My Cart

Close

Open Heart Watches - 7 Affordable and Interesting Models

Posted on October 16 2021

The Best Open Heart Watches

'Form and function'.

As soon as you start browsing the net for watches you'll see that phrase. Watches are marketed as being a marriage of form and function. And it's true. The best watches do strike the right balance between being a tool and a piece of art.

The art includes the mechanics of a watch. People want to see that. They want to see how it functions and want to view the movement as it runs.

Sometimes this is the full movement displayed through the case back. Or it could be some of the movement seen through the front of the watch.

And sometimes it could be a small window to display the balance wheel - the beating heart of a mechanical watch.

Let's briefly look at the technical side and then I'll show you my seven favourite affordable open heart watches.

What is an Open Heart Watch?


The idea behind an open heart watch is very simple. The dial of the watch has a small window that allows you to view the balance wheel.

That's it. The balance wheel rotates back and forth in your watch with each swing being called either a beat or a tick. The video below shows the balance wheel in action.



It wasn't until the 1970s that a brand marketed the idea that the balance wheel is a watches beating heart.

Since then it has become an established design, distinct from a skeleton watch. Instead of showing the full movement at the front of the watch - often making the watch tough to read - the open heart simply displays the balance wheel.

It's an interesting look that is difficult to pull off.

For a start, the movement has to be of a design that has a visible balance wheel. There shouldn't be any obstructions either. As you'll notice few open heart watches have a date - the date wheel could cover the balance wheel.

The symmetry is a challenge too. It can be tricky to keep the design of the dial coherent.

I guess that's why there aren't iconic open heart models. Not in the way that the Rolex Submariner is an iconic diver's watch and the Breitling Navitimer is a famous aviation model.

I'd suggest that is because it's easy to make a mess of an open heart design. It doesn't help that there's no real functional reason to show the watches inner workings.

But as I noted above, for many of us watches are appealing because of their aesthetics. Because we love the designs and view them as art that we wear. We also have mechanical watches because we appreciate the engineering that keeps them ticking. Why not view this in action?

The 7 Best Affordable Open Heart Watches


It's difficult to find open heart watches that don't look tacky. Particularly at the affordable end of the market.

But they are out there.

So here are my seven favourite models. I've included a range of price points and a variety of styles. There should be at least one that will appeal to your tastes.
Ingersoll Regent Open Heart Watch

Many open heart watches look delicate. Almost feminine. But this model from American brand Ingersoll is a large watch that has a masculine design.

And when I say large, I do mean large. This beast is 47mm wide. If that's not a dealbreaker, then this is a very affordable way to get an open heart design.

In one form or another, Ingersoll has been continuously producing watches since the late 1880s. They’re best known for their innovation around the mass-production of watches, their licencing deals with Disney and their association with Timex.

So this watch is from a brand with heritage.

It's an interesting piece that does a couple of things that I really like. Firstly, it has placed the open heart window centrally. Along with the date and month sub-dials, this creates a nice symmetry.

Next are the numerals. They're gold and bold. Large numbers at the important positions of 12, 3, 6 and 9.

Along with the large contrasting hands, this makes the Regent surprisingly legible. Particularly considering how many functions that it has.

And when I mentioned that most open heart watches avoid complicating things with a date window? Ingersoll's watch manages to include a date without compromising on the cut-out section.

To do all this, they've increased the size of the watch and dial. If you're ok with that then this is an inexpensive way to get a masculine take on the open heart style.

Ingersoll Regent Automatic I00304

  • 47mm Diameter
  • 16mm Thick
  • 24mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic Open Heart Watch
This is another beauty from an American Heritage brand. Albeit one now based in Switzerland.

It's a step up from the Ingersoll in both quality and price. But a quick run-down of the details will make clear why. This is a Swiss-made piece, with a sapphire crystal and a Swiss automatic movement.

At 42mm wide it's a more comfortable size and features more cut-outs than just a balance wheel display.

It might not seem like an obvious style for Hamilton. They're known more for their military watches and work with the early railroads. But remember, they're also the brand that Elvis wore.

The Jazzmaster line contains their refined and dressy models. And this model certainly ticks those boxes.

The dial is less busy than the Ingersoll. The Jazzmaster is a simple three-handed model, without a date. That simplicity, matched with a plain dial, means that the Hamilton can display more of the movement. It does this through two cut-outs, the upper one showing the balance wheel.

I like the look. Whilst not quite understated, it's tasteful. The cut-outs are quirky, but don't compromise the dressy style.

And, as ever, this is a Swiss-made model that displays those important two words at the foot of the dial. It's a watch that will appeal to buyers wanting an entry-level Swiss model.

Hamilton Jazzmaster H32705121

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 11.4mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 

Seiko Presage 1960s Open Heart Watch

 

This Seiko watch shows how a brand can successfully blend the open heart feature with a sports watch. The Japanese giants have also been able to make a well-balanced watch despite having an asymmetrical dial.

I first highlighted the standard version of this watch in my piece about Seiko recreating classics from their own back catalogue.

The Presage 60s style is a new release that takes its inspiration from a 1960s Seiko chronograph. It's a stunning watch that is available in a couple of colourways. This black Fifty-Fathoms style is the most authentic.

This watch isn't an exact homage to a previous model. Instead, it's influenced by Seiko's Crown Chronograph from 1964. But obviously, this isn't a chronograph.

Still, it borrows heavily from the earlier design, successfully recreating an exciting era for the brand.

It's quite a departure from the bold styling of the Ingersoll and the refinement of the Hamilton. At 40mm, it's smaller than both and, for me, a more comfortable size.

As expected, it recreates a 1960s diving watch look by having a simple black bezel and a spartan black dial. But the cut-out section and 24hr sub-dial transform this watch. Suddenly it's less sporty.

It works too. Despite the first glance fooling my eyes a little, once used to the design I love it. The movement that you can see is a Japanese automatic made in-house by Seiko. It also has Seiko's own Hardlex crystal and a substantial steel bracelet.

This design started as a dive watch. Now it's more than that. And it's more affordable than many of Seiko's newer reissue watches. Ideal if you're a fan of the brand.

Seiko Presage 1960s SSA425J1

  • 40.8mm Diameter
  • 12.8mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic Movement
  • Hardlex Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


Zeppelin Flatline Open Heart Watch
This Zeppelin is one of the more conventional open heart watches on my list. It's not as sporty or busy as some of the others but remains a charming watch.

If you're not familiar with Zeppelin, they're a German brand owned by POINTtec - the company behind Iron Annie, Junkers and Bauhaus. Zeppelin, as you'd expect from the name, is an aviation-inspired brand.

This model is a straightforward watch. The round case is mid-sized and the watch is powered by a Japanese Miyota movement. It features a rich blue dial with a cut-out section that overlaps the sub-second hand.

I like it. The simplicity is welcome and contrasts with watches like the Ingersoll. The indices are plain and the dial, other than the open heart, is tidy.

The slim profile and leather strap make this an obvious choice for an open heart dress watch. But it still retains the character of a Zeppelin piece. There is still a Germanic influence.

Certainly, there's a hint of Bauhaus styling with this model. But the clean minimalist lines are broken by the bold cut-away section.

It's about as subtle as you'll get with an open heart watch and blends minimalism with the complexity of a mechanical watch movement.

Zeppelin Flatline 7364-3

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


Bulova Marine Star Open Heart Watch
I have a soft spot for Bulova. They're an American brand with plenty of history. Most famously they're known for their Lunar Pilot moon watch. The cool retro divers that they've reissued in recent years have also been a hit.

I currently have a Bulova Hack military watch and a chronograph from the Marine Star Rolex Daytona homage.

Unfortunately, the brand also has some uninspiring models. They're aimed at shoppers on the high street and in malls. A number of these are open heart models.

So I was surprised when I stumbled across this watch.

It's a Marine Star model, so it's designed for use in and around water. It is equipped with 200M of water resistance.

At first glance, you can see that the Bulova isn't like most other open heart watches. Aside from the Seiko, watches displaying the movement tend to be dressier models.

They are often quite conservative too.

But not this Bulova. It's sporty, angular and colourful. It's a contrast to the other watches I've highlighted.

What surprises me most about this watch is that it contains a number of features that I don't normally like. I'm not a fan of Roman numerals and I don't like sub-dials that cut through the numbers. The Bulova does both.

But taken as a whole, it works.

The angular case, with a screwed down bezel, gives the watch a tough aesthetic. And the orange strap and accents reinforce this.

But the dial? It's textured, uses Roman numerals and has the open heart feature. It's a clash of styles that works better than I'd have predicted. And it makes this Bulova a good option if you want a watch with flair.

Bulova Marine Star 98A226

  • 45mm Diameter
  • 13.5mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

Orient Bambino RA-AG0029N10B Open Heart Watch

This variant of the popular Orient Bambino is a more conservative interpretation of an open heart watch.

The Orient Bambino range has a cult following. They are attractive dress watches that are central to the Japanese brand's offerings. They've been through numerous iterations, with some being minimalist and almost Bauhaus in style. But this watch feels like more of a classic dress watch, albeit with the cut-away section.

It was the vintage styling the drew me to this watch. It's why I love the Bambino range. They're very affordable automatic dress watches with a tasteful vintage aesthetic.

The case is simple. Round and with neat lugs. The dial has a beautiful grey sunburst effect with crisp silver indices and matching hands. Without the open heart section, this would be an understated and elegant piece.

But the visible balance wheel adds another element. It shows the watches mechanical innards - remember, Orient make their movements in-house too.

It has a little more than the standard Bambino. Yes, the features are the same. The same 40mm case, Japanese automatic movement and the vintage-style domed mineral crystal.

But the open heart element certainly makes this more eye-catching. The Orient is a great example of a tasteful open heart design.

Orient Bambino RA-AG0029N10B

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 

Rado Couple Classic Open Heart Watch
The final watch that I want to feature is a beautiful design from the Swiss heritage brand Rado.

It's a stunning piece from an entry-level Swiss company that is often overlooked.

There's more going on with this model than with some of the others. It sits somewhere between an open-heart model and a full skeleton watch. But it's labelled by the brand as an open-heart watch, so let's stick with that.

The Rado Coupole Classic is an interesting watch. By the way, Coupole means dome in French. It's a high-quality Swiss piece with an automatic movement built from an ETA base. It has a sapphire crystal and token water resistance.

Where this watch wins is in the design and attention to detail.

The dial is exquisite and features a gradient outer ring and an inner black section. The inner part houses all the cut-away sections. They are all central and don't intrude on the rest of the dial. The logo has been repositioned to the left.

Let's talk about that logo.

If you're not familiar with the brand you might not appreciate the logo. That little anchor swings back and forth when you wear the watch. Why?

Because the anchor is mounted on an oiled ruby. When it stops spinning it's time to get your watch serviced as it's low on oil.

I mentioned earlier that it can be difficult to pull off an Open-heart design. Simply cutting away a section of the dial - which many manufacturers do - looks messy and unplanned.

The Rado doesn't do that. The design is coherent and balanced. Coupled with Swiss workmanship and high-specs, this is among the best entry-level Swiss models you'll come across. If your budget can take it, have a good look at this watch.

Rado Coupole Classic R22894153

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 11.7mm Thick
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


Conclusion


Designing a tasteful open-heart watch isn't easy. The internet is littered with badly designed watches with cut-away sections.

Some brands have mistakenly thought that just showing the balance wheel is enough. It's not. The design needs to make sense. You can't just randomly display the movement without building this into the watches overall appearance.

But that hasn't stopped watch companies. Particularly at the affordable end of the market.

Well designed and affordable open-heart watches are available. They're just outnumbered by the bad ones.

I've done the hard work for you and created a list of the best examples of well-designed and well-built open heart watches. All priced affordably.

So jump in. Have a closer look at each. And if you have something to say, pop it in the comments below.

Subscribe to my list for updates and offers

Related Posts

The 6 Best Affordable Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Alternatives
The 6 Best Affordable Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Alternatives
The list of truly iconic watches is small. Omega has their moon watch - the Speedmaster. And Rolex has a few iconic m...
Read More
Duxot Watches - The 7 Best Models From Affordable Brand
Duxot Watches - The 7 Best Models From Affordable Brand
Some watch brands have over a hundred years of history. Others are newly launched with social media campaigns that yo...
Read More
The 7 Best Affordable Dive Watches with a Steel Bezel
The 7 Best Affordable Dive Watches with a Steel Bezel
Little changes can make a big difference when it comes to watch designs.Take the Tudor Black Bay as an example. The v...
Read More
Rolex Milsub - 5 Affordable Alternatives to the Military Submariner
Rolex Milsub - 5 Affordable Alternatives to the Military Submariner
When I encourage buyers on a budget to get a homage model I'm often told the same things."Just save up for the watch ...
Read More
Diver's Watches with a Helium Release Valve - 7 Exciting Models
Diver's Watches with a Helium Release Valve - 7 Exciting Models
Many of us love watches because of their technology and workmanship. And most of the time our watches are capable of ...
Read More
W10 Classic Military Watch - 4 Stunning Modern Remakes
W10 Classic Military Watch - 4 Stunning Modern Remakes
Military watches are popular because they're simple. Most military models, particularly vintage ones, follow the same...
Read More

0 comments

Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing