I don’t know about you but I’ve always found the whole idea of skeletonized dials a little perplexing. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the intricacies of this painstaking traditional technique, I most certainly do, rather the issue for me arises when brands fail to achieve the right balance between aesthetic beauty and practical legibility. Overly elaborate designs combined with a poor choice or, worse still, a complete lack of contrasting colour make for wonderfully shiny dials that are enthralling to look at but just about impossible to read, especially on a sunny day.
Fortunately though, when brands do get it right, they get it really right. To help me demonstrate what I mean I have enlisted the aid of the gorgeous new Senator Manual Winding Skeletonized Edition from German watchmaker Glashuette Original. It’s certainly not the most complicated or the most extravagantly decorated skeleton dial watch you will come across but I am sure after a closer look you will realise there is indeed wisdom behind the age old maxim that sometimes less really is more.
Now as you’ve probably already realized, the practice of skeletonizing a movement doesn’t really serve any practical purpose, other than possibly reducing the overall weight of the watch. Rather, this is an exercise in showmanship, it’s all about the artisan or artisans involved demonstrating a mastery of their craft. In effect the movement becomes a canvas with the watch being transformed from a simple time-keeper to a bona fide work of art.
This manner of decorating the movement is almost as old as the craft of watchmaking of itself and is distinctly different from the more modern skeletonized ‘floating’ movements which have been pioneered (and popularized) by brands like Richard Mille and Franc Vila. Although those types of movements may also be decorated, the focus there is more on weight reduction and pioneering the use of new materials, all of which is very interesting and important however probably not particularly relevant to our discussion today.
Turning our attention back to the Glashütte Original Senator Manual Winding Skeletonized Edition, the first thing I would like to point out is the gorgeous 18k red gold case. Now given that this a very classically styled watch, the case size is particularly important; too small and the dial will appear cramped, limiting the space available for decoration, too large and it will simply look gaudy on the wrist.
Fortunately Glashuette Original have given this some thought and so have chosen to present the piece in a nicely sized 42mm case. Now, personally I would prefer a watch of this style in a 39mm or 40mm case but in this instance I think the slightly larger diameter is actually justified and doesn’t detract from the overall wearability of the watch. This is certainly helped by the fact that the case is only 9.5mm high and as such sits very flat on the wrist, easily sliding away under a shirt cuff as needed.
The slightly larger case also means that there is plenty of room for the dial, thus ensuring that legibility will not be an issue. As you can see in the photos the main highlight is the open-worked, highly decorated galvanized steel movement that occupies the space in the middle of the dial. There is a lot of detail to take in but it is not overwhelming, in fact if anything it could be described as subtle compared to what’s happening on the other side but we’ll get to that in due course.
Importantly though, in my opinion at least, the dial is also easy to read with the flame-blued hands providing the perfect contrast against the predominantly silver background, whilst the black railroad minute ring with finely drawn roman numerals adds just that little bit of extra functionality. They’re subtle touches perhaps but ones that make a real difference to legibility, allowing the eye to quickly and easily focus on the main indications when you casually glance down at your wrist.
Of course, if you were looking for something a little more elaborate, perhaps even a little showier, than all you need do is turn the Senator Manual Winding Skeletonized Edition over. Here we see that the artisans involved in the creation of this timepiece have truly mastered their craft. Quite simply put the skeletonized Calibre 49-18 is a work of horological art. Winding wheels with double sun-burst decoration, screw mounted gold chatons with blued screws, hand engraved plates and a lavishly finished fine swan-neck adjustment, this watch is the poster child for everything we love about the way German watchmakers finish their movements.
Offering a 40-hour power reserve when fully-wound the red gold Senator Manual Winding Skeletonized Edition is fitted with a matte black Louisiana alligator leather strap and matching red gold folding clasp. On the wrist it is light and comfortable, although the red gold gives it just enough weight that you know you’re wearing something of real value.
Available now the Glashütte Original Senator Manual Winding Skeletonized Edition is priced at US$37,100.