There’s nothing like a display caseback for appreciating the ingenuity, beauty, and craftsmanship of a watch movement. A clear case allows you to view the circumnavigation of the rotor, and the subtle dance between the balance and the escapement. Observing a watch’s movement lets you know it’s more than just a well-appointed accessory -- it’s a mechanical marvel. On the wrist, these watches look like any other timepiece, but each time you take it off, you get to witness a tiny miracle of engineering. The integrity of the construction is visible, and that reassurance is priceless for true horology enthusiasts.
Here are three of our favorite watches with visible casebacks because movements this precise and beautiful shouldn’t be locked away under stainless steel.
The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M
It makes sense that Omega, the innovators of the co-axial escapement, would want to show off their patented design. The good looks of this dive watch cover an even more impressive interior. Traditionalists frown at a display case on a dive watch, and it’s true that committing to one takes a fair amount of chutzpah. But waterproofness is a matter of strong seals, not necessarily case materials. Omega uses the same thick sapphire crystal that covers the dial to reveal the movement on the caseback, and the effect is stunning. The visible METAS-approved Master Chronometer 8806 Calibre movement is engraved with Geneva waves and a Sedna rotor in 18k gold. It also features a free-sprung silicon balance spring and is anti-magnetic to at least 1500 gauss.
The Panerai Radiomir 1940 3 Days Automatic Titanio
This double-titanium watch marks the first Radiomir 1940 in titanium, and it doesn’t disappoint. The bezel and crown are a grade 5 titanium alloy that’s polished to a gleaming sheen, while the caseback is in grade 3 titanium -- a lightweight metal that feels nearly weightless on the wrist. The exhibition caseback shows off Panerai’s automatic P.4000 calibre with a tungsten micro-rotor that winds in both directions. With the rotor miniaturized and placed off-center, the balance and escapement are showcased beautifully. Many display back watches play with the size, material, and placement of the rotor so that wearers can view the movement more easily. Panerai shrinks the rotor for ease of viewing, but the movement still feels well-balanced and carefully designed.
The Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch
In our opinion, Omega has leaned on the “Moonwatch” design for far too long on its Speedmaster Professional. But even without its historic background, the Speedmaster is a fantastic offering by Omega. And, for those who love to watch the inner workings of the movement, the exhibition caseback is particularly well-crafted. The Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch can be found in two versions. The non-display caseback has a classic Heslite crystal over the dial. The exhibition caseback reference uses sapphire crystal on the dial and the back. Since it’s on display, the Calibre 1863 is an embellished version of the non-display 1860, and it shows careful attention to detail. The Omega Reference 3572.50 is no longer in production, but it’s worth seeking out if you love the historic resonance of the Speedmaster Professional and the ability to watch that gorgeous movement anytime it’s off the wrist.
Written by Meghan Clark
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