Elegance without the bling
Ceramic has an unusual reaction with the light. It doesn’t sparkle like a diamond, but yet it exudes an incredible radiance. Chanel’s most recent J12 Noir Intense is a perfect example, with its 724 baguette-cut ceramic pieces; the light catches the hundreds of facets in a subtle way that would be so different if it had been produced in black diamonds. It is almost as if the ceramic absorbs the light creating, as the name aptly describes it, an intense black. The timepiece is powered by an Audemars Piguet automatic 3125 movement.
When ceramic is mixed with precious stones the result is equally powerful. The sparkle from the gems is magnified by their juxtaposition with the ceramic. The latest J12 Haute Joaillerie timepiece, launched this year, combines the brand’s signature ceramic with Mademoiselle Chanel’s favourite stone, the diamond, and the highest level of horological expertise – all in Chanel’s famous black and white theme. With more than 580 diamonds, (totalling 33 carats) and baguette-cut ceramic pieces (which are even more difficult to set than diamonds), the result plays with the light in all refinement, without a hint of bling.
J12 INTENSE NOIR
Ten and counting
This year is the J12’s tenth anniversary. It was in the year 2000 that the late Jacques Helleu, Chanel’s Creative Director, revealed his avant-garde ceramic J12; it was an instant success and has evolved in many artistic and technical directions over the last ten years. 2005 saw the arrival of a J12 Fine Jewellery Collection and a J12 Tourbillon. 2006 was marked by a J12 GMT and a Haute Joaillerie piece with 597 baguette diamonds. In 2008 the company announced a partnership with Audemars Piguet for an automatic movement, the Chanel AP 3125, and 2009 saw the presentation of the J12 Noir Intense. The success of the line is undisputed.
J12 CALIBRE 3125
The ceramic trend
Chanel wasn’t the first to use ceramic, but it utilised it in such a bold way that everyone stood up and took note. A decade later and it isn’t uncommon to hear other brands refer to their own ceramic watches as ‘Chanel-like’. Chanel has become the brand name for the ceramic watch – not bad in just a decade!
It is important to note that Chanel is one of the only companies in Switzerland with the technology to make its own ceramic timepieces. Most other ceramic watches on the market are made from blocks of ceramic that are then milled and machined into the right shape, which also works, but doesn’t give the same level of quality as ceramic that is created in the required shape. Each and every Chanel case and link is created individually in an atelier that is more like a scientific laboratory than a watch workshop (For more information see Chanel and the chamber of secrets in Europa Star No. 4/2009). Hold a J12 in your hand and this quality can be felt, its smoothness, lightness, and luminosity - there’s a real difference.
18 carat pink gold and ceramic timepiece with 42 baguette-cut diamonds (totalling approx. 4 carats)
From the height of fashion to the height of watchmaking technology
Paris, France and Switzerland’s La Chaux-de-Fonds are worlds apart. One is the centre of style and fashion, the other a remote industrial town in the Swiss mountains where, quietly, diligently, the world’s finest watch movements are constructed and assembled. One of the reasons for Chanel’s success is that the brand has brought the best of these worlds together – Jacques Helleu’s avant-garde design and the finest horological savoir-faire, from the hundreds of hand finished components, to the meticulous assembly, the attention to detail and the import-ance of quality control at every level of manufacturing. Chanel has always used the finest raw materials for its products, whether it’s the leather for the handbags, the flowers for its perfumes, or the fabrics for Karl Lagerfeld’s haute couture collections. There is no room for compromise and the company’s customers know and appreciate this. Things could never have been any other way for its watch collections.
Carrying on Mademoiselle Chanel’s audacity
Women love to be daring and bold, but they also like to be feminine. This has been the essence of Chanel ever since Mademoiselle Chanel turned the world of ladies’ fashion on its head back in the 1920s and 1930s. People in the watch industry were equally surprised when Chanel launched the first J12 back in 2000, but Chanel’s customers, both male and female, weren’t, they understood and immediately fell in love with its bold design and the quality of the workmanship both inside and out.
Première 18 carat white gold case set with 52 diamonds, white gold bracelet with black or white high-tech ceramic links and set with 216 diamonds.
The J12 is not alone in its longevity. The Première first appeared in 1987 and continues to be a success with its rectangular shape that is reminiscent of the stopper for the renowned No. 5 perfume bottle and the shape of Place VendÔme in Paris. Ceramic has also become one of the main elements in the Première Collection and is married with yellow gold, white gold, rubber and diamonds in a variety of ways that catch the light and make this an ongoing classic timepiece for the brand.
Première Steel case set with 52 diamonds and a black or white rubber strap.
Chanel, despite being a fashion leader, has always created timeless objects, whether in its haute couture range or with its accessories. Timelessness is important for the consumer when purchasing a special item. No one wants to spend a lot of money to find that they are out of fashion a year later. Just think of the timelessness of the Chanel No. 5 perfume, the Chanel suit, the quilted leather handbags with their leather and metal chains, the signature tweed, the black and white themes - they are all enduring classics.
But what’s next?
Everyone in the watch industry is always asking when Chanel is going to launch something new. Isn’t it about time? When most brands launch at least one new line every year, it is perhaps surprising to see Chanel continuing with the ten year old J12 collection and the 23 year old PremiÈre. But this is no ordinary watch company, no follower of trends, no fashion brand. Chanel is a creator of icons, and the beauty of icons is that they never stop catching the light.
Source: Europa Star December-January 2010 Magazine Issue