In only thirty years of CHANEL’s watchmaking journey, the House has touched on every métier contributing to the art of Fine Watchmaking. Defining a unique vision of Fine Watchmaking through the creation of watches conceived as objects of desire and beauty, without compromising the craftsmanship and technical expertise required to create exceptional timepieces. Timepieces designed to withstand the test of time.
In October 1987, when CHANEL first created a watch, no one was expecting it. It was called Première.
Première: adjective feminine, singular. French for first: that which precedes others in time, space, and rank. Principal. Superior. noun feminine, singular. That which is realized for the first time. That which is classed at the top. In transport, the most comfortable class. In Haute Couture, the Director of the atelier. In watchmaking, the Première was the first watch created exclusively by CHANEL for women; drawing on the shape of the N°5 bottle stopper and the Place Vendôme. Unlike anything before, this timepiece, destined for women and defining a uniquely feminine style, was not a simple reworking of a man’s watch.
The Première, whose feminity is embodied by original ambassador Ines de la Fressange, is both an authentic timekeeper and a statement of style, or as some would say a fashion accessory. This duality is not only embraced by CHANEL but serves as a source of pride, and is captured by the rich meaning and fitting name behind the watch. The Première watch opened the first chapter of the great story between the House and the world of Watchmaking. With it, CHANEL gave time the place it deserved: a surface without limits, dials or markers. A surface both flat and smooth, over which endless possibilities could glide. The watch thus became a genuine piece of jewelry, the embodiment of femininity, above and beyond its functional role.
The House’s inextinguishable drive to create is fueled by the desire to celebrate the art of surprise and wonder. The House’s iconic motifs inspire and become timekeepers: Pearls, Camélias, Comets, Quilting and Ribbons enlace the wrist. Not only do these symbols serve as an eternal source of inspiration for the House, but they also contribute to the renewal and creation of new feminine watchmaking codes in the world of Fine Watchmaking. From the start, everything is sketched, conceived, developed and made in-house. No subcontracting, no licensing.
In 2000, a new revolution: the J12. Created in black ceramic, the J12 became the first watchmaking icon of the 21st century. The dazzling, resolutely indelible black captured in the rotor created shock waves when it first arrived in the Place Vendôme. Its supple link strap, at ease with its own masculine style, naturally adjusts to the body’s temperature, unlike metal. CHANEL transformed high-tech ceramic into a precious material, and made deepest black an essential color in the watchmaking world. In 2003, with the creation of the immaculate and opalescent white J12, CHANEL also reinvented the colour white, making it the must-have color in watchmaking for the next decade. By creating multiple variations, ephemeral series and exceptional editions, while always respecting the stylistic integrity of the J12, CHANEL continues today, 17 years after its creation, to reinterpret this watchmaking icon. In its latest chapter, the J12 is rendered in a petite and highly feminine XS version. The J12 didn’t simply mark a watchmaking revolution at CHANEL. It initiated a fundamental shift in the world of watchmaking through the House’s use of black, white and ceramic.
In 2005, the J12 Tourbillon watch opened up a new field of expertise and creation. Five years after the launch of the J12, CHANEL went even further with the J12 Mysterious Retrograde. Highly complicated, the movement of the J12 Mysterious Retrograde established CHANEL’s place in the world of Haute Horlogerie. At CHANEL, watchmaking technology always works in deference to the Studio of Creation, never the other way round. Everything is made in-house, respecting Swiss tradition, yet adapting to fulfill limitless creative ambitions. A CHANEL watch is never what you expect it to be. It calibrates time, twisting classic codes with audacity
In 2012, to mark its 25th anniversary, the Première watch was given a flying tourbillon. This CHANEL moment created a new momentum and defined a milestone in our watchmaking journey. Through the creation of the Première flying tourbillon, CHANEL invites women to enter the world of highly complicated timepieces. In the years to follow, CHANEL presented tourbillons of diamonds, stylized in the form of a Camélia or a Comet, never-before-seen watchmaking complications. With technology on hand to serve creativity, CHANEL has no limits. Innovations come in quick succession. 2012 also marked the year that CHANEL was honored for the first time by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in the “Ladies’ Watch” category for the Première Flying Tourbillon watch. This prestigious prize is awarded annually to the best creations and most innovative players in the watchmaking world.
That same year, CHANEL launched the Mademoiselle Privé collection, a rare and unique set of one-of-a-kind pieces, created turn both heads and time. Exquisite watch dials, refined movements, and artisanal techniques, all expressed within the unforgiving confines of the timepiece: embroideries threaded with gold, diamond and mother-of-pearl marquetry, ancient glyptic techniques — nothing is impossible. In the hands of the greatest enamellers, engravers, chiselers and gem setters, this collection marks a new chapter in the creative history of CHANEL Watches and uncovers new ground for expressing the House’s unsurpassed skill and know how. The Mademoiselle Privé Camélia Brodé watch, with its dial embroidered in colored silk thread using a “needle-painting” technique, allows CHANEL to garner its second Watchmaking Grand Prix in Geneva in 2013 in the “Artistic Crafts” category.
In 2015, the BOY∙FRIEND watch reimagines the androgynous codes of feminine watchmaking. A watch that is masculine in appearance, but totally dedicated to women. Once again, creating a timepiece that surprised everyone. The following year, the BOY∙FRIEND collection is expanded with the launch of BOY∙FRIEND Tweed, which possesses a uniquely supple metal bracelet, inspired by the tweed motif. The engraved strap, woven from steel thread, required immense technical prowess in order to be able to capture the richness of the fabric.
In 2016, CHANEL created its first in-house Haute Horlogerie movement: CALIBRE 1 with Instant Jumping Hour and Retrograde Minute, and its first watch tailored specifically for men: Monsieur de CHANEL. Monsieur de CHANEL didn’t exist, it was imagined. Its movement didn’t exist, it was conceived to make the watch come to life. Its casing didn’t exist, it was created to house the timepiece. This is how things work at CHANEL: out of desire come the tools to make dreams reality. Out of desire, creation is born.
In 2017, CHANEL Horlogerie turns thirty. Only thirty, yet still that same desire to push further and reach higher. The House proudly introduces its second in-house caliber, reinterpreting the Première watch and elevating it to a new level of Fine Watchmaking. The new skeleton movement, in deepest black, is one of a kind. Representing the camellia, one of the iconic symbols of the House, this new timepiece is an expression of the liberty of the Studio of Creation. Only thirty, yet still that same desire and passion to create. At the end of 2017, CHANEL will launch a new aesthetic, a timepiece celebrating one of the most recognizable codes of the House, to be worn unexpectedly on the wrist.
In 2017, CHANEL Horlogerie has the future ahead of it. And, since 1987, a very fine past behind it: Swiss manufacturing, patents, and inventions. Watches that make time sublime. For thirty years, CHANEL has stayed true to its own vision of watchmaking and, in so doing, created new watchmaking codes. Watches that, year after year, transcribe the allure of time.