A common assumption that it’s impossible to get a budget-friendly skeletonized watch must be one of the biggest lies ever told.
Whereas it’s true that luxury brands like Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin were first to invest in producing modern-type skeleton timepieces, many affordable names in the watchmaking industry followed suit soon after. And they would’ve been crazy not to.
People immediately fell in love with the uniqueness of the design and the ability to peek at the complex workings of the movement – and they saw skeleton watches as a great way of diversifying their collections.
For most, the stumbling block to getting such watch was (and for some still is) the hefty price tag. To prove that it’s indeed possible to get one without breaking the bank, in this article, I cover 10 best skeleton watches under 300 dollars.
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Top 10 Skeleton Watches Under 300 - Reviewed
Bulova 96A187 Review
Bulova is considered one of the best low-to-mid budget Swiss brands out there. With a history dating back to as far 1875, they are one of the oldest names in the industry. The model described here belongs to Bulova’s Classic Automatic collection which is pretty rich in skeletonized timepieces.
Considering the price of the product and its features, we can label the 96A187 model a solid mid-end timepiece.
The watch comes with a 43mm stainless steel case, meaning it will probably look best on people with mid-to-large wrists. The bracelet, which is made from the same material, has a double-press deployant closure. In general, all-stainless steel watches are one of the toughest to break down so this is great news.
As you can see in the image above, this model has a predominantly silver mineral glass dial with blue hour markers. The central part of the dial is skeletonized, revealing the intricate workings of the timepiece. For maximum transparency possible, there’s also the exhibition caseback.
Like most skeleton watches, this one uses automatic movement. This means the watch is self-wound as long as you wear it. In case you decide to give it a rest for some time, you will have to manually wind it before the next use.
On the waterproofing front, the Bulova skeleton watch can easily withstand a depth of up to 100m. Just like any other Bulova product, it comes with a 3-year Limited Warranty.
Stührling 3920.2 Review
Whereas Bulova is one of the oldest hands in the business, Stuhrling is a relatively new brand on the market. The American company was founded in 1999 and slowly but surely has been gaining the trust of shoppers in the US and worldwide. In most cases, Stuhrling watches won’t cost you an arm and a leg and many of the models present a beautiful see-through design.
At first glance, you can see that the 3920.2 model described here is in contrast to the Bulova model in more than just one way. It’s a really unique looking watch, to begin with. We have to give it to Stührling.
Firstly, the skeletonized part of the dial is much bigger. And it’s only natural that it is so – since the gold case is as massive as 46mm. Whereas the Bulova model above would present itself okay on most wrist sizes, the Stuhrling model here is probably better suited for people with larger-sized ones.
Secondly, the open heart display of the watch is protected by Krysterna glass which is equally reliable to the mineral one used in the previous watch. Also, if you are a fan of leather-made timepieces, you will appreciate the fact that this model includes a calfskin leather strap with classic tang buckle closure.
It won’t come as a surprise that Stührling 3920.2 uses an automatic movement, too. What it has that the previous model doesn’t is a functional GMT subdial, allowing you to track 2 separate time zones. On the left side of the watch face, there’s also the Sun/Moon subdial to keep track of night and day.
The watch is water-resistant up to 50m although I strongly advise against exposing any leather strap watches to frequent contact with any type of fluids. Stührling offers a 2-year International Warranty for all their products.
Fossil ME3181 Review
Fossil is another great proof that good skeleton watches don’t necessarily have to stretch your dollar. The Texas-based company, also known for producing apparel, has recently launched the Townsman collection that’s full of coolest skeleton watches imagined. The ME3181 model presented here certainly backs up that statement with aplomb.
This watch comes with a stainless steel case that’s even bigger than the previous two, boasting a 48mm diameter. The size of the skeletonized part of the dial will be closer to that of the Bulova model than the Stührling watch. Like the previous two watches, Fossil ME3181 also has a transparent caseback.
When it comes to the dial window, it’s made from hardened mineral crystal glass. Just like the Stührling timepiece above, it also comes with a leather band. In this case, the color of the strap is amber and it also includes the standard buckle closure.
The automatic movement of the watch means that you will never need to buy any batteries. While browsing for customer reviews about this particular model, I noticed a repeating “complaint” about a missing second hand. I couldn’t help but have a giggle about it as, of course, it’s not included on purpose! As you can see in the product image above, there’s a subdial located at the 6 o’clock that functions as the “missing” second hand.
Finally, the water-resistance of this watch sits at 50 meters. Whereas it’s okay for shallow swimming, again I advise against doing so too often due to the leather strap. Fossil’s International Warranty period is 2 years.
Stührling 3133.1 Review
The second Stührling watch on the list and you got to admit it, it doesn’t look any less extravagant.
The 3133.1 model you see here comes from an entirely different collection by the American brand but the uniqueness of the skeletonized look is just as impressive. There are three color variations of the watch available: silver case with black strap, gold case with a black strap or rose gold case with brown strap.
The 46mm stainless steel case of this model matches that of the previous Stührling timepiece. The same can be said about the genuine leather strap with a tang buckle closure.
What’s clear to see, though, is the difference in the size of the skeletonized part of the dial. In this case, it pretty much covers the whole watch face – which I personally appreciate a lot. What adds to the skeleton feel of this timepiece is the fully transparent caseback. Further good news is that the durable Krysterna crystal protecting the dial in the previous model is also present here.
Like any other watch on this list, it uses automatic movement. The GMT & Sun/Moon subdials available in the previous Stührling pick are also available with this one.
Going for a swim is possible thanks to the 50ATM (50m) water-resistance. To prevent the leather strap from wearing off too quickly, though, again I recommend doing this only sporadically. Stührling’s 2-year International Warranty, unfortunately, doesn’t cover water-caused damage.
Fossil ME3099 Review
We already had the second Stührling skeleton watch and it’s only fair to list more than one model from Fossil as well.
The watch described here comes from Fossil’s skeleton-only Grant line and is available in three different design variations. Apart from the one you see here, there’s also an all-stainless steel model and one with a rose gold case and navy blue strap. You can make your own choice by clicking here.
Like most skeleton-type watches, it boasts a larger-than-usual stainless steel case (44mm). The skeletonized part of the dial is slightly bigger than in the previous Fossil model, and it doesn’t include the second-measuring subdial. Instead, it uses a standard hand. The dial, which features Roman numeral hour markers and luminous hands, is protected by a mineral glass. The strap is made from calfskin leather and uses tang buckle closure.
Naturally, this Fossil model is also automatic and self-wound. Like most watches on the list, it has a beautiful exhibition caseback through which you can watch the intricate workings of the watch movement. It’s also 50m water-resistant.
Fossil ME3099 Review
The last of the three Fossil timepieces on the list and by no means is it any less eye-catching. Similar to the model above, ME3099 belongs to the Grant collection known for a rich choice of skeleton type watches.
This Fossil model also has a 44mm stainless steel case, and like the one above, it comes with a brown leather strap. To protect it from scratches and cracks, the dial window is made from mineral glass.
Whereas in all previous watches the skeletonized part of the dial is centrally-located, here it covers the left side of the face. What’s clear to see is that it’s considerably smaller. And this is the reason why I thought listing this watch here was a good idea – some people love the open heart design but they don’t want to go overboard with it. Furthermore, this particular model is the only one on the list that doesn’t have a screw-back case.
As we can see, the watch boasts a very unique face. Apart from the skeletonized left part of the dial, we also have three additional sub-dials. The biggest one, which includes the luminous hands, is in fact the one responsible for telling you the time. To the left, there’s a sub-dial showing weekdays and to the right, a separate one functioning as a calendar.
Another aspect that differentiates this Fossil timepiece from any other on the list is the movement. The watch is battery-powered and is one of few skeleton quartz watches available.
With the 50m water-resistance, it’s okay to wear it during a swim but as previously stated, don’t go crazy with it due to the leather band. The watch is covered by a 2-year International Warranty.
Seiko SSA231K1 Review
Next to Bulova, Seiko is another company with an extremely rich and long-standing tradition. Since 1881 foundation, the Japanese watch mogul has gained the trust of millions across the globe. Even though there are not that many Seiko skeleton watches, the few models that are available look pretty neat.
If you prefer timepieces with smaller cases, you should find this Seiko automatic watch quite appealing. With the 41mm size, it’s one of the tiniest from all models listed in the article. Unsurprisingly, it’s made from stainless steel. The watch comes with a brown genuine leather strap with a buckle clasp.
On the white dial, which is protected by scratch-resistant Hardlex glass, there’s additional sub-dial showing time in 24h format. Similar to the Fossil model above, the skeletonized area of the dial is quite small while the caseback is fully transparent. As far as water-resistance is concerned, it is 50m.
Orient RA-AG0005L10A Review
Next to Seiko, Orient is the second Japanese-originating watch brand offering lots of affordable skeleton automatic watches. The watchmaker, founded in 1950, might not be as known as the old hand Seiko but many will find their prices really tempting.
The Orient open heart watch described here belongs to the Bambino collection. It’s available in 4 design variations, all made of a stainless steel case and leather strap. The one you see here is navy blue and the three alternatives are gold, rose gold and white.
It comes with a 40mm case size which is the smallest on the list. If you have a slender wrist or simply prefer smaller cases, you will appreciate this model. The part of the dial with the skeleton design is located at 9 o’clock and is quite tiny. Again, this sounds like a good buy for people that enjoy the minimalistic style. The caseback, on the other hand, is much more transparent.
Water-resistance of this watch sits at 30mm which, combined with the leather strap, rules out swimming. The warranty period for all Orient watches is one year – the shortest from all brands listed here.
Kenneth Cole 10030812 Review
Like Fossil, Kenneth Cole is an American fashion house. It was founded in 1982 by, you guessed it, Kenneth Cole. At first, it was solely a shoe store but swift development allowed for the launch of other fashion goods lines – including timepieces. The New York brand has a lot of nice skeleton watches to its name and it’s probably the most budget-friendly option on the list.
The model you see here is all stainless steel. What makes it clearly stand out from other products is the rectangular shape. Like the Orient model above, the watch has a fairly small, 40mm case. The skeletonized design covers nearly the whole surface of the mineral glass-protected dial. The watch also has a fairly transparent caseback.
This Kenneth Cole timepiece is water-resistant up to 30m, making it not suitable for swimming. The good news is that all Kenneth Cole timepieces are subject to Limited Lifetime Warranty.
Bulova 98A214 Review
Bulova opened up the whole list and the second watch from the Swiss watchmaker closes it as well. As my last affordable skeleton watch recommendation, make way for Bulova 98A214. This particular timepiece belongs to the Sutton collection and is one of the best Swiss-made skeleton watches that don’t break the bank.
Like the previous Bulova watch in the article, it’s made from stainless steel.
The two-tone bracelet uses a deployant clasp with push buttons. The 43mm case has a fully transparent back, allowing for the view of the complex workings of the automatic 21-jewel movement. The central part of the dial that’s skeletonized is of similar size to that in the first Bulova timepiece on the list. The gold hands and hour markers look great with the matching stationary bezel. When it comes to the dial window, it’s made from mineral glass.
The watch is water-resistant up to 30m and, like any other Bulova product, comes with a 3-year Limited Warranty.
Picking The Best Skeletonized Watch Under 300: Final Say
As proved in this article, there are lots of open heart watches that won’t ruin you financially. They might not be as complex and breathtaking as some of the models from the most luxurious brands in the industry but at the same time, they don’t require you to spend a 5 figure sum.
If you have never owned a skeleton watch before, getting a less expensive model at first makes total sense. Should it meet your expectations, you can then work your way up and get a more elaborate and costly timepiece.
To sum up, I hope that my list of the best affordable skeleton watches has provided you with at least a few appealing models to choose from. Should that be the case and you decide to go ahead with the purchase, do let me know which timepiece stole your heart and why.