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Object of Desire: Chanel’s New J12 Watch

By Bianca Husodo


When Jacques Helleu, the late artistic director of Chanel for more than 40 years, created the J12 ceramic wristwatch in 1999, it was said he designed it for himself. It was melding of things Helleu held close to his heart: automobiles and sailing. Inspired by the structural chassis lines of racing cars and America’s Cup racing class yacht — the J12, which it was monikered after — the watch was billed as the house’s first unisex offering.

Exactly two decades later: a new J12 steps in. Revealed at Baselworld today, the changes are subtle. The signature notches on the bezel are increased, from 30 to 40. Fonts of the numerals undergo typeface tweaks, designed by the Chanel Creation Studio team, and arrive more pronounced in ceramic. Its crown, now adorned with ceramic cabochon, is shrunk by a third of its original size. On the centre of its lacquered dial, revamped indicators are implemented to the inner railway. The “Swiss Made” label, which previously sat on the dial, now frames a delicate curve on the outer minute track.

Behind, gloriously displayed through the see-through sapphire crystal ceramic case, is the heart of the rejuvenation: the newly developed 12.1 calibre automatic movement, designed in-house by Kenissi. Rendered in a smooth graphic circle, its oscillating weight has been redesigned in tungsten to produce its openwork while maintaining efficient rewinding power.

Available in white, black, or encrusted in diamonds, the reworked J12 looks almost exactly like its antecedent: timeless, sporty and gender-neutral — but it isn’t. It’s a new classic.

Chanel’s 2019 J12 watch is set to arrive in stores come May, price upon request.