Last week we reviewed the Oris Aquis Date, a representative sample from the brand’s rugged Diving collection. This week, we’re going to stick with the same brand but explore the absolute antithesis of such an adventurous diver as the Aquis. In addition to its sporty collections (Aviation, Motor Sport and Diving), Oris offers an elegant Culture collection. If the Diving models demonstrate Oris’s competence in creating attractive and reliable timekeeping instruments at a reasonable price for active consumers, then the Culture collection is where Oris proves that it can produce watches for any lifestyle and flex some technical muscles–still at such obtainable price points.
In the Culture collection, you’ll find complications, polished cases, slim profiles and clean dials from the likes of the Artix and Artelier lines. The Culture collection is also home to the limited editions that Oris produces, notably the jazz-inspired models like the Miles Davis and the John Coltrane. Today, we’re going hands-on with a generally available selection from the Culture series, the Artelier Skeleton. It’s a dressy, wallet-conscious skeleton watch and overall a superior choice in its category and price range.
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Case & Dial
While far more appropriately sized at 40mm for more formal wear, the stainless steel case shares some design characteristics with its distant diving relatives. Like the Aquis or TT1, the case back diameter is slightly greater than the bezel, so the watch wears a bit smaller than 40mm; in fact, I’d say that on the wrist it looks more like 38mm. The design of the case toes the line between dress and casual. Its modest dimensions and highly polished sides and bezel make it appropriate for dressier occasions while the brushed top of the lugs and multi-piece case construction bring a novel and casually playful look to the watch. The Artelier features a domed, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, a crystal clear lens with no distortion at any angle whatsoever that offers an unobstructed view of the internal machinery.
The Artelier’s face is really the star of the show, although its implementation is relatively muted to promote an elegant tone. Of course, the first thing you’ll see is the exposed and skeletonized automatic movement, which has more to offer if you lean in a bit closer to see the engraving and the contrasts between brushed and polished surfaces of various components on the bottom plate. As with any skeleton watch, the dial is as much of a lesson in mechanical watches as a beautiful way to present the time.
With so much exposed metal between the movement and the hands, legibility on skeleton watches is often a challenge. While Oris isn’t completely off the hook here, the silver guilloche ring around the dial is home to polished triangular steel indices that make it easier to tell the time. Without this ring, the hands, the seconds hand in particular, would disappear into the gears and bridges. The leaf-style watch hands, also highly polished steel, are well proportioned and filled with SuperLumiNova that not only aids in low light visibility but also enhances the general legibility by providing the hands with non-metallic accents that stand out from all the mechanical parts. As with most skeleton watches, I found myself studying the dial for an extra second or two to grasp the time, but since when have skeleton watches been about pure timekeeping?
Unlike the front lens, the exhibition case back uses a mineral crystal to show off the famous Oris red rotor. Sapphire crystal is the standard choice for a transparent case back, especially at this price range, so I’m disappointed that the Artelier uses mineral. Although it’ll spend most time on the wrist where it won’t get scratched, it’s the time off the wrist that concerns me. A variation of the Artelier comes on a stainless steel bracelet and even laying down the watch will cause the steel bracelet and/or clasp to come in contact with the mineral glass where scratches and scuffs are inevitable. With the leather straps, I’m less concerned since the deployant clasp forces you to lay the watch on its side when it’s not in a watch case or on your wrist.
The Artelier Skeleton houses the Oris caliber 734, which utilizes the base caliber SW-200 from Sellita. Functionally, it’s an ETA 2824, but obviously SW-200s don’t just come out of the factory looking like this normally. Oris did a great job skeletonizing the movement and both plates show sufficient but minimalist decoration. What I particularly enjoy about the execution is that, although there’s a swinging red rotor in the back of the watch, Oris still decorated the top plate of the movement. Most of these details are perpetually hidden by the rotor, but the attention to detail pays off when you’re gazing through the case back and negotiating the rotor to get a view at the movement.
Style & Comfort
The leather, polish, case size and elegance of the Artelier Skeleton suggest its intentions as a dressier watch, but the brushed accents and multi-piece case architecture don’t resign it to a suit. You’d have a tough time pulling this one off with a t-shirt and shorts, but even with a nice pair of jeans it’s appropriate for your average office environment, and it’s likely to catch your colleagues’ eyes.
You can purchase the Artelier Skeleton on a black or brown leather strap or a stainless steel 7-link bracelet, the latter of which ups the sportiness and make the watch a bit more versatile. While I appreciate the color of the brown strap, it’s stiff and the crocodile pattern feels papery. The underside of the strap could also be a bit softer. While the strap underperforms, the clasp does not. Oris’s recent models feature deeply engraved, mirror-polished and secure steel deployants with easy-to-use push buttons. There’s even a little bit of unexpected pearlage near the pin that fastens into the sizing holes.
One thing to note is that this deployant fastens “backward” compared to most other clasps. When you orient the watch so the crown is on the right, the loose end of the strap is on top, while on most other watches it’s the other way around. To secure the deployant, you fold the clasp toward, instead of away, from your body. However, you see this from time to time on other watch brands. It’s not right or wrong–just something to be aware of so you don’t jump to conclusions that it’s somehow a defect or try to swap the ends (if you do, then the buckle will be upside down).
The Final Word
A good skeleton watch is difficult to find at an accessible price, so if you want one and have budget constraints then you’re practically running a fool’s errand. In most cases, the finishing required to make a movement suitable to stand on its own will balloon the price and put the watch out of reach for many collectors. Oris delivered the impossible with minimal but tasteful finishing on the movement that allows the watch to come in at $2,600. For the most part, from case to buckle, the Artelier Skeleton is an all around solid production with a few sacrifices made to arrive at its reasonable pricing. While most of all I wish it came on a genuine alligator or crocodile strap, the calf leather is just tolerable and the deployant clasp is top-notch. New collectors, often fascinated with the mechanical workings of watches but typically restrained by the discomfort of spending several thousands on them, will find the Artelier Skeleton to be an especially viable option.