French luxury fashion house Chanel has been involved in fine watchmaking since 1987 but through its acquisition in 1993 of Manufacture G&F Châtelain in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland the company was presented with an opportunity to become highly inventive, particularly in the use of ceramics, as first seen in the iconic J12 collection released in 2000.
Established as a watch industry trend in 2020, the rainbow of uplifting, healing colours continue to feature prominently in case materials, bezels, dials and straps in 2021. From dominant hues to calming pastels this not only echoes what’s going on in fashion but also a shifting global consciousness. The new 38mm Chanel J12 Electro Caliber 12.1 is part of the Chanel Electro capsule collection inspired by electronic music and rave culture of the Nineties.
“I conceived this collection like a performance programme, inviting our classics, the J12, Première, Code Coco and Boy-Friend, to perform side by side on this stage, drawing their inspiration from the codes of this world,” says Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the watchmaking creation studio at Chanel.
The intense black-lacquered dial and black ceramic case of the J12 Electro is contrasted by the vibrant rainbow of neon colours on its indexes and diving scale. The original J12 watches used Audemars Piguet calibre 3125 movements and have become highly collectable on the pre-owned market. Inside the new watches beats the self-winding calibre 12.1 mechanical movement produced by Kenissi, a Swiss movement maker co-owned by Tudor, Breitling and Chanel.
The Electro range might get your immediate attention, but the new matte black ceramic 42mm Monsieur. Superleggera Edition will hold it for much longer. Both eye-catching and elegant, this is a sporty update to a timeless design launched specifically for men at Baselworld in 2016. While it is described as “a rendezvous” between the J12 Superleggera (launched in 2005) and the Monsieur, besides their shared expression of performance and sportiness, the Monsieur is a very different watch. It’s not a chronograph and is more discrete with its perfect geometric proportions.
Meaning “Superlight” in Italian, this Superleggera captures the spirit of the custom lightweight tube and alloy panel automobile coachwork construction of Carrozzeria Touring. Inspired by racing car speedometers, spectacular 240° retrograde minute and centered small seconds counters feature prominently on the matte black nickel guilloché dial. At 6 o’clock there is the characteristic large jumping hour window with an octagonal frame inspired by the shape of Place Vendome in Paris, home of the Ritz Hotel — Coco Chanel’s long-time residence.
This edition also features a crown guard and is presented on a black nylon strap lined with red calfskin. The sporty dial aesthetic is echoed in the graphic and hi-tech design of the in-house manual-winding mechanical Calibre 1, which is on full view through the transparent sapphire case back.
While the Monsieur is billed as a men’s watch, let’s not forget that Coco Chanel revolutionised women’s fashion with elegant, casual designs inspired by men’s formal and sporting attire. Instilled with a touch of masculinity, this DNA is present in most Chanel timepieces making the Monsieur as well as the Boy-Friend and J12 totally unisex. A lot of men like a lot of diamonds, so is there really need for classification these days anyway? All prices available on request, at chanel.com