When Chanel unveiled the J12 in the year 2000, it took the watch industry by surprise with its sporty, ceramic design. Some people loved it, others weren’t sure about it, but soon everyone was copying it.
The J12 was designed by Chanel’s artistic director, Jacques Helleu, who was inspired by both the worlds of motorsports and sailing, taking ideas from both the chassis lines of racing cars and the America’s Cup J12 racing class boats, which subsequently lead to the watch’s name. The first version was produced in a stealthy black ceramic, with a white version unveiled three years later in 2003.
Almost 20 years after its creation, the director of Chanel’s Watch Creation Studio, Arnaud Chastaingt, has given the J12 a makeover, making numerous, but subtle changes that give it a more modern look. At first glance, the differences aren’t obvious. In fact, most watch lovers probably wouldn’t notice, but compare the two watches side by side and his modifications are outstanding.
First he changed the words “Automatic” and “Swiss Made” into the Chanel typeface and moved the words “Swiss Made” from the dial to the flange, leaving the dial less cluttered. Then he changed the original typeface of the numerals, making them more refined and crafting them in ceramic and applying them to the dial. Next he honed the design of the hands, making both the hour and minute hands exactly the same width with a dimensional adjustment to the area of luminescence. The thickness of the case was also made slightly larger, but thanks to a softening and rounding of the profile, no one would ever notice.
The J12 now comes in a one-piece ceramic case fitted with a sapphire crystal so the new 12.1 automatic caliber is on full view. Produced by the new Swiss Kenissi Manufacture, this COSC-certified movement has a power reserve of 70 hours and an oscillating weight that has been totally redesigned in tungsten. The Chanel Watch Creation Studio wanted a perfect circle for its oscillating weight as this is one of the graphic signatures of Chanel Haute Horlogerie, bringing an elegant touch to the movement’s design.
All in all, the new J12 looks just like the old J12, but a closer look reveals a host of changes that keeps the design fresh, contemporary and as gorgeous as ever.