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What is an exhibition case back watch and why do we love them so much?

What is an exhibition case back watch and why do we love them so much?

Nils Rau

Luxury watches can inspire for a variety of reasons. It’s not only the design and the style of the timepiece but also the history of a watch that can inspire. Not infrequently, it’s also the technical aspects of a fine timepiece that can really blow watch enthusiasts away ¬– and it’s no wonder, as even simple mechanical movements are impressive mechanical masterpieces. That’s why we are excited to present you with our top 5 favourite exhibition case back watches, which allow wearers to catch a glimpse into the inner intricacies of their favourite mechanical watches.

What's the difference?

Purchasing a luxury watch with an exhibition case back requires more thought and care than one might think. Relying on the “big three” is not necessarily an option in this case considering Rolex does not manufacture pieces with an exhibition case back while Omega and Breitling only do so sporadically. But there is still hope yet! There are exhibition case back timepieces for each and every preference.

Before we get started, it is important to note the difference between a sapphire or exhibition case back and a skeleton dial. While the latter provides a view of the movement via the front dial of a timepiece, sapphire case backs, as made evident by the name, are installed via the case back of a watch. Exhibition case backs are an elegant option provided to watch lovers who enjoy taking a look at the inner workings of their mechanical timepieces.

1. Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional

1st up on our list of favourite exhibition case back watches is none other than the classic Moonwatch. The timepiece is available in two versions, the first of which comes equipped with a hesalite glass and the second of which is manufactured with a sapphire crystal. As many of you watch enthusiasts already know, the Moonwatch with a hesalite crystal was used in lunar missions and is, thus, considered a major classic among watch aficionados. While hesalite glass has its advantages, sapphire crystal is harder and resistant to scratches. The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional with an exhibition case back is powered by the Omega calibre 1863, which, in contrast to the Omega calibre 1861 equipped in the hesalite glass Moonwatch, offers some optical advantages and embellishments. The calibre 1863 is a manual-winding chronograph movement that features a rhodium-plated finish.

2. Junghans Meister Chronoscope

When one hears the name Junghans, the Max Bill series is the first thing to come to mind. The series was designed with a coherent, simple, yet charming design, which is part of the reason the collection is still so popular today. But there’s more to the watch than its looks. The Junghans Meister Chronoscope is arguably one of the most interesting exhibition case back watches around today. The collection is powered by the automatic Junghans calibre J880.1, which is based on an ETA 7750 Valijoux and makes taking a closer look worthwhile. Incidentally, our timepiece of choice falls on the gilded version of the Junghans Meister Chronoscope.

3. Omega Seamaster 300

It goes without saying that Omega is known for its horological innovations. As a result, Omega pieces are the perfect fit for sapphire case backs, although they are not always fitted with one. The antimagnetic Omega Master Co-Axial calibre 8400 is characterized, among other things, by its co-axial escapement. The mechanism is only installed in Omega watches, offering a very low maintenance movement thanks to low friction. In addition to being an original design from Omega, the impressive embellishments on the movement make the opportunity to see it worthwhile.

4. Breitling Navitimer 01

The Breitling Navitimer 01 is another exquisite model that houses a manufactory movement. The B01 features a patented adjustment system and a power reserve of 70 hours. The in-house manufactured calibre is so robust and popular that it is now installed in many Breitling chronographs – including the Breitling Navitimer Blacksteel. Therefore, thanks to the B01, you have many chances to sport a Breitling Navitimer with an exhibition case back.

5. IWC Portofino

The IWC Portofino is the perfect example of why an exhibition case back is usually the better option compared to a skeletonized dial. At times, integrating such an extreme aesthetic into a classically beautiful design, such as that of the Portofino, is not easily accomplished. The Portofino houses an exquisite movement and the view through the case back is remarkably beautiful.