In the last year, Chanel has undergone big changes. First there was the public release of financial information by the company, the first time in 108 years. Then there was the lamented passing of Karl Lagerfeld and the handing over of the company’s creative direction to Virginie Viard, who had been the brand’s studio director previously.

But more notably, the brand has been acquiring assets in watchmaking. It took a 20% stake in F.P. Journe, and also has stakes in Romain Gauthier (which developed the movement for the Monsieur de Chanel watch) and Bell & Ross. Now it’s added to its portfolio a 20% stake in the Kenissi manufacture.

The Chanel calibre 12.1 designed by Kenissi for the maison
The Chanel calibre 12.1 designed by Kenissi for the maison

When the 20 million SFr stake by Chanel was announced, there were also statements that Kenissi would be developing a movement for Chanel this year. Now, the brand is presenting the calibre 12.1. The base movement will become a regular feature within the brand’s J12 collection, and while we have no information as yet on volume, it looks like the 12.1 will replace Chanel’s use of ETA movements over time.

The 191-component movement has a number of key strengths: rapid date correction, instantaneous date jump, and a power reserve of 70 hours. The oscillating weight is in tungsten and driven by ball bearings. The movement is COSC-certified as well, assuring consumers of its performance accuracy. The date window sits between the 4 and 5 o’clock markers.

The new J12 in black and white ceramic, fitted with the 12.1 calibre
The new J12 in black and white ceramic, fitted with the 12.1 calibre

There are subtle changes with the new 20th anniversary J12 case. The purpose of these refinements are to purify the design codes of the original J12 designed by Jacques Helleu in 2000. His original creation was an all-black, sporty edition inspired by the J12 racing yacht of the America’s Cup, hence its name.

Some changes by Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the Chanel Watch Creation Studio, include increasing the number of notches on the bezel to 40 (from 30), refining the fonts used on the dial, shrinking the crown and adding indicators to the inner railway. The “Swiss Made” label now sits on the outer minute track rather than on the dial. It leaves more breathing space on the dial, and the all-black ceramic watch has a sportier, gender-neutral impact.

Arnaud Chastaingt, head of the Chanel Watch Creation Studio
Arnaud Chastaingt, head of the Chanel Watch Creation Studio

The 12.1 calibre clearly speaks to Chanel’s focus on watchmaking, particularly with the development of watch complications that appeal to both men and women. The Monsieur de Chanel was an outstanding design with a beautiful jump hour and retrograde display, but also offered at a premium pricing to consumers in limited volume.

A movement developed for Chanel allows the brand to expand further and bring its particular aesthetic and style of watchmaking, coupled with functions that would appeal to the Chanel consumer.

The refinements made to the J12 by Arnaud Chastaingt are subtle, but make a notable impact of the style of the watch

The watches in black and white ceramic, as well as jewelled versions in snow and baguette settings will be released in Chanel stores in May 2019, along with a global advertising campaign featuring various personalities with the watch. The watches are priced from €XXX onwards. Don’t miss our interview with Nicolas Beau and Arnaud Chastaingt on the website and our YouTube channel for more inside information on the refreshed J12.