Chanel Boy.Friend watch
Chanel Boy.Friend watch
Image: Supplied

Chanel’s coquettish ’How-to…’ Boy.Friend video series featuring Caroline de Maigret, the international model and co-author of humorous ‘How to be Parisian’, is a reminder of the essential personality of the Maison, which so often escapes consumers who are more obsessed about image and logo. But despite the playful tone, Chanel takes watchmaking as seriously as it does its couture. 

WATCH | How to have the last word with your BOY.FRIEND:

Chanel has been making watches since 1987 when it launched the Première collection, which reflects the identity of the house through its octagonal shape inspired by Place Vendôme and the N°5 perfume stopper. The acquisition in 1993 of Manufacture G&F Châtelain in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland presented Chanel with the opportunity to be highly inventive, particularly in the use of ceramics as first seen in the iconic J12 collection. The first in-house movement, the Calibre 1, however, only debuted in 2016 with its jumping hours and instantaneous retrograde minutes featured in the covetable Monsieur de Chanel men’s collection.

Things are really getting ‘haute’ with high fashion brands joining the ranks of fine watchmakers. Although haute horlogerie still dominates the space in terms of global watch sales figures, it is clear even from comparative social-media numbers that they are way behind fashion brands when it comes to using contemporary tools to engage their customers.

A handful of luxury watch brands such as Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Rolex and Hublot are already immortalised in Hip-Hop lyrics by Jay Z, Gucci Mane and Ayo & Teo but for the rest there’s mounting competition from the likes of Chanel and Louis Vuitton for a place on the wrists of ladies who want more than just pretty things. Add to this the boom in online luxury goods sales and the result is high-end watchmakers are finally waking up to e-commerce.

Compare Instagram numbers of Chanel (29.2-million followers) and Louis Vuitton (26.2-million) with the more popular watch brands like Rolex (8.8-million) and Hublot (3.1-million) to illustrate the point. A recent video post of the new Chanel J12 UNTITLED has almost a quarter of a million views. When they launched the Première Camélia Skeleton with in-house Calibre 2 movement at Baselworld last year it received 324,114 views, while the pretty pink Hublot Spirit of Big Bang moonphase got 18,434. Slightly more niche I agree and some might say comparing apples with oranges. I’m sure you get my point though. Numbers, I concede are not always what they’re cracked up to be. It’s the size of the purse and meaningful engagements that count at the end of the day.

According to Chanel, the exquisitely finished wheels and bridges for the Calibre 1 and Calibre 2 were produced by independent watchmaker Romain Gauthier, whose manufacture is part-owned by Chanel. The Boy.Friend, with its 37mm by 28.6mm octagonal 18K beige-gold case alluding to that of the emblematic Première, was originally revealed in 2015 featuring an ETA 7001 manual-winding movement. This year, the collection is updated with the most refined, manual-winding Calibre 3 skeleton movement with a magnificent interlinked circular bridge designed by Gauthier.

Just as Coco Chanel reinterpreted elements of a gentleman’s wardrobe, the design of the Boy.Friend stays true to the brand DNA. The graphic, black ADLC-coated construction of the Chanel manufacture movement underscores its masculine design elements, which are complemented by a shiny black alligator strap. The estimated retail price is R600,000. For a slightly more feminine touch, the Boy.Friend Skeleton is also available with 66 brilliant-cut diamonds gem-set on its bezel.

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