Opening movements is nothing new in the world of watchmaking. It appeared very early in the watchmaking world to facilitate tool maintenance but also to slow down production costs by reducing the amount of rare metals. For a long time and until the invention of “Lépine” platinum, the way watches were made limited the ability to make cuts in their structure open enough to allow the eye to see deep into the heart of the watch. mechanism. However, craftsmen preferred to open the tap to protect the balance wheel from external influences so that its oscillations could be seen.

Pocket watch from the 18th and early 19th centuries with skeletonized hands and visible movement (private collection).

Skeleton watches: the origins of a watchmaking specialty
Finally, the fashion for this cut emerged in the second half of the 19th century, especially in response to the emerging Chinese market. Many of these pocket watches were made in Val-de-Travers, a small valley in the Swiss Jura, and more specifically in the heart of the village of Fleurier, which made the watch a specialty. real product.

Piaget Altiplano skeleton.

At that time, parts were machined in small batches then individually cut by specially trained craftsmen using small bocfil saws, then reworked with files to remove as much material as possible. material as possible and thus allow light to pass through the center of the movement.

The most talented people managed to create real lace, like a spider’s web, which seems to have preserved the gears and wheels useful for the normal functioning of the movements. And because it was useful to emphasize the artistic nature of the object, engravers came to decorate the still metal parts with scrolls and palettes.

This hallmark of mechanical watchmaking ultimately hasn’t changed much in decades, and the way these watches are made has remained largely the same until the 2000s.

Motivate tradition

At the turn of the third millennium, some designers and industrialists questioned the need to develop certain crafts related to watchmaking in order to bring the craft naturally reactionary. this into the future. One of the first stylistic approaches to realizing this revolution was expressed in the way the designers reconsidered the cuts made in the fixed parts of the movement.

Gone are the curves and intricate carvings. It was a time of straight lines, clean lines and large openings. Two of the leading brands in this field are Roger Dubuis and Piaget.

They were followed by Cartier and then all the others except the more classic ones like Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin or Patek Philippe.
​In addition to these three companies and several others that deliberately nurture the past, all of them, such as Richard Mille, Chanel, Hublot, Bvlgari, Ulysse Nardin, Girard-Perregaux, Manufacturing Pequignet and many others, including Michel Herbelin, experimented with contemporary technologies. cut so successfully that they have become a decorative element, almost a mark of high watchmaking.

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