I've been saying for a while now that Chanel are a force to watch when it comes to serious watchmaking. Their recent high-end movements are impressive, to say the least. They're already investors in Romain Gauthier, and — more recently — F.P. Journe. The latest step in Chanel's increasing in-house journey is their acquisition of a 20 per cent stake in Kenissi Manufacture. If you're not familiar with Kenissi, that's OK, as they're a fairly new player, currently based in Geneva but moving to a Le Locle facility in 2021. Where things get interesting is the fact that Kenissi is, as reported by Le Temps, the industrial arm of Tudor. This joint investment is centred around the Le Locle facility called the "Gemini Project", which, according to Le Temps, will be a 150-metre long plant divided into dedicated spaces for Tudor and Kenissi. Chanel have stated that their first watch powered by a Kenissi movement will be released at Baselworld 2019. Given the relationship with Tudor, we surmise that the movement might be more industrial and entry-level than Chanel's previous in-house offerings, but that remains to be seen.
As someone whose love of watches is focused entirely on mechanisms powered by springs, the word quartz normally evokes the immediate cry of "Next!" So when I stop and spend time with a quartz watch, it must be a bit special. And so to Code Coco. It had me at first glance: that crisp, chic and utterly modern design. Strong, straight lines, no colour. Just a broad band of glossy black with a touch of polished steel and a taut line of diamonds – the bracelet and dial flowing seamlessly into one another. Watch or jewellery? It didn't really matter. It was a beautiful thing and it had me instinctively reaching to pick it up and put it on my wrist. And once there, those little cubes of ceramic that form the bracelet draped around my wrist so fluidly that it could have been a ribbon. It's not quite the other-worldly feeling of Bulgari's Octo Finissimo titanium bracelet (nothing could be), but it comes close. Very close. And believe me, that's almost off the scale in bracelet-praise terms. Add to that, the light weight and high scratch-resistance of Chanel's best-in-class ceramic (a pioneer in its use for watches, it has… Read More
So deeply has Chanel's J12 become embedded in the canon of 21st-century design, it's easy to forget that it was introduced only 18 years ago. From the original model – a chic, sporty and androgynous piece in black ceramic that Chanel's then artistic director, Jacques Helleu, had designed to wear himself – it has evolved over the years to embrace new colours, more elaborate decoration and various complications, without allowing anything to dilute the design. Every so often, Chanel has released a 'talking piece' version with a special dial – something that speaks not only of the Maison's craftsmanship but also its sense of humour. Last year it was that cool cartoon of Mademoiselle Chanel in a tweed suit, using her arms to show the time. This year Chanel has played with the number 12, enlarging and deconstructing the numerals, using them to create an abstract pattern in ceramic marquetry for two sets of 12 unique pieces. Chanel has complemented those one-offs with two editions of the J12 Untitled – in black and in white, each limited to 1200 pieces. Using the same motif of deconstructed numerals, these editions have been simplified only in terms of the materials used –… Read More
It's seven years since Chanel Horlogerie decided to start developing its own movements in-house and in the last three of those years it has launched three new calibres – or four, when counting Calibre 2.1 separately. Each is strikingly different from anything offered by other haute horlogerie brands – and all are noticeably different from each other. That's due to Chanel's singular approach to watchmaking, which does not follow the usual path of "making engines to then put into various cases", says Nicolas Beau, the global head of watchmaking and fine jewellery. "We think of a collection or model at the same time as we think of a calibre because there is a very strong intimacy between the two. It's one calibre per model. So the first thing we do is imagine a calibre that has the capacity to evolve. And that creates another difficulty, which is that we must try to envision how we want a model to evolve, and in which direction the movements can evolve for it – not just technically but aesthetically as well." That's because, in Chanel's way of thinking, the aesthetic side is the leader and decision-maker. The creative team first draws the movement,… Read More
It's a paradox that a luxury house as conspicuously feminine as Chanel should always have had a gender-bending streak. So here comes a quick bit of fashion history – and before you watch geeks roll your eyes and change the channel, let me say that this will help explain everything about Chanel's watches. Including why they are not to be dismissed as mere "fashion watches". I'll be brief. By the simple fact of launching herself into business (as a milliner) in 1910, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel flew in the face of expected gender roles. As she added clothes to her repertoire, she appropriated masculine elements: using jersey fabrics (previously reserved strictly for men's underwear); putting chic women into trousers, and into the striped jumpers of Breton sailors; turning masculine tweeds into feminine jackets; and making suntans fashionable (previously, only outdoor labourers got tanned). The perfumes, too, always had an air of not-quite-conventional femininity; since the beginning (No.5 was launched in 1921) masculine notes – wood, leather, smoke – have been blended with feminine florals. Blurring the gender lines So when Chanel introduced the Boy.Friend watch collection in 2015, it was simply business as usual, playing on the idea that women borrow… Read More
Gender-fluid. If you were born yesterday or became acquainted with pop culture only last year, you could be forgiven for thinking – based on the excitable talk among style-and-social commentators – that it's a newly minted concept. Not so. The 1970s: boys wearing their hair longer than girls; 1966: Yves Saint Laurent's Le Smoking … and so on, back through time. And watches: Cartier's Tank, Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date – those designs were always androgynous. And so to a watch that easily makes my Top 10 for the year: Chanel's Boy.Friend Squelette or Skeleton if you prefer. Intentionally gender-neutral, it's pitched as a women's watch but it's a world away from girly. And it's equally far from butch: its Y chromosome is expressed as a very Parisian and urbane type of masculine elegance. The lines of the octagonal case – more accurately, a rectangle with its corners clipped off – is derived from Chanel's first watch, the Premiere, but in Boy.Friend mode (which first appeared in 2015) the lines look tauter and sleeker. That's largely thanks to its stepped bezel and svelte dimensions – the Squelette comes in at a shade under eight-and-a-half millimetres thick. Held inside that frame is a… Read More
Tune in to any period drama and at some point there'll be a plot line where two eligible young bachelors vie for the attentions of a damsel; a situation which typically ends in fisticuffs, name-calling ("You blasted cad!") and the woman not having a say in anything. Happily, our version of events – in which the original Chanel Boy.Friend is pitted against the new kid on the block, the Chanel Boy.Friend Tweed – takes place in far more enlightened times. Our lady of the manor gets to choose however she likes. One. Both. Neither. That's the way it works, folks. And, with that lesson in healthy relationships crystal clear in everyone's minds, let the battle commence. The original The Boy.Friend first showed up in mid-2015, offering a feminine twist on masculine style – something Coco famously loved to play with in her designs back in the day. Then there's the octagonal shape of the case, which is another link to the brand's heritage – a very sweet nod to the iconic art deco bottle that houses Chanel No.5. The original collection comes in three sizes, on a variety of materials and straps: steel, gold, satin, alligator – with and without diamonds…. Read More