The Evolution of an Icon

Chanel’s stylish take on the J12 watch

CHANEL’s big reveal at the Baselworld watch show in March was its newest J12, in celebration of the watch’s inception 20 years ago. This is The J12, CHANEL says. The watch has evolved, but it’s kept the same soul its creator gave it in 2000. 

When designing the original J12, Jacques Helleu, CHANEL’s artistic director, started with the wish to create his own dream watch. He drew inspiration from his two passions, automobiles and sailing. In particular, he drew on the chassis lines of racing cars, and the silhouette of the America’s Cup boat race trophy. 

He crafted the unisex watch in high-tech black ceramic and it became an icon among watches, appearing frequently on celebrity wrists. It came out in white a few years later, and over the years it has appeared with colourful jewelled inlays, with new functions, in varying sizes, and in slightly varying shapes. 

The latest J12 was designed by Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the CHANEL Watch Creation Studio. It has a one-piece ceramic case, slightly thicker than previous J12 incarnations, though it appears just as slim because Chastaingt softened and rounded the watch’s profile. Its dial, which features numerals and indexes in a new typeface, is covered by sapphire crystal, a transparent material so hard only diamond can scratch it. On the back of the case, a sapphire crystal window allows you to see the watch’s inner workings.

Its rotor, an oscillating weight that winds the clock as the wearer moves his arm, has been redesigned in tungsten. It is the first CHANEL watch to feature mechanisms made by Kenissi, a premium Swiss watch-parts manufacturer. CHANEL and Kenissi plan to work together closely in the future, a move that signals CHANEL’s continually strengthening presence in the world of luxury watchmaking.


Photo Courtesy of CHANEL
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