DeWitt is a very niche Swiss brand that likes to remind you that owner Jerome DeWitt is a descendent of Napoleon Bonaparte. While that is kind of cool for him, the brand mostly gets our attention with technical horology and unexpected designs. The avant-garde Academia collection with its rare complications is the brand’s signature, and the new DeWitt Academia Skeleton is the latest addition. While the name of the watch would seem to suggest that the skeletonization is the main show, it is the “bi-retrograde” seconds hand that stands out the most.Note the giant semi-dial at 7 o’clock, with an inner 0-30 scale and outer 30-60 scale. It could have been a regular retrograde seconds hand that jumps back to the beginning – but no, we’ve seen that before. So, upon reaching the end of the lower scale at 30, the seconds hand juts forward to extend to the upper scale and begins its sweep slowly back in the opposite direction. At 60, of course, it retracts back to zero. The video will help you understand better than my description.
It’s really just a novel way of displaying the seconds, but let’s face it, mechanical watches are very much like tiny Rube Goldberg machines, anyway: exceedingly complex but mesmerizing ways of accomplishing relatively basic functions, such as indicating the time. And at the high end of horology, around DeWitt’s neighborhood, where little expense in terms of time or money is spared, it gets even more complex – and mesmerizing.
While we don’t have any caseback images of the watch, we can pretty clearly see everything going on in the movement from the dial side of the DeWitt Academia Skeleton. The power reserve of over 100 hours is displayed up around 2:30 – and we like power reserve indicators, particularly on manually wound movements like this DW1105S. But next to that, at around 10:30, you can see the large double barrel that is open to also show you exactly how tightly the mainspring is wound. And the balance wheel can be seen twitching away at 3Hz (21,600bph) around 4:30, providing even more eye-candy animation.
On top of all that and the contemporary skeletonized movement, the rose gold hands seem to do a pretty good job of being legible and contrasting with the mostly brushed “black gold” (not oil) surfaces. The rose gold hands match the DeWitt Academia Skeleton’s rose gold case that is 42.5mm wide and 10.25mm thick – which promises some wrist presence, but also to be pretty wearable. On the case sides, black rubber forms what the company calls “Dewitt imperial columns.” The DeWitt Academia Skeleton case is water resistant to 30m, no surprise there, and the lug width is a less common 21mm – so you may have a little more trouble finding a nato strap to fit it.One of the reasons things like tourbillons are so popular is that they not only display the mechanical complexity that we so enjoy watching, but they are highly animated. Simply finding a way to display the balance wheel from the dial side is another way many watchmakers have added mechanical sparkle to a watch. Even just a sweeping seconds hand will do – animation of any kind adds a lot to a watch face. That’s why the windshield-wiper seconds hand here, with its stabbing and jerkily retracting motion every thirty seconds, is worth all the obviously necessary extra engineering. That combined with the DeWitt Academia Skeleton’s “openwork” movement provides a good deal of horological entertainment for a price of $85,800.