Cou­ture Cal­i­bre

De­spite just 32 years un­der its belt, Chanel’s port­fo­lio of watches has be­come truly im­pres­sive. Ni­co­lette Wong speaks to Frédéric Grangié, pres­i­dent of its watches and fine jew­ellery divi­sion, to find out more

Singapore Tatler - - STYLE -

Just a few decades ago, the idea of own­ing a Chanel watch would have been lu­di­crous— sim­ply be­cause it didn’t ex­ist. While founder Gabrielle Chanel had cre­ated sev­eral spec­tac­u­lar jew­ellery col­lec­tions, it was only in 1987 that the first Chanel watch, aptly named the Prèmiere, was cre­ated. Since then, Chanel has cre­ated sev­eral more im­pres­sive watch col­lec­tions, the most no­table among them be­ing the J12, which has be­come an icon of the watch in­dus­try. In more re­cent years, Chanel has also en­deav­oured to deepen its watch­mak­ing ex­per­tise to en­sure that its haute hor­logerie col­lec­tions mea­sure up to its renowned haute cou­ture col­lec­tions. In or­der to achieve this im­pres­sive level of watch­mak­ing know-how, Chanel has in­vested con­sid­er­able re­sources to de­velop and build up its own man­u­fac­ture. It in­vested in and ac­quired G&F Châte­lain, a watch as­sem­bly plant, in 1993, and set up an in-house watch­mak­ing divi­sion in 2011. In that same year, Chanel also ac­quired a stake in the busi­ness of in­de­pen­dent watch­maker Ro­main Gau­thier so as to en­sure the qual­ity and long-term sup­ply of its move­ment com­po­nents. The move mir­rors the French mar­que’s sup­port of the cou­ture houses of Mas­saro (shoe­mak­ing), Lesage (em­broi­dery), and Le­marié (feather and flower crafts­man)— all of which op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently, and are free to take com­mis­sions from other maisons. In ad­di­tion, news broke late last year that Chanel had also ac­quired a stake in yet an­other in­de­pen­dent watch­maker, FP Journe—one with a rep­u­ta­tion for truly spec­tac­u­lar watch­mak­ing. (Turn to p.90 to find out more about the part­ner­ship in our in­ter­view with FP Journe founder François-paul Journe him­self.) Per­haps the most im­pres­sive thing about Chanel’s ef­forts to im­prove its savoir faire, how­ever, is that none of the watches it cre­ates is for the sake of show­ing off its tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties. “It has al­ways been about cre­ation,” said Frédéric Grangié, pres­i­dent of its watches and fine jew­ellery divi­sion. “The man­u­fac­ture serves to make the de­signs pos­si­ble, with­out mak­ing com­pro­mises on the key in­ten­tion. And if it takes one more year to make it hap­pen, it will take one more year.”

In a realm ruled by pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing dead­lines, this phi­los­o­phy speaks vol­umes about Chanel’s ded­i­ca­tion to qual­ity and lux­ury. Chanel has launched three in-house cal­i­bres over the past three years, be­gin­ning with the Cal­i­bre 1 in the Mon­sieur de Chanel watch in 2016, with the Cal­i­bres 2 and 3 fol­low­ing in each of the suc­ceed­ing years. Of the three move­ments, it is the Cal­i­bre 3, which is housed in the Boy.friend Skele­ton watch, that Grangié points to as a per­sonal favourite, be­cause “to do a skele­tonised watch, which is that fem­i­nine and pure, is the per­fect man­i­fes­ta­tion of Chanel’s ap­proach to watch­mak­ing”. The black­ened wheels and bridges of the Cal­i­bre 3 are beau­ti­ful, vis­ually strik­ing, and even catch the eye of peo­ple with­out the slight­est in­ter­est in haute hor­logerie. And that beauty is un­doubt­edly part of what keeps Chanel fans com­ing back.

EYE FOR DE­SIGN Ev­ery Chanel watch, from the Boy.friend Skele­ton (above), to the J12 and Code Coco were to cre­ated to show­case Chanel’s in­cred­i­ble de­sign ca­pa­bil­i­ties; even the Cal­i­bre 3 (main im­age) was en­gi­neered in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Chanel’s de­sign depart­ment

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