In conjunction with the 20th-anniversary of the Chanel J12 timepiece, the haute couture brand is unveiling the ‘Diamond Paradoxe’ and ‘X-Ray’ timepieces.

Even if organisers choose to call off Baselworld 2020 — amidst rising fears of a Covid-19 pandemic — Chanel can be pretty confident it will have the last laugh. In the lead-up to the biggest watch convention of the year, the French fashion house has just released images of its X-Ray and Paradoxe timepieces — both of which celebrate the 20th anniversary of the J12 in a way that’s quintessentially Chanel. Let’s start off with the more conventional of the two releases — the Chanel J12 Paradoxe.

Chanel J12
From left to right: the non-limited 2/3 white ceramic Paradoxe and its diamond-set sibling

Playing in the same sandbox as Chanel’s mainline J12, the non-limited Paradoxe’s major distinguishing feature is its two-tone case. Each model features a unique colour scheme, with either black or white (dependent on the model) dominating two-thirds of visible casework. In line with the standard J12, the case and bracelet are fashioned from ceramic — which is known for being four times more brittle than steel. To machine such notoriously difficult material, Chanel relies on G&F Chatelain: a subsidiary manufacture which makes a range of watch components for the brand. Chatelain utilises a fairly clever manufacturing process whereby the Paradoxe’s visible ceramic surfaces are screwed over an inner steel core — thus providing a suitable, sufficiently protective enclosure for the movement. (More on that momentarily.)

Chanel J12
Fittingly, a third of the Diamond Paradoxe’s visible surface area is set with baguette-cut diamonds, contrasted against a majority of black ceramic.
Chanel J12
Up close with the Diamond Paradoxe: note the bezel with baguette setting, cabochon crown and decorative indexes.

Alongside the non-limited ceramic model, Chanel is releasing a diamond-set version of the Paradoxe — identical in layout, albeit with a slightly different construction. Limited to 20 pieces, the Diamond Paradoxe is manufactured using an inner case of white gold, that’s then overlaid with a steel bezel. Additional embellishments take the form of a cabochon winding crown and hour markers that continue the theme of precious gems.

Chanel J12
Chanel’s new J12 movement: a heavily modified Tudor MT5600, decorated with a circular, open-worked rotor.

Both Paradoxe models are outfitted with movements from the Kennissi manufacture, a company that is majority owned by none other than Tudor (and therefore ultimately Rolex). Given this information, it’s unsurprising that the calibre 12.1 (the newest J12 movement) is in fact a variation of the Tudor MT5600 — distinguishable by the finishing of the bridges and rotor. (Overlapping circles are a common motif in the world of Chanel watches.) Both movements are roughly analogous when it comes to performance: at full wind, the calibre 12.1 offers a respectable 70 hours of power, operates at 28,800 vph and is COSC certified.

Chanel J12

Though the thought of calling the Paradoxe a ‘straightforward’ watch is frankly preposterous, the J12 X-Ray manages to reduce it to just that. Certified pure unobtanium (Chanel have only produced 12 pieces total), the X-Ray gets its name from its clear sapphire construction: a sophisticated feat of engineering which repurposes a material that’s relegated to protective applications. Like ceramic, sapphire’s fragile crystal structure makes it extremely prone to chipping and cracks, though these vulnerabilities are exaggerated to the nth degree when used in such large-scale exercises. As with the Paradoxe, Chanel once again tapped Chatelain to tackle the challenges attached to such a fragile material. The basic case is manufactured using a monobloc sapphire, onto which the bezel and dial are attached. In contrast with the Paradoxe, the X-Ray’s entire bezel is set with baguette-cut diamonds.

Chanel J12
Chanel J12
The J12 X-Ray’s sapphire crystal bracelet is a true first for the industry: the links are secured by a series of pins and screws, machined from white gold.

A quick look at the dial in the images above reveals that the dial is instrumental in more ways than one: in tandem with its visual appeal, it also functions as the base plate for the movement powering the X-Ray. Within the calibre 3.1, sapphire plays a starring role. All moving parts — including the escapement and going train — are secured by bridges which are themselves fashioned from the transparent material, which gives wearers the sensation that the entire movement is suspended in mid-air. The fact that this particular movement configuration is easy to follow and so pleasing to the naked eye is no accident: draw your eye down to 4 o’clock, and you’ll be greeted by another decorative detail, a balance featuring four individuated counterweights in the shape of a flower.

The Chanel J-12 Diamond Paradoxe is available in a limited edition of 20 pieces. The J12 X-Ray is available in a limited edition of 12 pieces. For detailed pricing information, visit Chanel online.

This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong.

Randy Lai
Watches Editor
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.