The concept of a skeleton watches intrigues me, but the execution (at least for affordable ones) usually leaves underwhelmed. I love the way that the mechanical movements are exposed, but they end up visually very busy, and they tend to be overly ornate. When Tissot offered to loan me the Tissot Chemin des Tourelles Squelette for a review, I jumped at the opportunity. Here was a watch that looked modern and readable, while still showing off the mechanical movement that makes a skeleton interesting. Unbeknownst to me, Patrick also decided to review this watch, albeit for A Blog To Watch. He didn’t get it hands on, but his impression was that the watch lacked some of the showmanship that you see on really high end skeleton watches, but still had a design that was readable while showing off the important parts.
The “Chemin des Tourelles” part of the name pays homage to the street in LeLocle where Tissot has maintained a watchmaking factory for its 162 year of experience, while Squelette is French for Skeleton. The base movement is an ETA 6497-1, hand wound, beating at 18,800 vph. I don’t know how much of the customization and finishing Tissot does in house, but the movement is also used in the Tissot T-Complication Squelette, although the finishing, bridges, and baseplates are all fairly different.
Tissot sent me the me the rose gold PVD plated version for the review, and a stainless version is also available. Frankly the later would be my choice in making a purchase, in part because I don’t care much for rose gold, but mainly because I love the blued hands on the stainless version. The rose gold uses dark grey handset that would probably look great against a lighter dial, but does not leap out against the stainless movement. It is not hard to read, but it is not distinct either. The sub dial for the second hand at 9:00 definitely blends into the movement, especially at arm’s length.
The chapter markings are applied rose gold (or blue on the other version) Roman numerals at the compass points and bars elsewhere, supported by a skeletonized black chapter ring that does a good job in enhancing the look of the watch. The markings for the second hand sub dial loops off the chapter ring. Three jewels and the ends of two blued screws can be seen up front, but the gold toned center wheel and third wheel provide the main color contrast. And I think the design works well. While other skeletons can be busy to read, the Tissot more hints at the movements behind the mechanism. The beating of the balance and the escape are visible through the front of the watch, but they are also mainly hidden from view by the bridge spanning from 11:00 to 1:00. They are there, you can see them, but they are not mesmerizing. Since the T-Complication shows off more of these parts, my guess is that partially obscuring them is a design choice. I do think, however, that using Arabic numbers instead of the Roman numbers would be more fitting with the modern look of the design.
What you do get a lot of up front is the bridging and the stippled finishing. About half the exposed metal has a fine, overlapping circular polish, while most of the remaining surfaces have a matte finish, with some brushed. Overall, it is a very modern, machined look to the dial. Also, the watch can radically change how it looks based on how it catches the light. The images here are not manipulated, there really is a vast difference in look depending on the angle of the watch to the light. With this level of skeletonization, there are only a few spots where you can peer all the way through the dial. If you are a fan of the more open skeleton dials, this is may not appeal to you, but I find most of the affordable skeletons have to use a movement with details that do not stand up to close inspection, while the detailing in this watch is quite nice (although where this falls in the “affordable” spectrum is open to debate).
The back of the watch, however, is where the real visual interest comes in. Like the front, it is protected by a sapphire crystal, though it is flat as opposed to the slightly curved one protecting the dial. Like the detailing up front, the metal of the base plate is stippled, with the rest of the bridging done in a matte finish. The crown wheel and ratchet are machined with a fine, rotor like pattern and cut-outs in both wheels enhance the machined look. The balance and balance spring are on full display here as well. The blued flathead screws and another 5 jewels (out of the 17 total) add some nice contrasting colors.
There are three strap options, a black or brown leather strap or a stainless bracelet. In keeping with the look of a dress watch, the strap is 20mm, though I think it could have supported a wider, sportier 22mm strap. Again, to my eyes, this is a really attractive modern take on the skeleton, and a more modern looking strap would pair well with it. The straps are supplied with a butterfly clasp, which works very smoothly. The buckle is matched to the case. I have not seen the bracelet, though there is an image of it with the rest of the line-up. I do not see it for sale yet on the Tissot web site, so it may not yet be released.
In daily wear, the watch is very comfortable. The butterfly clasp expands enough that it is easy to slip it over my hand when putting it on or taking it off. The strap is comfortable and the entire watch is nice and light. The manually wound movement has a 46 hour power reserve, so it needs to be wound every day or so, and winding produces a satisfying ratcheting sound. The crown could be a little deeper, but as it is now, it can be wound both on and off the wrist. There is no lume on the watch, so reading it in the dark is not an option with this model. I think the handset could have supported some lume without detracting from the overall look, but about half of the skeletonized watches I see go without lume, so this is not abnormal for the type of watch.
In summary, and in spite of the little things I would have changed, I really like this watch. It is visually interesting without being overly busy, and it is a modern looking skeleton, where so many I see end up looking overly ornate. It is also not inexpensive (though everyone has different definitions of that term), so the watch as priced is a bit out of my range. The rose gold goes for $2,200, while the stainless with the blued hands lists for $2,050. For that, you get a Swiss made watch with an ETA hand wound movement and a fair bit of customization and finishing. As always, we invite you to weigh in with your opinions in the comments below. tissot.ch
- Brand & Model: Tissot Chemin des Tourelles Squelette
- Price: $2,050 to $2,200 depending on strap option
- Who we think it might be for: The same people who buy stainless appliances.
- Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: This falls into the aspirational cost range for me, but I really like the design.
- If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: I have a couple, but Arabic numerals would be a key one.
- What spoke to me the most about this watch: The modern, industrial look of the skeleton.
Tech Specs from Tissot
- Movement : ETA 6497-1 Hand wound mechanical
- Functions : Sub dial seconds hand
- Case : 316L stainless steel with optional rose gold PVD
- Glass : Domed Sapphire
- Water resistance : 50 meters
- Lug width : 22mm (drilled)
- Straps : Black or brown crocodile textured leather with butterfly clasp or stainless bracelet
- Diameter : 42mm
- Length : Not specified
- Case height : 11.1 mm
- Weight of watch head : 72 g