YOUNG TIMES

Chanel’s watch busi­ness turns 30 years young

Singapore Tatler Jewels & Time - - Contents - Story Ter­ence Lim

Chanel cel­e­brates 30 years of watch­mak­ing

Thirty years ago, Chanel ven­tured into the world of watch­mak­ing. The chal­lenges it faced were not just tech­ni­cal, lo­gis­ti­cal or pro­duc­tion is­sues. The watch world known to be snob­bish to out­siders didn’t see fash­ion houses as se­ri­ous play­ers. Nei­ther did the watch-buy­ing crowd. But the French mar­que ploughed on and per­se­vered, adding de­part­ment by de­part­ment, pil­lar by pil­lar. To­day, it’s one of the ma­jor mar­ques in the watch in­dus­try, de­liv­er­ing im­pres­sive horo­log­i­cal of­fer­ings year in, year out. Here, we track its key mile­stones in the past three decades.

1987 The year 1987 was when the story started: Chanel launched its first watch, the Première. A watch cre­ated ex­clu­sively for women, it was mod­eled after the No 5 per­fume bot­tle stop­per and Place Vendôme in Paris. The fash­ion house was also very ag­gres­sive as it opened its first ded­i­cated watch bou­tique at 40 Av­enue Mon­taigne in Paris.

1993 Chanel ac­quired case and buckle maker G&F Châte­lain in La Chauxde-fonds, Switzer­land. In­stead of out­sourc­ing pro­duc­tion to third­party providers, it slowly brought ca­pa­bil­i­ties in-house with the aim to even­tu­ally be­come in­de­pen­dent.

2000 Chanel rolled out the J12 Black, a sporty watch in black high-tech ce­ramic. It was not the first brand to use ce­ramic but pop­u­larised it through as­tute mar­ket­ing and strong em­pha­sis on prod­uct qual­ity. In 2003, it quickly fol­lowed up on the suc­cess with the J12 White.

2005 Never one to shy away from chal­lenges, Chanel took on haute hor­logerie with the J12 Tour­bil­lon. The cal­i­bre was sourced from a move­ment spe­cial­ist but Chanel boldly re­placed the reg­u­lar main­plate for a ce­ramic one, mak­ing it a world’s first. Limited to 12 pieces world­wide.

2008 Chanel joined hands with Re­naud & Papi, the move­ment arm of Aude­mars Piguet. Their first project? The self-wind­ing Cal­i­bre 3125 for the J12. Two years later, the same part­ner­ship gave birth to the J12 Rétro­grade Mys­térieuse, an avant-garde haute hor­logerie cre­ation.

2011 Just when the watch in­dus­try was used to Chanel be­ing a black and/or white-cen­tric brand, Chanel sur­prised ev­ery­body with a new colour. Ti­ta­nium ce­ramic is pol­ished with di­a­mond pow­der, achiev­ing the sil­ver-grey hue of the J12 Chro­matic.

2013 Chanel’s Première got a mi­nor facelift— it now fea­tures a slim­mer and longer sil­hou­ette com­pared to the orig­i­nal. Chanel also earned crit­i­cal suc­cess with the Made­moi­selle Privé Camélia Brodé clinch­ing the “Artis­tic Crafts Watch” prize at the GPHG.

2012 Yet another fruit of labour be­tween Chanel and Re­naud & Papi, the Première Fly­ing Tour­bil­lon fea­tures a camelia-shaped tour­bil­lon that ro­tates once ev­ery minute. This first fly­ing tour­bil­lon snagged the “Best Ladies Watch” prize at the Grand Prix d’hor­logerie de Genève (GPHG).

2015 Like the Première, the new Boy.friend was de­signed with women in mind. But like many of Chanel’s de­signs— Coco Chanel liked ref­er­enc­ing menswear— it looks mas­cu­line and shares sporty aes­thetic sim­i­lar­i­ties with the Première. But it has a thicker bezel and slim­mer pro­por­tions.

2016 Chanel fo­cused heav­ily on the women’s mar­ket for years. But when it was time to launch its first in-house move­ment, it re­leased a men’s cal­i­bre—to many’s sur­prise again. The Mon­sieur de Chanel and the Cal­i­bre 1 fea­tured a jump­ing hour com­pli­ca­tion and 240 deg ret­ro­grade min­utes.

2017 After Cal­i­bre 1, Chanel fol­lowed up with a sec­ond move­ment named Cal­i­bre 2. It’s a skele­tonised automatic move­ment but the de­part­ment re-de­signed and re-con­structed the en­tire mech­a­nism so that it can be shaped like a camèlia flower.

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