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For the uninitiated, the phrase “skeleton watch” will probably make you think of Halloween. However, for those of us who love and write about watches, the term refers to timepieces that let you see the inner workings normally hidden from sight. Also known as open-case watches, skeleton watches have an open panel on the back (caseback) or front dial that reveals the gears and machinery inside. In some cases, these openings are small and show only a glimpse of the mechanical pieces, while others reveal the entire inner machinery. Regardless of the exact design, all skeleton watches allow the wearer to see how the watch works, while it works, in real-time.
In recent years, skeleton watches have been a popular trend, and some of the best men’s watches of 2020 include this distinctive style. Watchmakers we love such as Fossil, Bulova, Tissot and Timex have released new skeleton watches for men, and these accessories are great conversation starters.
A skeleton watch can be mechanical (meaning you have to wind it), automatic (self-winding) or battery operated. They can come in a variety of watch models from dress to sport to chronograph and beyond. If you’ve always been fascinated by the “how” of things, then a skeleton watch is for you.
How Much Do Skeleton Watches for Men Cost?
Like other men’s timepieces, the best skeleton watches vary in price from under $100 to over $50,000. If you’re looking for luxury timepieces that cost as much as a new car, there are plenty of stylish options for sale. Retailers like Mr. Porter feature luxury skeleton watches that will make any watch collector drool. However, our colleagues at Robb Report are better positioned to recommend luxury goods like this. For our money, the SPY team prefers watches in the $100 to $1,500 price range. At the lower end, you can find great everyday timepieces from brands like Timex that feature an open case. If you want to spend a little more, you can find open-case dress watches from brands like Tissot and Invicta.
For the purposes of this roundup, and the fact that we’re all on a budget right now, we’ve rounded up the best skeleton watches that won’t require you to take out a second mortgage on your home.
1. Bulova Sutton Skeleton Watch
Bulova watches have an excellent reputation; their watches have been worn on men’s and women’s wrists for generations. They always manage to imbue trend and classic styles into whatever they create. Their blue and silver Sutton Skeleton watch is pretty amazing. Right now, it’s on sale at Amazon, and even at its regular Amazon price, it’s still less than some unnamed department stores. The Sutton has a skeleton front and open caseback, so you can literally watch the wheels turn ‘round — sorry for the pun. This self-winding watch is slightly water-resistant, so don’t go swimming wearing it. It’s got a 43mm case and is covered by Bulova’s three-year global warranty.
2. Swatch Swiss Quartz Silicone Strap, Transparent
Remember when you were a kid, and you got your first watch? It was cool looking, super colorful and neat to wear. Swatch brings back that joy with their transparent watches. You can wear this option — clear with primary-colored hands or choose any of the other six clear and primary shade colorways, everything from black to grass green. This skeleton watch also has an open back. At 47mm, it’s a nice sized watch and you get a free battery exchange at any Swatch location.
3. Jazzmaster Skeleton Leather Strap Watch, 40mm
The Hamilton Jazzmaster is a classic men’s timepiece, and the open-case design offers a unique twist that will help you stand out from the crowd. You can find this open-case watch in a variety of styles and materials including both leather and metal straps. While we also love the metal bracelet Jazzmaster, we’re suckers for the brown leather and rose gold combination pictured below. It’s a modern color combination with a classic design, and the end result is a gorgeous timepiece that will earn you compliments wherever you go. This Hamilton watch features Swiss automatic movement, which you can admire like never before with the open front dial.
4. Reef Tiger Skeleton Sport Watch Stainless Steel Luminous Watches RGA792
While Reef Tiger sounds like it should be a brand new watch company, they’ve been cranking out watches since 1898. The company was created by Swiss watch designer Stephane Reef and financier (and friend) Leandro Tiger. While they had setbacks due to WWI and WWII, they persevered in their desire to make quality watches at accessible prices. Their watches look sophisticated and luxe, like this RGA792 model AKA Big Bang Chronograph. It has a stainless steel 45mm case, quartz movement and calfskin leather strap.
5. Tissot T-Classic Chemin Des Tourelles Squelete Skeleton Watch
Tissot is often called an affordable luxury watch. Based in Switzerland, the watch company has long been known for its innovations in the field. While their skeleton watch may be a bit pricey, it will never lose its value. Some people consider them an investment as they do well in the resale market.
6. Timex Waterbury Skeleton Watch, 40mm
For years Timex’s TV commercials had the tag line “takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” The brand is known for its (almost) indestructible watches. Their take on the skeleton watch is to have a window on the face that lets you see the workings tick-tocking away. The back is closed (no window) and it has a leather strap. This watch has a 40-hour power reserve, 21 automatic jewel movement and while you can splash around wearing it, don’t swim or snorkel wearing this watch.
7. Emporio Armani Skeleton Automatic Watch
BEST DESIGNER SKELETON WATCH
If you thought that owning anything from Emporio Armani was out of reach, say hello to their sleek, modern skeleton watch. Armani has actually released a few different skeleton watches in recent years, including some surprisingly affordable timepieces (at least, affordable compared to other designer watches for men). This automatic movement watch has a stylish black leather strap and a small window on the front dial that reveals the inner mechanics. It’s a combination of sporty and dressy, so you can wear it anytime.
8. IK Colouring Mechanical Stainless Steel Skeleton Watch
This skeleton style watch from IK Colouring is great for work or play. It looks smart and has a nice big face, 40mm, and a black strap. This is a mechanical watch, which means that you wind it to power it. Don’t be shocked when you get way more compliments than you’d ever expect on a $27 watch.
9. Kenneth Cole Automatic Skeleton Watch
BEST DESIGNER DEAL
Kenneth Cole’s an activist, shoe designer, fashion designer and watchmaker. His skeleton watch is a nifty combination of silvery stainless steel and black leather. It’s an automatic with a 42.5mm case. The face is covered by a scratch-resistant mineral crystal and it has an open back.