It’s been a cool 16 years since the launch of the J12, but Chanel has kindly returned its watch-making focus to the gentlemen once again. Launched at Baselworld 2016, the Monsieur de Chanel is the Maison’s way of proving its mettle in the competitive world of haute horology.
The Monsieur de Chanel is a technical feat for a brand that is otherwise known for its tweed jackets and quilted leather bags. Housed within a white or beige gold case is its first movement made in-house, the Calibre 1. The Swiss-made timepiece is assembled entirely at the company’s manufacturing plant in La Chaux-de-Fonds and sees parts outfitted by the extremely renowned Romain Gauthier. For those new to the world of horology, Gauthier is not only a supplier of very high-quality specialised mechanical watch movement components, he also has an eponymous portfolio that includes the prize-winning Logical One — revolutionary for its use of a snail cam instead of the traditional fusee, increasing efficiency and minimising friction.
Of course for this milestone, Chanel wasn’t going to make the Monsieur Chanel an ordinary watch. Designed around a very specific complication — the jump hour — the watch sees its hours displayed through a window on the dial at the 6 o’clock position, each jumping instantaneously like a digital display. Integrating the rare mechanism isn’t child’s play either. The complicated movement sees a complex rotating disk system that consists of hundreds of components. The jump hour module is also an exacting mechanism, which means it has to jump precisely on the hour smoothly without even the slightest wobble as it moves — little wonder they’re usually highly coveted by collectors and connoisseurs.
Just slightly above the jumping hour display is another mechanical feat. The slightly larger retrograde index arcs at a 240-degree angle instead of the usual 180 degrees, with the hand adjustable in both directions. This patent-pending movement is the first for such a mechanism.
And the Monsieur de Chanel may be made for men, but it still carries meaning symbolic to the Maison. Hardcore Chanel fans would be quick to point out that the shape of the jump hour window is the same shape as Coco Chanel’s residence — the Place Vendome in Paris — and a lot of other Chanel merchandise such as the No.5 perfume bottle stopper and the Première watch collection.
But all that fan-fare can only be overshadowed by the underside of the timepiece. The Calibre 1 movement — which will only be exclusively used in the Monsieur model — can be seen through a clear back case in all its dark, complex and architectural glory; a stark contrast to the minimalist opaline 40mm dial. Inside, the manually wound watch beats at 4Hz (28,800bph) and has a power reserve of 72 hours. Only 300 of the Monsieur de Chanel will ever exist, at a very substantial €31,500 (SGD48,400) for the beige gold version and €33,00 (SGD50,700) for the white gold version.