How a Women's Fashion House Created a Watch Men Lust After
Wednesday - 10 April 2013
"Fashion passes, style remains." ~ Coco Chanel
In pursuit of her intuitive understanding of style and elegance, Coco Chanel broke the rules of fashion and ignored social taboos.
In an age where fashionable women wore corsets, she pioneered the casual elegance of simple dresses, suits, and women's trousers.
Since her death in the 1970s, her spirit of independence lives on in the Chanel brand - not least when it comes to watches.
Chanel only entered the world of timekeeping in the late 1980s with the launch of its first watch. This in itself pushed at the boundaries. Luxury watches are typically made by confident, self-assured American firms, or Swiss family businesses with an illustrious history. Not French fashion houses.
Yet Chanel's daring went even further. As a women's fashion brand, Chanel managed to create a watch adored by men and women around the world.
As watch reviewer Ariel Adams marvels,
"What was it that Chanel did to make me want a watch made by a women’s clothes company? It is a good question because if you told me that men and women all over the world were lusting after a timepiece made by a really good cosmetics and perfume maker, […I would be] mighty skeptical."
What is the answer to this mystery?
“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” ― Coco Chanel
Chanel's secret is the J12, a watch that became an instant classic when it was unveiled in 2000.
Seven years in the making, the watch was a labour of love for Jacques Helleu, Chanel's artistic director.
Helleu took the classic diver's watch design, and gave it Chanel's magic touch.
"More than anything, I created the J12 for myself," Helleu said when he launched the watch. "I wanted a timeless watch, an indestructible black watch that would remind me of certain classic cars."
The watch is beautifully light weight thanks to its titanium-ceramic hybrid casing. Unlike gold or steel, which scuff easily, it is highly scratch resistant, being nearly as hard as diamonds. It never loses its shine.
“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” ― Coco Chanel
Like most Chanel products, at its launch, the watch was ahead of its time. Back in the 1990s, when Helleu designed it, ceramic was rarely used in watchmaking.
Now available in a range of colours and sizes, the J12 retains Chanel's timeless charm.
As Christophe Roulet of The Watch Daily puts it, the J12 is "already a twenty-first century icon, a status to which ultimately few timepieces can aspire."