Twenty years ago Chanel launched the J12, a luxury sports watch decked out in high-tech ceramic with incredible appeal and a stellar trajectory. The first unisex watch crafted in sleek black ceramic, the J12 has been revisited in Haute Horlogerie complications and dressed up in Haute Joaillerie attire without ever losing its dynamic personality. Already considered an icon of the 21st century, the Chanel J12 reappears for its anniversary – and just ahead of Baselworld 2020 – in these dramatic two-tone models and an astonishing X-ray version with a sapphire case and bracelet – a world-first!
First Unisex Ceramic Watch
Jacques Hellu, the artistic director at Chanel for many years, wanted to design a watch for himself. He wanted something timeless, glossy, black and indestructible that would still reflect the chic and luxurious aura of the brand. Launched in 2000, Hellu’s watch was named after the J12, a class of racing yachts participating in the America’s Cup renowned for their sleek profile and speed. With 200m water-resistance, a sporty notched dive bezel and a sleek high-tech black ceramic bracelet and case, the J12 sailed straight into the limelight. The J12 was a winning blend of feminine and masculine elements, a gender-bender of sorts. This is hardly surprising when you take into account Gabrielle Chanel’s penchant for mixing comfortable, relaxed garments from men’s wardrobes (jerseys, baggy trousers) with feminine touches.
J12 Paradoxe and J12 Paradoxe Diamonds
Black and white are key colours in the J12 palette and ceramic is the material everybody associates with this collection. For 2020, the J12 mixes black and white but breaks with conventional interpretations of a two-tone watch. The J12 Paradoxe is truly in a class all its own with its provocative case that is two-thirds white ceramic and one-third black.
The fusion of two different colour ceramics on one case is extremely complex and was undertaken by G&F Chatelain, a specialised Swiss case maker owned by Chanel since 1993. The two sections of ceramic are anchored to an inner frame by means of two screws (visible on caseback). The movement is also placed inside the frame. The dial follows suit with a predominant area of white lacquer and a smaller area of black lacquer on the right side. The notched steel bezel required another treatment and was first pad-printed (tampography) black and then white to achieve the two-tone effect.
The J12 Paradoxe Diamonds follows the same eccentric distribution but with a luxurious twist: the right section of the watch is set with baguette-cut diamonds contrasting with the sleek black ceramic of the left side of the case and the black lacquered dial. More luxurious than the simpler ceramic version, the inner case is made of 18k white gold and then two-thirds of its surface covered in black ceramic. The diamonds set in the lugs, the crown guards, the bezel, the flange and the dial are all stunning baguette-cut diamonds, probably the most masculine cut for diamonds –not forgetting the truncated diamond in the crown. The J12 Paradoxe Diamond is a limited edition of 20 pieces.
Both models share the same 38mm diameter and automatic Calibre 12.1 produced by Kenissi, the movement maker owned (20%) by Chanel and Tudor. Introduced inside J12 models in 2019 (which won the GPHG 2019 Ladies’ Watch Prize), the calibre 12.1 replaces the previous ETA 2892. Not only is it well-finished, but it also has COSC chronometer certification.
Quick facts: 38mm diameter x 10.7mm height – J12 Paradoxeblack and white ceramic. J12 Paradoxe Diamonds black ceramic, white gold set with diamonds (4.5 carats) – 50m water-resistance – automatic calibre 12.1 – 28,000vph – 70h power reserve – COSC-certified – J12 Paradoxe ref. H6515 USD 7,150 – J12 Paradoxe Diamonds ref. H6500, limited to 20 pieces, USD 192,600
J12 X-Ray sapphire to the bones
We’ve seen plenty of sapphire cases in the past, but we’ve never seen a sapphire bracelet attached to a sapphire case. Chanel takes home a world-first for creating a full-sapphire crystal model, and with a skeletonised movement to boot, similar to the one we saw inside the Boy-Friend Squelette in 2018.
Machined from a single block of sapphire crystal, the case size is still 38mm and features a white gold bezel set with baguette-cut diamonds. The sapphire dial also features baguette-cut diamond hour markers, the classic internal railroad-style minutes track, and hands in white gold.
Just below the indices and minute track you can see the manual-winding calibre 3.1. The skeletonised movement displays great symmetry and balance and is magically suspended in mid-air by sapphire bridges. Arranged vertically, the barrel is situated at 12 o’clock and the escapement at 6 o’clock.
However, what truly sets this watch apart is the invisible bracelet. Composed of sapphire links that are held together with white gold pins and screws, the bracelet marks a milestone in watchmaking.
Quick facts: 38mm x 10.7mm – sapphire crystal case and bracelet – white gold bezel set with baguette-cut diamonds – 30m water-resistance – manual-winding calibre 3.1 – 28,800vph – 50h power reserve – J12 X-Ray ref. H6249, limited to 12 pieces, USD 626,000
For more information, visit chanel.com.