ARNAUD CHASTAINGT, DIRECTOR OF CHANEL’S WATCHMAKING CREATION STUDIO, REWORKS THE LEGENDARY WATCH WITH SURGICAL PRECISION

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Illustration by Ellie Rahim

Indeed, it does sound like surgery. To create the new version of the Chanel J12 watch – and making the most of Chanel’s black and white hallmark – two single-colored (one black, one white) extremely hard, scratch-proof ceramic cases are produced, then cut and combined to form the Paradoxe watch,  

Hand-crafted at Chanel’s atelier in Switzerland, the name of the watch dates back to the year 2000. Jacques Hélleu, Chanel’s artistic director for almost three decades, named it after the 12-meter J-class racing yachts. When this black, ceramic watch, characterized by distinctive, minimalist, pure lines, first came to life, it revolutionized the watch world: both haute horlogerie and casual timepieces. This luxury watch changed the whole concept of luxury watches.  

The re-creation of famous, distinctive watches is anything but simple.

In 2013, when Arnaud Chastaingt joined Chanel’s Watchmaking Creation Studio, he was faced with a colossal dilemma: to create a new watch from scratch, or to remake the iconic J12 version, which—paradoxically—was a much more complex and ambitious task than working from zero.  

As a result, he reworked a whopping 70 per cent of the original components, which—again, paradoxically—yielded a subtle, modern result. The philosophy behind the remaking this legendary watch was a harmonious yet strong-willed evolution rather than abrupt revolution, with discreet aesthetic changes and advances. This reflects Mr Chastaingt’s personality and style: deliberately keeping a low profile and staying away from the spotlight, preferring that people talk about his creations rather than about him.  

Unisex, elegant and timeless, the reworked J12 will pave the way for future developments in the world of high jewelry and watchmaking.  

Among other recent horological creations from Chanel, my favorites are Code Coco, released in 2017, and Monsieur de Chanel, launched in 2016.  

In the dynamic and bold Code Coco, Arnaud Chastaingt manages to find the right balance between past and future. With a touch of retro, this streamlined, sophisticated and delicately luxurious timepiece does not look at all old or ‘historic’.  

Monsieur de Chanel was the brand’s first watch to be created with men in mind. Understated yet super-elegant, not overdesigned nor excessively extravagant, it’s slick, powerful and manly, but not over the top. This is a watch I would wear myself. The perfect reflection of Coco Chanel’s inimitable advice for stylish women and classy men: ‘It is always better to be underdressed.’

Underdressed, in the world of Chanel, stands for elegant and elite.

Illustration by Ellie Rahim

THE JEWELRY ICON

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