The Chanel J12 has recently been overhauled by the brand to leverage a more unisex 38mm case size. In addition, its movement is now produced by Kenissi, the joint venture between Tudor, Breitling and Chanel – the latter owning a 20% stake in the movement manufacture. The movement inside the standard J12 today is therefore the same caliber architecture you would find in a Black Bay Fifty-Eight. But the J12 watch has actually utilized an even more prestigious movement in a previous model from 2008. While not explicitly advertised, this watch used a movement supplied by none other than “holy trinity” manufacturer Audemars Piguet – the same caliber found originally in the Royal Oak Offshore and in many other of their Royal Oak watches.
Eagle-eyed collectors will have already spotted the caliber in the watches name: Chanel J12 3125 ref. H2918. The use of the 3125 (3120 in Audemars Piguet watches) movement commanded a rather high retail price of over $20,000 USD when it was released. This component of the now discontinued model is the main reason why today many collectors are hunting the rare Chanel J12 3125 on the secondhand market, and why the value-retaining reference is listed for sale today close to its original price.
The watch is comprised of black ceramic and yellow gold. The 42mm case is 11.2mm thick and 48.5mm lug to lug. Both the case and bezel are made of matte black ceramic bezel enlivened with a yellow gold timing scale. The caseback and knurling of the bezel and screw-down crown between the ceramic crown guards are also fashioned in yellow gold, creating precious accents throughout the aesthetic. Though the watch leverages a dive watch design, it is only 50 metres water resistant but is at least a swimmable watch. The bracelet is rendered in matching black ceramic, with only the butterfly clasp using yellow gold (as well as titanium for more sensitive parts). The ceramic is six times tougher than stainless steel so, more often than not, when you see marks on the bracelet they are not actually scratches, but rather pieces of debris it picked up on contact and that are quite easy to remove to keep the watch pristine. As a sports watch, its links are impressively secured by hex screws – a nice added touch.
The dial is a matching matte black as well, but the Arabic numerals, hands and concentric ring that frames the inner minutes track are all applied in yellow gold. Within the yellow gold ring, the minutes track is laid out in a white printed railroad format, but interestingly there is also a stepped white hash printed minutes track on the inner bezel as well. For those who like a date complication, a white on black date disc blends into the dial between the 4′ and 5′ hour numerals. What is really neat about the watch as a whole is that, aside from the movement, everything is produced in-house, leveraging suppliers they have stakes in to realise the design. These suppliers also provide parts to esteemed brands such as Richard Mille – a testament to the quality of components used.
The star of the already fascinating show is its 312o movement supplied by Audemars Piguet, referred to as the 3125 inside the Chanel J12 3125 due to minor differences. The movement has a classic 21,600 vph beat rate and a very respectable 60 hours of power reserve. It has a full balance bridge for added shock protection, and its gyromax style free-sprung balance further protects it from deviating from its initial regulation. The movement features a quick-set date and hacking seconds making it very easy to synch to a reference clock and calendar. As for the small deviations from the 3120, the 3125 balance bridge does not have the full-on bat-wing aesthetic found on the 312o and the black ceramic skeletonized rotor with its rhodium-plated winding mass allows you to see more of the movement beneath it.
All in all, the watch may not be everyone’s cup of tea at the high price point. But for those who really understand the horological merits at play here, both inside and out, the Chanel J12 3125 could very well be that rare off-the-beaten path watch you may be itching to add to your collection.