One of the most polarizing complications of a watch is the open heart. But to say it's a complication is kind of underwhelming. After all, I would consider a feature as a complication only if it did something utilitarian (date, GMT, power reserve) or one that is horologically impressive (minute repeater, tourbillion).
The issue. But an open heart is just that -- it exposes what's already in there with not much fan fare. No utility, no horological feat, just standard metal parts made visible by simply cutting open a plate. It's just relatively unimpressive.
To most people, it's a thing of marvel. I mean look at it, it has a jewel in the middle and all. It must be something right? And if you stretch your imagination, the pallet fork that rocks back and forth looks like a two-pronged wizard's staff.
But to the snobbish few (I am one to some extent), it's more of a cheap trick to make it more magnificent than it really is. Like ricing you car. Or increasing your credit card limit. More often than not, it's looked at as a poor man's tourbillion.
The realization. Watches that do make use of open heart movements either simply put a hole in the dial or mount a grill on top of it which does make it tolerable. Others just decorate around the hole which is easy if there are complications beside it like the Miyota cal.82S7. I think the reason it's hard to make such a thing work visually is because the finish of the open heart contrasts ungracefully with the dial: small metal parts versus the pantone colors. Those metal parts aren't even polished to a level like with the hands or the case.
This is somehow not an issue with skeleton watches because at least in those, the idea is to expose the whole movement. For now however, we're not going to debate further if skeleton watches are any better as it does suffer the same stereotyped image as an open heart.
The solution. If I was to design a watch with an open heart, what choices should I take to make it more visually appealing? As mentioned previously, putting a grill on top makes it tolerable but I'd like to do it differently. So my idea is to cover the open heart that is not simply cutting a hole on top yet expose it enough so those who are curious can still look at it beating away.
Find out more how I tackled this idea in a future blog entry.
All images pulled from Miyota website.