I want a watch with a skeletonized movement for $1,000 or less, preferably with a leather strap and a rectangular shaped case. Ever seen the Corum Golden Bridge? That’s perfect.
This is not easy. Don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds of $100 17-jewel Asian 6497 clones missing a dial that will hit your doorstep from China in two weeks dead on arrival. You can pick up a Corum Golden Bridge replica online for about $200, no problem. But is there anything good out there for less than $1,000?
I started with Android. Generally not my style and not a watch I would ever think would age well, but I considered the Mystique Ceramic (AD395AKG) with a black leather strap. Retailing at about $500, is it worth the money? The case and movement are unimpressive, but I am picking up on the Golden Bridge vibe. Turn the watch over and the fully gold-plated rotor is there with a glaring MIYOTA stamp, and at that point I ask myself, “Is this the best I can do with $1,000?” The answer is no.
On to Rotary. I get a lot of questions about Rotary and my honest feeling on whether they’re worth the money is “I don’t know.” I hear good and I hear bad, and most of the material I can find on whether Rotary is good quality is people asking on watch forums whether Rotary is a good quality brand. A friend of mine purchased a Swiss Made Rotary skeleton and the yellow gold was too orange so as to look fake. The leather band with a deployant clasp was fairly high quality for a $600 watch, but I was unimpressed with the fit and finish of the case, and my friend told me its accuracy is poor, so bad he sent it back to be regulated. At $400, I think it might be worth it, but am I really doing the best I can with my money? No.
And then you’re done. I have no $800 skeleton with bang for the buck. There isn’t one.
My point is, there is no maximizing the value for your dollar when it comes to these watches. The spectrum of prices drops off between $500 and $2000. The reason is that an ETA 2824-2, a reliable movement for so many styles of watches, costs about $200 to purchase. You’re not going to see an ETA 2824-2 based watch for $200, it just doesn’t make sense. And skeletonized movements require more skill, labor and machinery, so you’re probably looking at around double that for a skeletonized 2824-2. Plus the watch case, bracelet/strap and there isn’t much room for the manufacturer’s profit if the watch is supposed to retail at $1,000. And the opposite is true–you can’t sell a Chinese pocketwatch movement for $1,000. I’m sure I can be proven wrong with some exceptions, but the closest thing you’ll get to a well-made affordable skeletonized watch is Rotary, and you can still do much better if you up your budget to about $2,000.
Enter the Oris Artelier. Wow, what a stunning piece, and this is actually a good watch. Incredibly view into the mechanics through the dial and it still has a guilloche dial ring with nickel-plated applied indices to make telling the time easy. Domed antireflective sapphire crystal. Plus, look through the back at the signature red Oris rotor on the skeletonized Sellita base SW200 movement. It can all be had gray market for about $1,800 on either a stainless steel bracelet or leather band.
In short, while getting a skeleton watch for $600 might be a decent idea, it’s a way better idea to up your budget to $2,000 where Oris produces what I believe is a solid entry-level skeleton. I’m not trying to break the rules of my own game here, but I can’t exactly recommend any skeleton for less than $1,000. Compare this side by side with the Rotary and I think you’ll be sorely disappointed you purchased the Rotary and simultaneously more than happy to pay the extra change for the Oris.