Since this year’s outing at Watches and Wonders was its first after leaving Baselworld, Chanel decided that it would debut its most impressive model in its iconic J12 family of watches yet — a tourbillon on top of which a multi-faceted diamond dances elegantly, keeping time with the movement of this hypnotic complication. This stunning timepiece ticks to the beat set by the Calibre 5, an in-house manually-wound flying tourbillon movement.
“Our fifth in-house movement, the Calibre 5, was conceived and designed in Paris, then developed and assembled by our watchmakers at the Chanel manufacture at La Chaux-de-Fonds,” shares Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the maison’s watchmaking creation studio. “I wanted to endow the J12 watch with a diamond. Set at the centre of the tourbillon, the solitaire diamond follows the mechanism of the movement, giving time a rhythm that is precious and meditative, almost hypnotic. For this stone, we created a bespoke 65-facet cut: a unique cut for a unique watch, and one that I continue to find fascinating and inspiring.”
Faithful to the graphic identity of Chanel Fine Watchmaking, the architecture of the movement is constructed in a series of circular bridges in black. The brilliance of the diamonds is echoed by extreme finesse of the bevelling and the exceptional finishes of the movement. The tourbillon cage and the hands are also set with diamonds.
“Setting a diamond at the centre of a tourbillon was a creative decision and its achievement was a technical tour de force,” Chastaingt adds. “This creation is a perfect illustration of the exceptional savoir faire that enables our watchmakers to challenge conventional codes and make the most daring creative dreams come true. Placing a diamond of this size on a tourbillon was an obsession for me and a technical challenge that the Chanel manufacture teams executed magnificently and gave life to the new J12 Diamond Tourbillon.
To celebrate the marriage of the J12 with this new calibre, Chastaingt designed two models in the J12 Diamond Tourbillon family — one in glossy black ceramic with the bezel embellished with baguette-cut diamonds, the other entirely in matt black ceramic. The two look as rare and exclusive as the other, both limited to just 55 pieces each. The Calibre 5 is presented in an elegantly proportioned 38mm case that’s water-resistant to 50m; and since its power reserve is approximately 42 hours, the watch only needs to be wound every other day or so.
Chanel is a house of artistic creation and its watchmaking is no exception. The freedom of its creative expression and the excellence of its savoir faire are inseparable from each other. This is fundamental given that every creation, in watchmaking and fine watchmaking, combines these two basic essentials. In 1987, Chanel entered the world of horlogerie with the freedom that characterises the maison by unveiling the Première watch. Thirty-five years later, this artistic creativity remains at the heart of all the brand does, as evidenced by its new watches.
Boyfriend in red
In 2018, the BOY·FRIEND was equipped with a skeleton movement developed within the Chanel manufacture — architectural, modern and pared back, visible from both front and back, and revealed in its full finesse by the transparent play of its interlocking circles. It was fitted with the Calibre 3, which displays a radical elegance and a flawless mastery of the codes of masculinity.
In 2022, the BOY·FRIEND Skeleton Red Edition and the BOY·FRIEND Skeleton X-Ray Red Edition watches emerge as new haute horlogerie creations imbued with authority and inimitable flair. The BOY·FRIEND silhouette remains unchanged, but the accent on red, one of the maison’s signature colours, adds a note of contrast to the look. The red embossed leather strap recalls the lining of Chanel’s 2.55 handbag, while the red of the movement, in association with the powdered beige gold shade, suggests the ultimate touch of lipstick to draw attention to a smile.
“I love the boldness of a fine watchmaking movement made up in red, the sensuality of the marriage of beige gold and ruby, the assertiveness of a glossy red bracelet on the wrist, the exquisite elegance of the colour of the crystal sapphire. With red, there are no grey areas. Its elegance is uncompromising,” says Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the Chanel watchmaking creation studio.
Still endowed with the Calibre 3, the watches present the appearance of a graphic fragment of lace embroidered with bridges and cogwheels, which offers subtle glimpses of the wrist beneath. The architectural aesthetic and the movement of the BOY·FRIEND highlight the watch’s close affinity with the codes of masculinity. This powerful duality creates two new and exceptional pieces, radical and elegant, in which the dividing line between the feminine and the masculine grows ever more subtle.
Coco comes to life
This year, Mademoiselle Chanel and the J12 watch meet again in three exceptional creations that celebrate a mischievous, sweet version of Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel. The ultimate expression of the founder of the house, the Mademoiselle J12 collection is limited to just 55 pieces in each of the three lines, ensuring each piece is a collectible and a rare chance to truly wear a piece of Coco on one’s wrist.
With the Mademoiselle J12 La Pausa, this new interpretation welcomes the silhouette of Coco dressed in Breton top and sailor pants, inspired by a photograph taken in her garden at La Pausa, her villa on the French Riviera. For the first time, the Mademoiselle J12 is equipped with the Calibre 12.1, in an exclusive all-black version.
Clinging mischievously to the watch case of the Mademoiselle J12, Coco’s silhouette appears in the form of a figurine entwined in white gold and black lacquer, topped off with a two-tone straw hat accentuated with a brilliant-cut diamond. Meanwhile, the J12 Gabrielle Calibre 3.1 watch is a homage to the iconic silhouette of Coco placed on the dial, dressed in black and wearing her beloved pearls. A true keeper of time, Mademoiselle Chanel strikes a pose in a painting within a precious frame composed of a white gold bezel set with baguette-cut diamonds.
The watches in the Mademoiselle J12 collection are crafted from Chanel’s proprietary black ceramic and white gold accents on the case and bezel. Each watch teems with wit and irreverence, channelling a bit of her inimitably exuberant personality.
This article first appeared in horology pullout Calibre 2022.