I have long been fascinated with skeletonized watches. Apart from the sweep of the second hand, there is not a lot to indicate that a watch is an automatic, especially if it is on your wrist and the caseback is not in view. With a skeleton, the guts are on display with the balance wheel, at the very least, ticking away the time. The Earnshaw Longcase brings a skeletonized automatic down to an attractive price point, with the list at $640 ($600 for stainless), but the street price can be significantly lower.
Of course, at that price point, you have to make some sacrifices. So no, you are not getting a name brand Swiss or Japanese movement. At the heart of the watch is a Chinese PTS Resources LTTR01 movement, running at 21,600 bph. It is designed for skeleton watches, so it is highly decorated. You do not get the level of detail you would expect with a high end watch, but if you are not viewing the movement under high magnification, the detailing is quite nice. Setting off the gold tones of the review sample are plated and heated blued hands, a touch I have really come to like.
The rotor has also been skeletonized, and there is more engraving to be seen through the exhibition caseback as well. The review copy I was lent was yellow gold plated stainless steel 48 mm case, and the movement was plated to match. Also on offer is a rose gold (on either a brown or black leather strap) and a stainless watch on a black leather strap. The movements in the rose gold and stainless versions match the case. The movement kept good time, but it did not have a significant power reserve (it is listed by PTS with a 36 hour reserve). The information package with the watch stated that is should be worn daily for avoid resetting, though it can be manually wound.
For daily wear, it is comfortable, but it sits a bit taller than I would want for a dress watch. It isn’t so tall it is not going to fit under a cuff, but I would want something a bit thinner. Of course, at this price, something has to give. The strap was attractive, well detailed and comfortable, but the signature buckle was a bit puzzling. There is an extra little “whale tail” that extends into the opening, where the pin rests. In removing the watch, it takes a little extra care to get the strap open enough to clear this extra bit. It is distinctive, but I am not sure if it is overly functional.
Probably my biggest issue with the watch is the readability of it. Especially with the gold watch I was wearing, everything is gold. The case, the numbers, and the movement. The blue hands are too small and get lost against the background. There is a white ring that serves a bit as a backdrop for the skeleton chapter ring, but it does not extend all the way out to the end of the ring.
On the Earnshaw web site, the watches are all shown with a handset matching the case, which would make it even less readable. The exception here would be the stainless case, where the chapter ring and the hands are in black. Personally, I think that is the most attractive color combination, and most likely the easiest to read. I would miss the blue hands though.
The watch is water resistant to 5 ATM, and up front is a sapphire coated mineral crystal. The hands each have a dot of lume, but they do not shine that bright in the dark. The second hand is balanced with the double E Earnshaw logo, and it is also printed on the crystal, along with the brand name and the date of that the firm was originally founded, 1805.
So where does this watch sit in the marketplace? As a skeleton, it is cool to look at and the movement is actually far more decorated than I would expect at this price. It is also an automatic, so you have two nice features. The color is a matter of preference, and I know there are plenty of readers who would prefer either the yellow or rose gold over the stainless, which would be my choice. It stands a little tall, but it is an automatic at well under $1,000.
Readability is not great, but you have to sacrifice some of that if you want more than just an open window into the movement, and this offers far more that that. For someone looking to purchase an interesting looking dress automatic, or for someone looking to gift one to a dad or a college graduate, this is worth consideration. thomas-earnshaw.com
- Brand & Model: Thomas Earnshaw LongCase Automatic
- Price: $600 – $640
- Who’s it for?: Someone looking for their first skeletonized automatic watch
- Would I wear it?: Probably not.
- What I’d change: Make the watch a bit thinner and more readable
- The best thing about it: The blue hands and the openness of the movement.