Like the aquarium suite at Atlantis or the glass engine cover on a LaFerrari, the best skeleton watches under $1,000 offer a window to a magical hidden world. Also called cutaway or open-worked watches, skeleton watches are defined by dials that have been carefully excised to reveal all of the tiny pieces of the movement working in unison to make them tick. Like the human skeleton in your high school bio lab, these cutaways allow you to see your watch’s guts in all of their miniaturized mechanical glory, which for anyone with a passion for all things horological, is easily as cool as an exotic fish or a finely-tuned Italian V12.
Skeleton watches have been around since the 1700s, but they’ve soared to new heights in the 21st century as a way for the world’s top brands to tout the complexity and finesse of their latest movements. At the high end, the skeleton dial is the domain of elite makers like Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille, whose perpetual calendars and tourbillons can contain hundreds of precisely calibrated, painstakingly hand-polished parts. You don’t, however, have to spend six figures to add a skeleton to your collection. The selects below—the best skeleton watches you can buy for under $1,000, and often much less—offer a wide array of vibes to fit any budget, along with the opportunity to gain a new appreciation for the anatomy of your ticker.
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