Chanel Mademoiselle J12June 27, 2023
Synonymous with tweed, pearls and the camellia amongst other chic accoutrements, Gabrielle Chanel was the epitome of style and fashion in her time, her legacy enduring even today. And while she didn’t live to see her name imprinted on timepieces, Chanel Mademoiselle J12 watches today are everything Gabrielle Chanel would have loved, often incorporating her favourite design elements.
Since its foray into the horological world way back in 1987 with the Première, the House of Chanel has been proving itself to be more than capable of fine watchmaking. In fact, one of our all-time favourite offerings from the House was the J12 RMT (Retrograde Mysterieuse Tourbillon) from 2010, featuring a retractable vertical crown set into the dial.
Launched in 1999, Chanel’s J12 timepieces have come to be loved by both the fashion elite and watch aficionados alike, with their innovative time-telling functions, ceramic hardware and unisex sizes.
This year, the House once again unveils a collection of J12 timepieces, including the J12 Black Star and J12 Diamond. But what really caught our eye was the trio of Chanel Mademoiselle J12 watches, which incorporated the House’s founder’s likeness in fun, quirky ways.
The Mademoiselle J12 La Pausa comes in black ceramic and 18K white gold, with an animated Mademoiselle Chanel figure taking pride of place in the middle of the black lacquered dial, her hands used to indicate hours and minutes. Running on the in-house automatic Calibre 12.1, the 38mm watch offers 70 hours of power reserve and features a circle of 46 baguette-cut diamonds on the bezel, with one brilliant-cut diamond on the crown.
Offering a more iconic silhouette of Gabrielle Chanel is the J12 Gabrielle Calibre 3.1 watch, which displays a side profile of the legendary designer dressed in black with her signature strands of pearls draping her neck. The two-hand watch comes in black ceramic with an 18K white gold bezel that, like the J12 La Pausa, is set with 46 baguette-cut diamonds. Running on the in-house Calibre 3.1 as its name suggests, the 38mm timepiece comes with a power reserve of approximately 55 hours.
Finally, the daintiest of the lot has to be the Mademoiselle J12·XS. An adorable figurine of Gabrielle Chanel in white gold and black lacquer, wearing a two-toned straw hat with a brilliant-cut diamond, clings to the 19mm case at 10 o’clock. The black ceramic bracelet comes set with 116 brilliant-cut diamonds and an 18K white gold triple-fold buckle. Unlike the other two Mademoiselle J12 pieces, the Mademoiselle J12·XS is equipped with a high precision quartz movement.
Each of the Chanel Mademoiselle J12 timepieces is limited to 55 pieces, as inscribed on the sapphire crystal or white gold caseback of the watches. For the woman who considers Gabrielle Chanel her style icon, the new Mademoiselle J12 collection is a must-have.
Having snagged multiple GPHG prizes over the years for its ladies’ timepieces, Chanel is certainly no slouch in the watchmaking department. The Chanel Mademoiselle J12 collection may be fun and cheeky at the same time, but also exhibits the essence of Chanel’s creativity and craftsmanship. And, that, is truly what the ladies deserve, isn’t it?
While Chanel’s claim to horological fame as the fashion brand that sex-ed up high-tech ceramic with the launch of the glossy and chic J12 collection in 2000, the results of the marque’s foray into ‘proper men’s watches’ is a bit more mixed.
Admittedly, a top-dollar mechanical men’s watch from Chanel is a tough sell, considering the options available from within and outside the fashion sphere. But even with the odds stacked against it, the brand has done rather admirably, with highlights that include the J12’s crossover appeal with larger-sized models bearing chronographs and GMT complications, as well as the launch of its own in-house movement, the Calibre 1, a hand-wound movement with jumping hour and retrograde minutes, in the appropriately named Monsieur watch in 2016.
Given this, the new Monsieur Superleggera Edition may be considered a coalescing of Chanel’s best efforts in men’s watches, bringing together the masculine chic of the race-inspired J12 Superleggera series and the horological gravitas of the Calibre 1-driven Monsieur. The result? A dynamic and slightly off-kilter beauty that rocks with a neat blend of haughty style and technical presence.
The Monsieur’s signature dial display continues to dominate the new model – a jumping hour window at six o’clock, central small seconds counter in the middle and the 240º retrograde minute occupying the top half of the display. At the same time, the J12 Superleggera’s spirit and style, hewn from the world of flashy and fast racers (Superleggera means ‘super light’ in Italian, and is also the name of the Aston Martin DBS supercar), is writ large all over, from its cool 42mm matte black ceramic case, to the partly openworked dial with frames for the indicators and guilloché patterns, down to the black nylon strap lined with red calfskin.
Even so, the Monsieur Superleggera Edition isn’t so much of a half-Monsieur, half-J12 Superleggera kind of watch, but a seamless blend of the two. The combination of machismo-evoking colours and ceramic case, and the transformation of the dial design from one that looks classy and chic into something that resembles an instrument gauge on a dashboard, shows how well thought-out – and serendipitous – the fusion of two of Chanel’s most winsome men’s watches is.
Befitting a ‘serious’ men’s watch, the Monsieur Superleggera Edition is driven by the in-house developed Calibre 1 hand-wound movement that signalled Chanel’s intent to play in the same league as the horological big boys back in 2016. The company even enlisted master watchmaker Romain Gautier to finesse the movement, complementing the Calibre 1’s performance virtues and features such as a double barrel for three-day power reserve, and free-sprung, adjustable mass balance with gorgeous finishing, and artfully shaped components and architecture.