movement.
In a tourbillon, the balance wheel and escapement are affixed in a rotating cage. Since the tourbillon assembly is constantly moving, it makes the watch seem alive. The flying tourbillon was developed by German watch instructor Alfred Helwig in 1920.
Rather than being supported on the top or the bottom by a bridge, the flying tourbillon is cantilevered, being supported on only one side. Each model in this article features a tourbillon or a flying tourbillon incorporated into its movement.
What Is a Skeleton Watch?
By definition, a skeleton watch is one where the watch’s movement is visible through either the front or rear crystal of the timepiece. In keeping a more purist perspective, to qualify for this list, each watch had to be lacking a dial and have a full exhibition back.
I refer to this as purism because where every component is exposed, watchmakers will go to incredible lengths to meticulously polish and finish every element, no matter how small or intricate, to create works of art. There is nothing to hide when everything is on display.
The decorations, graining, and hand beveling reflected in these movements are exceptional and extraordinary. The additional vision, design, and labor invested in beautifying an otherwise mechanical machine-like object elevate the desire for excellence and sophistication that a mere luxury watch with an easily recognizable brand name will not quench.
The 15 Best Skeleton Tourbillon Watches
Now that we have an overview of what tourbillon and skeleton watches are, I have compiled the following list of 15 of the finest depictions of this combination in a timepiece. Given the complexity of the tourbillon and the excessive finishes on display in a skeleton watch, they are well worth their high prices.
Those who own these watches understand the countless hours of design, research, development, and craftsmanship invested in bringing these timepieces to life. These watches are for the connoisseurs of Haute Horlogerie.
1. Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ref. 6000V/110R-B934 comes in an 18-carat 5N rose gold case and bracelet. The case measures 42.5 mm x 10.39 mm and boasts one of the thinnest movements in this category, measuring a mere 5.65 mm thick. The watch has sapphire crystals on both the case’s front and rear, showcasing the intricate movement.
The caliber 21605Q automatic self-winding movement beats at 18,000 VpH, has 186 components, 30 jewels, and a power reserve of 3 days. The movement parts are treated in gunmetal gray, with the tourbillon placed at the six o’clock position and featuring a 22-carat gold peripheral weight.
The watch has an 18-carat rose-fluted gold crown and rose gold hands and indexes treated with Super-LumiNova. Offsetting the skeletal dial is a black outer dial ring with 60-minute increments in white. The timepiece is water-resistant to 50 meters, and its price is available upon request.
This timepiece is beautifully finished and designed, incorporating bold colors contrasting against the movement components and stainless steel case. The watch measures 44mm in diameter and measures 13.7mm thick.
It is water-resistant to 50 meters and has a domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides. The watch features an off-centered hour and minute indicator at five o’clock, the tourbillon at one o’clock, and the small seconds retrograde at eleven o’clock.
The in-house tourbillon automatic “irreversible” caliber TSE 122.00 movement has a micro-rotor and vibrates at 21,600 VpH. It has 256 components, 40 jewels, and a power reserve of 70 hours.
Another feature of this movement is a balance wheel with fixed inertia, manufactured in-house and incorporating the SE logo. The watch features a Phillips flat spiral terminal coil manufactured by E20 and a titanium retrograde lever.
The dial is brass and silver, and the hours, minutes, and retrograde seconds come in either green aventurine or turquoise blue lapis lazuli fine stones. Hands are rhodium-treated brass filled with Super-LumiNova.
Depending upon your choice of green or blue colors, the watch is finished with a black alligator strap hand stitched in either green or blue and a stainless steel folding buckle with the Schwarz Etienne logo. Its approximate retail price is $67,700.00
3. Jaquet Droz Tourbillon Skelet Sapphire
The Jaquet Droz Ref. J0135270021 has a subtle and subdued appearance, rich in gray and silver colors. The Jaques Droz caliber 2625SQ self-winding skeleton tourbillon movement features a silicon balance spring and pallet horns set upon the titanium tourbillon frame.
It has a single barrel, an 18-carat white gold custom engraved oscillating weight. The movement houses 30 jewels, has a power reserve of 7 days and vibrates at 21,600 VpH. Indications are off-center hours and minutes at six o’clock and off-center seconds hands at twelve o’clock. The 42mm size case sits 13.76mm on the wearer’s wrist.
The sapphire case is made up of 18-carat white gold tubes and bar inserts, with an 18-carat white gold crown completing the case. The watch is water resistant to 30 meters. The timepiece features a sapphire dial and base and is adorned with 18-carat white gold indexes and 18-carat white gold fixing axes.
The hour and minute hands are crafted in 18-carat white gold that has been treated with a black finish, and the seconds’ hands are made of 18-carat red gold and also finished with a black treatment. Finishing the watch’s appearance is an alligator strap with a stainless steel and plasma ceramic folding clasp.
4. Panerai Luminor Tourbillon GMT
The Panerai Ref. PAM01060 is constructed of 18-carat rose gold and features Panerai’s trademarked crown protection system. The timepiece measures 47mm in diameter and is outfitted with sapphire crystals on both the front and rear of the watch case. Most visible components are dark blue, with Arabic numerals placed at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock.
These are all treated in Super-LumiNova for excellent visibility in the dark. The rose gold hands are also treated in Super-LumiNova. The hand-wound mechanical caliber P.2005/T movement vibrates at 28,800 VpH and features a glucydor balance, three barrels, 277 components, and a six-day power reserve.
The watch is also outfitted with an incabloc anti-shock device to protect the movement. The watch is water resistant to 50 meters and is delivered with a stitched dark blue alligator strap. Its approximate retail price is $180,000.00
5. Speake Marin Openworked Tourbillon
This tourbillon timepiece is one of the more affordable to appear on this list but easily holds its own with its design, execution, and beautiful finishes. The watch comes in a 38mm or 42mm diameter titanium case. The interesting design feature of this watch is that the tourbillon is positioned at the 1:30 position. Speake Marin has stated that this is the only watch with the tourbillon at that position.
The caliber SMA05 automatic self-winding movement has a flying tourbillon featuring an integrated micro-rotor. It is easily observed through the open exhibition back and front sapphire crystal treated with an anti-reflective coating. The power reserve is 72 hours, and there is a power reserve indicator at the 7:30 position.
The dial is open-worked with a black micro-blasted matte finish. The prominent silver coloring is tastefully decorated. The hands are heart-shaped, blue colored, and the watch is coupled with a black alligator strap. 30-meter water resistance rounds out the watch’s technical specifications. Approximate retail price of $20,600.00 for the 38mm or $21,300.00 for the 42mm.
6. Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Auto Black Magic 45mm
This is one of the larger tourbillon watches mentioned in this article and offers Hublot’s distinctive and trademark look in a skeletonized version. The HUB6035 caliber automatic self-winding tourbillon movement incorporates ball bearings and provides a convenient three-day power reserve.
The new caliber design features a micro-rotor on the dial side and three sapphire bridges. The watch is comprised of a total of 243 components. The case and bezel are constructed of polished black ceramic with a micro-blasted finish. The front crystal is a scratch-resistant sapphire that has been anti-reflective treated.
The rear features an exhibition back. The timepiece has a sapphire dial and is water-resistant to 30 meters. The watch has been paired with a black structured lined rubber strap with a black ceramic and black plated titanium deployment buckle clasp. Approximate retail price of $100,000.00
7. Piaget Polo Emperador Skeleton Tourbillon
This beautiful Piaget Ref. GOA40041 comes in an 18-carat white gold cushion-shaped case that measures 46.5mm by 8.85mm thick. Piaget touts this watch as having the thinnest ultra-thin automatic tourbillon skeleton movement.
The watch features sapphire crystals on both the front and the rear of the watch case showing off the automatic self-winding caliber 1270S movement. Highlights of the movement include a platinum oscillating weight, an off-center gold micro-rotor, and a titanium tourbillon carriage.
There is extensive hand beveling and finishes reflected throughout the movement’s parts. The movement vibrates at 21.600 VpH, has 225 components, 35 jewels, and a power reserve of 42 hours. The timepiece is water-resistant to 30 meters and is finished with a black alligator strap with a folding clasp. Price is available upon request from Piaget.
This watch’s highlight is the fully skeletonized in-house caliber HMC811 cylindrical tourbillon automatic movement. Due to the movement’s design, it appears to be three-dimensional. One immediate outstanding aesthetic feature of the watch is the blue domed subdial at six o’clock.
The highlight of this movement is that it combines an in-house produced cylindrical hairspring with a one-minute flying tourbillon at six o’clock. This is responsible for the precision experienced with this model. The power reserve capacity is 72 hours.
The cylindrical hairspring performs superbly because the period of oscillation is constant regardless of amplitude. The combination of the tourbillon with the hairspring is something to be admired for its function and appearance.
Enhancing the movement’s appearance is a gold skeletonized oscillating weight that is contrasted by the dark main plate and bridges that are finished with anthracite PVD. The stainless steel case measures 42.8mm in diameter by 15.3mm in height.
The case has a domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and a screw-down crown. Water resistance is rated at 120 meters. The timepiece features green glowing luminescent hands and indices. A black alligator leather strap completes the watch’s presentation. The approximate retail price is $87,000.00
9. Breguet Classique “Grande Complication” Tourbillon Extra Plat Squelette 5395
Abraham Louis Breguet is credited for inventing the tourbillon in 1801. This model is an excellent example of the design and manufacturing genius of the Breguet family. One prominent characteristic of this timepiece is the self-winding movement with a peripheral platinum oscillating weight.
The caliber 581SQ in-house automatic movement vibrates at 4 Hz and features 33 jewels and a total of 325 components. Another outstanding feature of this watch is that it is ultrathin for a timepiece housing 325 components.
The case is only 7.7mm thick and is the thinnest model of the fifteen watches discussed in this article. It has a diameter of 41mm and is constructed of Rose gold. The case is beautifully fluted in a vertical pattern all the way around with a matching fluted crown.
The front and back are protected by sapphire crystals, and the watch is water resistant to 30 meters. A brown stitched leather strap with a clasp featuring the Breguet logo completes this classic. The retail price is approximately $225,000.00
10. Louis Moinet Black Gold Derrick Tourbillon
An impeccably finished skeletonized manual winding tourbillon movement fashioned and formed in the appearance of an oil derrick. This is truly a unique design and highlights a collection of watches that are cutting-edge in every aspect of the watchmaking process.
The drive shaft is located to the right of the dial between the 2 and 4 o’clock positions and powers a long articulated arm known as the walking beam. This is located between the 10 and 12 o’clock positions.
The most striking visual characteristic is the oblong-shaped “head” located to the left. At the 9 o’clock position is a titanium barrel that is in constant rotation and is dedicated to marking seconds that are read off the bottom of the barrel on a red engraved seconds track.
The case measures 45.4mm in diameter and is constructed of 18-carat white gold. Finishes are both polished and matte, and the bezel features six evenly placed screws at the 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 o’clock positions.
The in-house caliber LM14D movement vibrates at 21,600 VpH, has 27 jewels, and a power reserve of 72 hours. A sapphire top crystal and exhibition back complete the case. The watch is water resistant to 30 meters. It is delivered with a black alligator strap and an 18-carat white gold clasp. The approximate retail price of $285,000.00.
11. Bovet 1822 Battista Tourbillon
This model has been developed as a partnership between Bovet Watch and the Battista Automobili Pininfarina auto company. This is around the first all-electric supercar, the GT Hyper Car, manufactured by Pininfarina.
The watch is striking in both its design and attention to detail, as reflected in the various embellishments on both the front and rear of the movement. The 45.6 mm case has sapphire crystals on both the front and back but also has exposed sides on the case to view the movement from the side.
The two-tone blue dial complements the movement components as well as the double-sided 60-second flying tourbillon. The movement vibrates at 18,000 VpH and has an incredible power reserve capacity of 10 days.
In keeping with the company’s commitment to the environment and sustainability, the watch is completed with a black and blue vegan rubber strap. The price is available by inquiry to Bovet Watch Corporation.
12. Girard Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton
This is an essential addition to this list because it features the iconic three-bridge design Girard Perregaux created and first introduced in the 1860s. After the crisis caused by the introduction of quartz watches in the 1970s, G.P. reintroduced the three-bridge design in a limited edition pocket watch in 1980.
It took watchmakers more than 1500 hours to finish a single-pocket watch. The birth of the neo-tourbillon with three bridges design in 2014 has taken the original concept to a whole new level.
The titanium case measures 45mm in diameter and sits 15.6mm high on the wrist. Both the front and rear box crystals are crafted of scratch-resistant sapphire and have an anti-reflective coating. Functions of the watch include hours, minutes, and small seconds on the tourbillon, and the tourbillon.
The in-house caliber GP09400-0011 self-winding mechanical movement vibrates at 21,600 VpH. It has a total of 260 components and 27 jewels. The oscillating weight is a white gold micro-rotor, and the watch has a power reserve of 60 hours.
The dauphine-style hands are Super-LumiNova filled, and the watch is water-resistant to 30 meters. A black alligator strap with a triple-folding titanium clasp completes this handsome watch. The approximate retail price is $167,000.00
13. Blancpain Villeret Tourbillon Squelette 8 Jours
Though this watch is not categorized as a skeleton watch on the Blancpain website, it should be featured on this list. The only aspect of the watch keeping it from being completely skeletonized is a thin black ring with Roman numerals tracking the outer rim of the front crystal.
Otherwise, all components are readily visible through the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal front and exhibition back crystal. The case is crafted of the finest platinum and measures 37.5mm in diameter with a thickness of 10.4mm. There is a date wheel at the 9 o’clock position and a power reserve indicator at the six o’clock position.
The caliber 25 self-winding automatic movement vibrates at 3 Hz and has 233 components and 29 jewels. And a power reserve of 192 hours. The timepiece is water-resistant to 30 meters and is completed with a black alligator strap with a pin buckle. The watch retails for approximately $179,300.00
14. Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked
The beautiful 18-carat pink gold case measures 41mm in diameter and is relatively thin at 10.7 mm. The case’s color enhances the 3-dimensional effect of the movement’s open-worked structure. The dial features a lacquered black inner bezel offset by a pair of 18-carat rose gold hands.
The watch features anti-reflective sapphire crystals in both the front and rear of the case. The front is unique in that the sapphire crystal is double-curved. Its internal surface is shaped like a dome but is vertically curved from six to twelve o’clock. At the heart of this timepiece is an in-house 2948 caliber hand-wound mechanical movement that vibrates at 21,600 VpH.
There are a total of 196 components, and it has 19 jewels and 72 hours of power reserve. The 30-meter water-resistant watch comes with a black alligator strap finished with an 18-carat pink gold folding clasp. The approximate retail price of this watch is $180,000.00
The final watch to make this list is the Omega ref. 5126.96.36.199.99.001, which is different from the ones above, as it has a skeletal front and a solid caseback. The beautiful use of red gold coloring and the copper brown treatment of the movement parts make this model both stunning and aesthetically captivating.
The 18-carat red gold case measures 38.7 mm in diameter and is presented with an alligator-patterned brown leather strap with a fold-over clasp. The front crystal is sapphire and antireflective on both the inside and the outside. The self-winding Omega caliber 2635A movement features a tourbillon, a platinum oscillating weight, a co-axial escapement, and is a certified chronometer. The power reserve capacity is 45 hours.
Other significant features are the brown PVD-coated dial that is finished in a spiral pattern, as well as bridges that have been polished by hand. Another interesting component is that the 18-carat gold seconds hand is part of the tourbillon cage. The watch is also water resistant to 30 meters. It has an approximate retail price of $137,000.00
If you have a passion for fine watches and have the deep pockets to indulge in your pursuit, any of these timepieces will satisfy your desires. These watches have been chosen because they are skeletonized, feature the tourbillon, and have no other complications. There may be a date or power reserve indicator in one or two models, but for the most part, each watch needed to satisfy the two main criteria and nothing else.
Other watchhouses did not make this list for the reasons laid out in this article. These names have also greatly contributed to the evolution of the tourbillon and the incorporation of the skeleton style into their collections. These fifteen are just a starting point. Some of the other brands you can consider are the following: Patek Philippe, Armin Strom, Cartier, A. Lange and Sohne, Chronoswiss, and others.
This article lists twenty of the leading 36mm. diameter-sized men’s watches that are available today. The difficulty of assembling such a list is that many of the finest watch manufacturers do not produce 36mm. sized watches for men. In fact, for some companies, they’re 36mm. models are offered as women’s timepieces. Thirty-six millimeters seems to be that in-between size and could be viewed as the small sliver shared by two circles in a Venn diagram.
Of the two circles, one represents gents and their common sizes, and the other, lady’s watches. I mention this because after reviewing the list, in my final thoughts, I have suggested some watches that I believe could be worn by a man but they are marketed to women by their respective companies. For the strictness of this article, there are 19 models that are gents and 36mm. in case size and one Grand Seiko timepiece that measures 35.5mm. Prices range from $400.00 to several thousand dollars.
The Rolex Oyster features a readily recognizable three-link oyster-style bracelet coupled with a 36mm. oyster steel case. The monobloc middle case features a screw-down case back and a winding screw-down crown with a twin-lock waterproof system. The watch is water-resistant to 100 meters and has a domed bezel and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
The watch is available with a silver, black, green, blue, candy pink, or turquoise blue dial. The latter is a striking blue and has a highly legible chroma light display with long-lasting blue luminescence.
The in-house mechanical bidirectional self-winding caliber 3230 movements is COSC superlative chronometer certified with accuracy ratings of -2/+2 seconds per day. The movement features a paramagnetic blue parachrom hairspring, chronoenergy escapement, and high-performance paraflex shock absorbers. The power reserve capacity is 70 hours.
The Ronde Must De Cartier measures 36mm. and has a thickness of 7.89mm. The stainless steel case is water resistant to 30 meters and houses a high autonomy quartz movement. The watch features a beaded crown set with a synthetic cabochon-shaped spinel and a sand-blasted dial with blued steel sword-shaped hands protected by a sapphire crystal.
The watch is available with a non-animal material strap for approximately $2790.00. Or with a stainless steel bracelet for $3200.00.
This is a beautifully designed and finished wristwatch with some very interesting appointments. The bezel is engraved with Roman numerals and has a sun-brushed dial providing the backdrop for hands, the Constellation star, the Omega logo, and indexes made of 18-carat white gold. As per Omega,” The dramatic and enduring design of the Constellation is characterized by its famous half moons, “claws” on the case mono-rang bracelet.”
The watch is crafted of 316L stainless steel and features a domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides of the crystal. The quartz movement is a caliber 4564 with a date window at the six o’clock position. The bracelet is completed with a finely finished butterfly clasp and the watch offers water resistance to 30 meters.
The all-stainless steel model is available with a black dial and retails for approximately $2700.00. A stainless steel and 18-carat gold version is also available for approximately $5700.00. Retail. (Dial choices are silver, white, or gold)
The Air Command is a striking addition to this list of wristwatches. It is also one of the only timepieces that qualify and is a chronograph. The gorgeous blue dial is beautifully finished and detailed with Arabic numerals and features subdials at the three and nine o’clock positions. Surrounding the dial is the two-way rotating titanium bezel with a blue ceramic insert, augmented with SuperlumiNova markers.
Hands are also treated in SuperLumiNova. The titanium case measures 11.5mm. in height. The crown is fluted and there are two round pushers at the two and four o’clock positions. The automatic self-winding caliber F188B movement has 35 jewels, 255 components, vibrates at 3 Hz. and has a power reserve of 40 hours. The movement also has a flyback function.
The watch is water resistant to 30 meters and is completed with a blue calfskin strap. The approximate retail price is $17,900.00. An 18-carat rose gold case model is available as well for $29,400.00.
5. IWC Pilot’s Watch Auto 36
The Pilot’s watch measures 36mm. In diameter and has a thickness of 10.6mm. It is constructed of stainless steel and features a bold dial with large Arabic numerals and is adorned with luminescent hands. The watch is fitted with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective treatment. There is a date window at the three positions and the watch is water resistant to 60 meters.
The caliber 35111 automatic self-winding movement vibrates at 28,800 Vph, has 25 jewels and 163 components, and has a power reserve of 42 hours. A beautifully integrated stainless steel bracelet with a hidden clasp completes the watch’s appearance. With a blue dial and a strap, the watch retails for approximately $4350.00. The all-steel model with a black dial retails for about $5400.00.
The Datejust is one of Rolex’s most popular watches. This model features a combination of oyster steel and 18-carat yellow gold. The jubilee link bracelet is comprised of both materials and is perfectly matched with an 18-carat yellow gold fluted bezel. The oyster case has a monobloc middle case with a screw-down case back as well as a screw-down twin lock double waterproof system crown.
The case is completed with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with a cyclops lens over the date which is at the three o’clock position. The COSC-certified Swiss chronometer movement is an in-house caliber 3235 automatic self-winding type with accuracy parameters of -2/+2 seconds per day. The movement is bidirectional winding and features a paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring, has a power reserve of 70 hours, and is outfitted with high-performance paraflex shock absorbers. The approximate retail price of the two-tone Datejust is $12,000.00.
Note: The Datejust 36 is also available in a new combination of 18-carat Everose gold and oyster steel. With a jubilee bracelet, the approximate retail price is $14,150.00. or with an oyster-style three-link style bracelet for $13,500.00 Also, the Datejust 36 is available in all oyster steel with either the oyster or jubilee style bracelets, flat or fluted bezels, and in various dial selections that range in price from $7500.00. to $8500.00. retail.
7. Chopard Alpine Eagle 36
The Alpine Eagle 36 is a great looking gents watch, simple yet elegant in its refined appointments. The case and bracelet are crafted from A223 Lucent steel which is 50 % harder than typical stainless steel and also hypoallergenic. The brushed finish is evident in the bezel which uniquely sports two screws at each of the three, six, nine, and twelve positions.
The blue color dial is obtained by galvanic treatment and its finished design is inspired by the iris of the eagle. Rhodium-plated Roman numerals are located at the three, six, nine, and twelve o’clock positions and are interspersed with hour markers in between. Both are treated in SuperLumiNova. The hour hands are also treated in SuperLumiNova.
The front of the watch has a glare-proof scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with a see-through sapphire crystal on the back. There is an ornate screw-down crown that lends to the water resistance of the watch which stands at 100 meters. There is also a date window between the four and five o’clock positions.
The COSC-certified chronometer movement is a caliber 09.01-C automatic self-winding type and vibrates at 25,200 Vph. It features 27 jewels, 148 components, a flat balance spring, a three-spoke balance wheel, and a power reserve of 42 hours. Decorations reflect bridges adorned with Cotes de Geneva finishes and a circular-grained main plate.
The timepiece is completed with a tapered brushed steel bracelet comprised of ingot-shaped links and beautifully integrated into the watch case. The approximate retail price is $10,200.00. A version is also available in A223 Lucent steel and 18-carat rose gold with a gray dial for approximately $16,800.00.
8. Tudor Black Bay 36
The Tudor Black Bay 36 can be broken down into two categories. The first part of the collection would be the steel case watches that retail for approximately $2625.00 to $3050.00. The 36mm case is a combination of both polished and satin finishes and is outfitted with a sapphire crystal. The movement is a Tudor T600 self-winding mechanical movement with a power reserve capacity of 38 hours.
Additionally, the watch is water resistant to 150m. (approx. 500 ft. The crown is a steel screw-down winding crown, with the Tudor rose in relief with a black anodized aluminum winding crown tube. The strap models are available in beige or brown leather or in black fabric. The other option is a steel satin finish bracelet with a folding clasp and safety catch.
The second category is the steel and gold models which retail in the realm of $5025.00-$5650.00. Each of the watches available here has a Tudor MT5400 self-winding mechanical movement with a bidirectional rotor system with 70 hours of power reserve capacity. A sapphire crystal and a steel and gold polished and satin bracelet round out the physical features.
The bracelet also has the “T fit” folding clasp and safety catch. The lower price points in the category are available with either silver, black, or champagne dials. The upper price point in the range reflects dials with diamond markers available in silver, black, and champagne finishes.
This affordable 36mm. diameter timepiece has a definite retro appearance hearkening to a time past. The basic model has a stainless steel case and a finely fluted bronze bezel. The combination of materials contributes to that retro feel. The watch has a domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating on the inside. There is also a mineral seethrough crystal in the rear of the watch displaying the automatic self-winding movement.
The Oris caliber 754 automatic winding pointer date movement is built upon a base SW 200-1 foundation. It beats at 28,800 Vph with 26 jewels and a power reserve of 38 hours. The stainless steel screw-in crown lends to the water resistance feature of 50 meters. The stainless steel case model comes with a blue dial featuring Arabic numerals.
The numerals, hands, and indexes are all treated with SuperLumiNova for easy visibility in the dark. The approximate retail price of this model is $1900.00. A second model which features an all-bronze case and a green dial are available for $2000.00.
10. Cartier- Ballon Bleu de Cartier
This timepiece is another example of the design prowess of the House of Cartier. The collection is inspired by the shape of a balloon floating on the wrist. The styling is simple yet elegant and has two very distinct features. The bezel circles the watch but where the crown is positioned, the bezel crops out so as to protect the crown.
Reminiscent of the Panerai, here it is integrated smoothly and protects the fluted crown set with a cabochon synthetic spinel. To accommodate this circular shape, the Roman numeral three on the dial is set inward towards the hands’ pinion. The silver guilloche dial is complemented by black Roman numerals and blued steel sword-shaped hands.
The watch sits comfortably on the wrist at 12.1mm. high. It has a sapphire crystal. It features a mechanical automatic self-winding movement and is water resistant to 30 meters. There are various versions of this model available in a range of price points. Here are some of the options:
Stainless steel with a strap is $5750.00.
All stainless steel is $6250.00.
Stainless steel and 18-carat yellow gold $8900.00.
Stainless steel and 18-carat rose gold $10,100.00.
18-carat rose gold case with strap $14,500.00.
18-carat yellow or rose gold bracelet and case $30,100.00.
This particular model features Omega’s co-axial automatic self-winding movement. The coaxial is a type of modern watch escapement mechanism that is integrated into all Omega mechanical timepieces. These watches are also METAS certified for superlative accuracy. The Caliber 8800 movement features a free-sprung balance with a silicon balance ring and is rhodium plated and finished with Geneva waves in arabesque.
The power reserve is 55 hours. The beautifully finished movement is visible through the rearview transparent case back. The front crystal is domed and made of scratch-resistant sapphire. The case sits at 11.7mm. high on the wrist and has an attractive integrated bracelet with a butterfly clasp completing the watch’s appearance. The watch is water resistant to 50 meters and is antimagnetic to upwards of 15,000 gauss.
There is a date window positioned at the six o’clock index and accents the various colored sun-brushed dials. The approximate retail price of the all stainless steel model is $6050,00 (available with either a white, gray, or black dial) with the steel and “Sedna” gold model costing roughly $9400.00 (available in white, silver, or gold… Sedna brown colored dial).
12. Tissot Sea Starr 1000
This is one of the most affordable watches to make the cut but is a good-looking sports watch offering 300 meters of water resistance. It may not have the cache of a luxury brand, but this watch packs a number of features for its price tag. The case and bracelet are constructed from 316L stainless steel and feature a unidirectional bezel with a mineral glass insert. The watch is thin at 9.7mm. in thickness and sits comfortably on the wrist.
The top crystal is sapphire and the fluted crown is a screw-down type and has the Tissot “T” engraved upon it. The quartz battery-operated ETA F05.412 caliber 10 ½ “ movement powers the watch and includes 3 jewels. The white dial features SuperLumiNova indexes and has a date window at the six o’clock position. The approximate retail price of this watch is $415.00.
The Rolex Explorer is another 36mm. diameter timepiece from the Rolex collection that qualifies for this list. Rolex is one of the only Swiss luxury brands that offers many of its flagship and most popular styles in 36mm. for men. The Explorer is part of the adventure series of watches that also includes the Submariner and the Sea Dweller, and is designed for exploration. The oyster case is comprised of oyster steel as is the accompanying bracelet as well. It features a monobloc middle case with a screw-down case back.
The screw-down crown is a twin lock style and the watch has a scratchproof sapphire crystal. It has a flat polished bezel with a brushed oyster steel bracelet characterized by the iconic three-link oyster pattern. The in-house automatic self-winding Rolex caliber 3230 movement features a paramagnetic blue parachrom hairspring and high-performance paraflex shock absorbers and has a power reserve of 70 hours.
The movement is COSC certified and offers an accuracy of -2/+2 seconds per day. The black dial has Arabic numerals at the three, six, and nine o’clock positions with white indexes that are filled with a luminescent material emitting a blue glow. The treatment also includes the hands. The approximate retail price of the all-steel model is $7200.00. and the steel and 18-carat yellow gold model is $11,150.00.
14. Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical
This is another reasonably priced watch that measures 36mm. in diameter. It is considered a “Field Watch” and is a reissue of the model that was produced for the British Royal military between 1973-1976. The purpose of a “Field Watch” is purely to tell time. It has to be very accurate so that soldiers can synchronize their movements on the battlefield.
This Hamilton timepiece has a brushed stainless steel tonneau-shaped case and is very easy to read. The sandpaper-like finished dial has Arabic numerals from the one to the eleven positions with a triangular marker at the twelve o’clock position. The markers and hands are treated with luminescence for easy readability at night. The watch has a mineral crystal that is double antireflective coated and sports a fluted crown for setting the mechanism.
It is water resistant to 100 meters and available in either a blue, black, or white dial. The mechanical (hand wind) caliber H-50 movement is specifically developed for Hamilton and vibrates at 3 Hz, has 17 jewels, and has a power reserve of 80 hours. The watch sells for approximately $845.00.
15. Tudor 1926
The 1926 model is another offering from the Tudor collection and is available in either a strap version or with an attractive integrated stainless steel bracelet. The case is made of polished steel with a smooth polished bezel. The watch has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and a screw-down crown showing the Tudor logo in relief.
The dial has Arabic numerals at the 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 o’clock positions with indexes between each numeral. The outer ring of the dial also reflects small printed indexes for each minute. The dial has a tone-on-tone waffle-like appearance which complements the other aesthetic details of the watch. The dial colors are either white with gold markers and hands, black with silver markers and hands, silver with gold markers and hands, or my favorite, an opaline blue dial with blue markers and hands.
The date window sits at the three position. The mechanical self-winding caliber T601 movement has a power reserve of 38 hours. The watch retails for approximately $1800.00. with a strap or $1900.00. with a steel bracelet. The bracelet has a seven-row design with polished center links, brushed external links, and a folding clasp with a safety catch.
16. IWC Davinci Automatic 36
An elegant refined watch with a simple bold design and luxury appointments. The stainless steel case sits 9.9mm high and is highly polished with oversized polished lugs. It sports a large fluted crown and has a convex sapphire crystal that has an anti-reflective coating on both sides. The caliber 35111 automatic self-winding movement vibrates at 28,800 Vph. It incorporates 25 jewels, has 163 components, and has a power reserve of 42 hours.
As per the IWC corporate website, the watch comes in two configurations. The strapped model is available in a rich blue color with silver Arabic numerals, hands, and markings. It is completed with a blue alligator strap and retails for about $5550.00. The all-stainless steel model has a white dial with gold Arabic numerals, markers, and hour hands, with a blue seconds hand and retails for about $6600.00.
17. Oris Herzog Loibner Edition
This wristwatch is limited to a production of 250 pieces. The unique attribute of the timepiece is that the case is constructed of bronze (with a stainless steel case back) and the bezel is set with 50 black diamonds weighing 1.5 carats. The black diamond bezel complements the dark brown dial which has a date window at the six o’clock position and hands and indexes treated with SuperLumiNova. The black leather strap with a bronze buckle completes the distinctive appearance of this limited edition.
The watch has a bronze screw-in crown and is water-resistant to 100 meters. The Oris caliber 733 automatic self-winding movement vibrates at 28,800 Vph. It has 26 jewels and a power reserve of 38 hours. A domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating on the inside protects the watch from scratches. The approximate retail price of this watch is $3400.00.
The Rolex President is one of the most iconic models of the Rolex brand. The watch was first launched in 1956 and was the first waterproof self-winding chronometer to indicate the day of the week in 26 languages. The watch got its name when then-U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson was photographed wearing one on his wrist.
Rolex, possessing the marketing genius they are known for, began running ads with the tagline “The president’s watch.” And as they say, the rest is history. This model is easily one of the most recognizable Swiss luxury watches in the world. The watch features a day display at the twelve o’clock position as well as a day window at the three positions.
The date is magnified by the cyclops window that is part of the sapphire crystal. The oyster case is comprised of a screw-down case back and bezel, and a screw-down Twinlock crown. The in-house caliber 3255 automatic self-winding movements is a COSC-certified chronometer and accurate to -2/+2 seconds per day.
The movement features a blue parachrom hairspring, a Rolex “Chronergy” escapement protecting the movement from magnetic forces, and a power reserve of 70 hours. The President is only available in either 18-carat white or yellow gold, 950 platinum, or 18 Carat “Everose” gold and will set you back at least $33,950.00. depending upon the model.
19. Grand Seiko Heritage Collection (SBGW291)
This watch is 36.5mm in diameter and I have included it because of the quality of the timepiece and the almost negligible .5mm. increase in diameter. The case is made of stainless steel and has a screw-down case back. The crystal is antireflective on the inner surface and protects the clean and uncluttered simplicity of the silver dial which also has silver markers and hands.
The caliber 9S64 manual wind movement is one of Grand Seiko’s in-house creations and offers an accuracy of +10/-1 seconds per day. The movement has 24 jewels and a power reserve of 72 hours. It is water resistant to 100 meters. With a black crocodile strap, the watch has an approximate retail price of $5200.00.
Nomos watches are manufactured in Germany and are highly esteemed for their mechanical movements. This watch is constructed of stainless steel with a sapphire glass back that is fixed with six screws. The watch is thin and stands at 9.6mm. on the wrist. It also features a screw crown and a crown guard contributing to its water resistance of 200 meters.
The front has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The automatic self-winding in-house caliber DUW3001 movement has 27 jewels and a power reserve of 43 hours. The escapement is the exclusively created Nomos swing system and is visible through the back glass. The beautifully appointed dial is galvanized, white silver plated, and has hour indexes filled with SuperLumiNova.
The rhodium-plated hands are inlaid with light blue SuperLumiNova. There is a seconds dial at the twelve o’clock position and is accented with a neon orange seconds hand. There are Arabic numerals at the 2, 4, 8, 10, and 12 o’clock positions. Completing the watch is a textile strap with a square stainless steel winged clasp. This model is also available with either a siren red, siren white, siren blue, or Atlantic-colored dial and retails for approximately $4020.00.
Final Thoughts…Beyond The Twenty
As I mentioned earlier in this article, there are a number of watches available today that either did not make the list because they were not 36mm. in diameter or were specifically marketed as women’s styles on their company’s websites. There are quite a few other choices at 35mm. and 37mm. The following suggestions are for consideration and worth pursuing if you are not put off by purchasing what has been characterized as a “ladies’ watch” that might look equally as well on a man’s wrist.
Except for the Breitling, these models have been included because they represent some of the finest Swiss watch manufacturers that do not currently offer a gents watch in a 36mm. case in their collections.
In this article, I will delve into the fascinating world of chronograph wristwatches. Given the constraints of the price range, there are some obvious omissions because their chronograph models far exceed the upper range or are priced below $5000.00. Nonetheless, fifteen different models from fifteen different manufacturers made the list. The various models are manufactured in Japan, Switzerland, Great Britain, and Germany.
One of the most outstanding features of the chronograph wristwatch is the dials. Creating a dial that displays all the various functions of the chronograph can lead to a disordered mess, but these watchmakers have managed to produce beautifully complex dials in a plethora of color combinations with orderly indexes, markings, subdials, tachymeter features, etc. The entire design of the chronograph is a work of art.
Why are Chronographs Special
Chronographs are special in many ways. From their beautiful dial and sundial combinations to the attention to detail in their indexes, hands, and markings, chronographs are timepieces that can be worn every day. They are intricate instruments for measuring time, and distance traveled over time (with the use of the tachymeter), and aviation calculations.
Chronographs are synonymous with adventure and a sports lifestyle. The chronograph dials and subdials remind one of the dashboards on a race car or the gauges in an aviator’s cockpit. They are also, in most cases, the least expensive of the complications that might be found in a wristwatch. The two predominant chronograph movements are either modular or fully integrated.
The modular is a group of mechanics that comprise the chronograph function and can easily be added to an existing base caliber movement. These types are easier for a watchmaker to service. With an integrated movement, everything is part of the base caliber movement. These types are more difficult to service and maintain, and are found in higher priced more expensive chronograph watches.
The following timepieces listed in this article are all chronographs. Some have additional features, but for the most part, they vary in the materials used to construct them, and whether they are available with a strap or a bracelet, or both.
If you are in the market for a luxury chronograph watch within the price range stated, you should be able to satisfy your desire for a new timepiece. There are a number of honorable mentions at the end of certain models. Some brands have more than a few chronograph selections in their collections so I have listed some other excellent considerations for your further research and review.
1. Omega Aqua Terra 150m Chronograph GMT 43mm
A workhorse chronograph marked by an eye-catching dial. The dial is silver colored and finished in a teak concept pattern resembling the deck on a high-end yacht and having white lacquered subdials. It has a small seconds sundial with a GMT hand at 9 o’clock. 60-minute and twelve-hour counters at the three o’clock position with a date function at the six o’clock.
The striking triangular gold-colored indexes and hands are treated with white luminous and accented with black markings on the outer ring of the main dial having numbers at each hour position and lines in between. The case and bracelet are crafted of 316L stainless steel. The case has a diameter of 43 mm. with a thickness of 20 mm. The distance between the lugs is 20 mm.
The watch is outfitted with a domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal having an anti-reflective treatment and is water resistant to 150 meters. The heartbeat of this model is an Omega co-axial caliber 9605 METAS-certified automatic self-winding movement. The movement vibrates at 4 Hz. and features a co-axial escapement, silicon balance spring on a free-sprung balance, and twin barrels mounted in series.
The additional feature of a seethrough back is a bonus and reflects rhodium finishes with Geneva waves in Arabesque adornments. The stainless steel bracelet is completed with a butterfly clasp. The approximate retail price is $9500.00.
Limited-time available retro-inspired chronograph strap watch. The case is constructed of polished stainless steel and measures 42 mm. in diameter and has a thickness of 12.4 mm.
The beautifully detailed green or blue dial is a lacquered domed style with degrade effect. There are two white Arabic numerals at the twelve and six positions with incised indexes, super luminous dots, hands with S-LN inlays, and two auxiliary dials for small seconds and a 30-minute display.
The automatic self-winding movement is an in-house caliber 39.34 vibrating st 28,800 vph with a power reserve of 40 hours. The impeccably finished movement is visible through the rear sapphire crystal. The watch is water resistant to 30 meters.
The classic and iconic Navitimer is available in various combinations of dial colors and subdials and colored straps. Stainless steel case with a diameter of 43 mm. and 134.6 mm. thick. The well-recognized bezel is a bidirectional slide rule giving the watch its distinctive appearance. The timepiece has a cambered sapphire scratchproof glare-proof crystal on both the front and rear of the case.
The dial reflects three subdials for recorded time and is powered by an automatic self-winding movement that vibrates at 28,800 vph and has 47 jewels. The watch retails for approximately $9100.00 on a crocodile strap or $9500.00 on a stainless steel bracelet.
The Cartier Pasha has one of the most distinctive and unforgettable appearances of any of the fine swiss luxury watch brands. With its oversized case and unusual bracelet-to-case attachment and unique bracelet style, this timepiece merits placement on this list of choices. The stainless steel case measures 41 mm. in diameter and 11,97 mm. in thickness.
The steel case is adorned with a fluted crown cap, crown, and push pieces set with synthetic spinels. The case has a sapphire crystal on both the front and the rear of the timepiece. There is a date window between the four and five o’clock positions. The silvered flinique dial has blue steel and diamond-shaped hands. The power comes from an in-house caliber 1904-CH MC mechanical automatic movement. The watch is also water resistant to 100 meters.
Approximate retail price in US dollars of $9750.00 Honorable mention, Santos De Cartier Chronograph (Square shaped case, $9400.00 approximate US dollars).
I have put this timepiece on the list because it is a high-quality chronograph that is available in the price range and one of the only choices if you desire a stainless steel and 18 kt. gold bracelet option. According to Tudor the bezel, crown, and pushers are solid 18 kt. gold and the links in the bracelet are 18 kt. gold caps over stainless steel links.
The case measures 41 mm. in diameter and in addition to the gold is comprised of both polished and satin finishes. It has a screw-down crown with the Tudor rose in relief and screw-down pushers at the two and four-o’clock positions. The bezel is fixed solid 18 kt. yellow gold with a matte black anodized aluminum disc with a tachymetric scale and yellow gold markings. A domed sapphire crystal protects the watch from scratches. The domed champagne-colored dial is augmented with black subdials.
The self-winding automatic caliber MT 5813 movement operates with a bidirectional rotor and has 47 jewels. The power reserve feature is 70 hours, the movement operates at 28,800 vph, and features a date window at the six o’clock position. Finally, the Black Bay is water resistant to 200 meters and has an approximate retail price of $7250.00.
6. Panerai Luminor Chronograph PAM 01218
The Panerai Luminor Chronograph is an essential member of this list due to its unusual and innovative design. This watch will never be mistaken for another brand because of the patented crown-protecting device and pushers located on the left side of the case.
The 44 mm. case is made of 316L brushed stainless steel with a polished stainless steel bezel. The simple yet attractive dial is white colored with luminous Arabic numerals and hour markers. It is marked by a hollowed chronograph minutes counter at three o’clock with small seconds at the nine o’clock position. It has central chronograph seconds hands and a tachymeter scale on the outer ring of the dial. The watch is also available in a black dial version.
Pushers are at the eight and ten o’clock positions. The heartbeat of this watch is an automatic mechanical caliber 9200 movement. It vibrates at 28,800 vph, has 41 jewels, a Glucydor balance, one barrel, and a power reserve of 42 hours. The watch also has an Incabloc anti-shock device. With a stitched alligator strap the timepiece sells for an approximate price of $9400.00 retail.
7. Tag Heuer Carrera 160-Year Anniversary Ltd. Edition
This watch makes the list not because of its limited production numbers, which by the way number 1860 pieces, but because it is a beautiful interpretation of the Carrera chronograph collection. The combination of colors and execution make this a consideration for anyone shopping for a chronograph in this price range.
The combination of brushed and polished stainless steel case measures 44mm. in diameter and stands at 15.27mm. on the wrist. A domed, beveled sapphire crystal protects the dial with the bonus of a sapphire crystal see through back. An all-blue ceramic tachymeter fixed bezel surrounds the round brushed dial with silver subdials, accented with red motion lines in the counter at the three o’clock position. The dial also features applied indexes.
The crown is black PVD-coated steel with pushers at the two and four-o’clock positions. The pushers control the chronograph functions which record ¼ seconds, 30 minutes, and 12 hours of time measured.
The in-house caliber Heuer 02 automatic self-winding movement vibrates at 28,800 vph and has a power reserve of 80 hours. There is also a date window at the twelve position. A seamlessly integrated stainless steel bracelet completes the timepiece and it is water-resistant to 100 meters.
The approximate retail price is $6250.00.
Carrera 44mm. Green Dial Stainless Steel $6050.00.
This limited edition (1000 pieces) chronograph is inspired by a rich history of Italian road racing. The attraction of this model is the beautifully appointed dial paired with a perforated brown leather calfskin strap with a folding clasp. The dial’s unique appearance is a silver color which is obtained by a galvanic treatment. The 44mm. stainless steel case features a glare-proof scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and screw-down crown, and is water resistant to 100 meters.
The COSC-certified automatic self-winding movement vibrates at 28,800 vph, has 240 components, 25 jewels, and a power reserve capacity of 48 hours. The movement features a flat balance spring, a three-spoke balance wheel, and a heavy metal oscillating weight.
Approximate retail price of $7770.00. Honorable mention, Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph (strap) $5910.00.
This choice makes the list as it is the only skeleton chronograph both front and back within the price range. It is also a beautifully finished movement with unique gray and silver coloring of its parts in lieu of a typical watch dial. The skeleton dial is on a sapphire base plate with external printing in black and all other printing in silver powder. The hours and minutes hands are treated in luminous and are completed with a blued seconds hand.
The case measures 44mm. and is constructed of stainless steel with a sapphire crystal. The timepiece features hours, minutes, and small seconds at the nine o’clock position, 30 minutes at the three position, and chronograph seconds by the central hand. Arabic numerals on the bezel are at the 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 o’clock positions and are in increments as follows; 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60. The crown is adorned with black PVD coating and the push-pieces are hexagonally shaped and at the two and four-o’clock positions.
The self-winding automatic ML206 caliber movement is based on the Valjoux 7750. This movement vibrates at 28,800 vph, has 25 jewels, and a power reserve of 48 hours. The movement is rhodium plated and reflects Cotes de Geneva finishes. The watch is water resistant to 660 feet. A stitched black leather strap with the Maurice Lacroix logo completes the watch.
The approximate retail price is $7600.00.
10. Bucherer Manero Flyback
The flyback is an advanced chronograph function that enables the rapid restarting of the timer function while the chronograph is still running. This timepiece has this function but also the aesthetics and refinement of a watch to be worn every day and in a variety of settings. For review, I chose the white dial but this model comes in an array of colors with complimentary strap colors outfitted with a folding clasp, or with a steel bracelet.
The 43mm. diameter case stands at 14.5mm. In height on the wrist and is comprised of stainless steel. A double-domed sapphire crystal has an anti-reflective coating on both sides. The rear of the case also sports a sapphire crystal. The dial features two subdials at the three and nine o’clock positions as well as silver wedge-shaped indexes and hands and a red seconds hand. There is also a tachymeter on the outer dial ring.
The caliber CFB1970 automatic self-winding movement vibrates at 28,800 vph, has 25 jewels, and a power reserve of 42 hours. A date window at the 6 o’clock position adds to the functionality of the timepiece. The watch is water-resistant to 30 meters. The approximate retail price with a strap is $7100.00 or in all stainless steel at $7400.00.
The BRO5 is as interesting as is functional with its unique blend of round and square shapes as well as its blend of modern and retro stylings. The watch case measures 42mm. in diameter, has a satin and polished steel screw-down crown, and is water resistant to 100 meters. An antireflective-coated sapphire crystal protects the dial and there is an additional sapphire crystal on the back of the watch displaying the movement.
The automatic self-winding movement is a BR caliber 301 that vibrates at 28,800 vph, has 37 jewels, and a power reserve of 42 hours. The dial is a blue sunray finish with SuperLumiNova-filled numerals and indexes. The metal skeletonized hour and minute hands are filled with SuperLumiNova too.
The minute counter is at the nine position and the small seconds are at the three. The date window sits between the four and five o’clock positions. The approximate retail price with a blue rubber strap is $6200.00. or $6700.00. with a stainless steel bracelet.
The stainless steel case is 43.5mm. in diameter and 16.1mm. thick. The silver pearl-finished dial has dual vertically stacked subdials in line with the one and five-hour markers. There is also another sundial at the nine o’clock position which is a power reserve indicator. A date window is located at the three o’clock position. The case has a screw-down fluted crown and two fluted pushers all in stainless steel.
The front has a dual-curved sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating and the rear has a sapphire crystal as well. The caliber 9R86 movement has 50 jewels and a power reserve of 72 hours. Other features include a dual-time display function, magnetic resistance up to 4800A/m, water resistance of 100 meters, and a three-fold clasp with a push button release. The approximate retail price is $8200.00.
13. Zenith Chronomaster Open
The allure of this particular timepiece is the partial skeletal dial and the movement is a 1/10th of a second chronograph where the central chronograph hand makes one turn every 10 seconds. As mentioned, the matte silver dial has tricolored counters and a transparent counter for the running seconds. The transparent counter also reveals the escapement wheel and pallet lever crafted in lubricant-free silicon.
The 60-minute counter is at the six position, the 60-second counter is at the three, and the small seconds are at the nine position. The case measures 39.5mm. across and is crafted in stainless steel and has a water resistance of 330 feet. The self-winding automatic El Primero caliber 3604 1/10th of a second is the workhorse of this model. It vibrates at 36,000 vph, has 269 components, and has a 60-hour power reserve. Stainless steel case with strap, approx. retail $9500.00. In all steel is $10,000.00.
Chronomaster Original Hodinkee (all stainless steel) $9500.00.
Chronomaster Revival El Primero A3817 (stainless steel case with strap) $8400.00. (all steel) $9,000.00.
Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Rescue (in either stainless steel or bronze case with strap) $7900.00.
14. IWC Ingenieur Chronograph
The Ingenieur is one of several chronographs available from the IWC collection. The stainless steel case has a diameter of 42.3mm. and is 14.9mm. thick. There is a fluted screw-down crown and rounded rectangular pushers at the two and four-o’clock positions. It has a sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating in front and a sapphire crystal exposing the movement in the back.
The silver-plated dial with luminescence has three subdials at the six, nine, and twelve positions. There is a date window at the three position. The in-house produced caliber 69375 automatic mechanical movement vibrates at 28,800 vph, has 227 components, 33 jewels, and a power reserve of 46 hours. The Ingenieur is water-resistant to 120 meters.
The movement is adorned with Cotes de Geneva finishes beautifully visible through the see-through back and the watch is completed with a nicely integrated stainless steel bracelet. The approximate retail price is $8200.00
The interesting backstory on this particular chronograph is that it is the only British-made timepiece on my list. It is also distinct enough to stand on its own and not overlap with other chronograph styles. The three-piece case construction has a DLC-coated middle case barrel and is an earmark of Bremont watch designs.
The case measures 43mm. in diameter and stands 15.8 mm. on the wrist. A bidirectional ceramic bezel surrounds the metal dial with an integrated dial ring and has bronze-colored hands filled with Super LumiNova. The bezel has Arabic numerals, from 2-22 (only even numbers) with bronze indexes in lieu of the odd numbers. The subdials are situated at the 6, 9, and 12 positions. The dial is available in blue with silver subdials or black with silver subs. The case features a screw-down crown and screw-down chronograph pushers.
The domed crystal is a scratch-resistant sapphire with an anti-reflective coating. The mechanical automatic chronometer rated LaJoux caliber 7754 movement vibrates at 28,800 vph, has 25 jewels, a glucydor balance, anachron balance spring, and a power reserve of 42 hours. The watch has a GMT feature and is water resistant to 200 meters. The approximate retail price of the rubber strap model is $6795.00. and with a stainless steel bracelet is $7395.00.