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Chanel - All change for the J12

Chanel All change for the J12

Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed with the 2019 J12 collection.

After taking charge of Chanel’s watch design studio less than six years ago, Arnaud Chastaingt launched the Boy.Friend, Code Coco and Monsieur de Chanel models. But for Baselworld this year he presents the result of his toughest challenge yet: the J12. The challenge was all the more difficult given Chastaingt’s relationship with the J12. “I made a deal with the J12. I promised never to touch the original design of Jacques Helleu. Instead, I decided to work the icon. It has since become my muse.”

Yet the creative director has now done just that. Even though Chanel is stressing that this is definitely not a new J12, as befits a timeless design with iconic status, if you take a closer look you will nevertheless see that a number of details have been changed. All of them for the better.

“Four years ago, we decided to touch the original design of the J12 after all,” explains Chastaingt. “At that point we had two options: change everything or change nothing. It’s much easier as a designer, however, to start with a blank piece of paper, so I chose the first option. But I decided to change everything without really changing anything.” [Read Brice Lechevalier’s interview with Arnaud Chastaignt for the full story.]

Tous les changements de la J12

Arnaud Chastaingt © Chanel

At first glance, the non-new “new” J12 is unmistakably a J12. It has the ceramic case and the monochromatic look. But no fewer than 70% of the components in the watch have been changed. Take the same surgical approach as Arnaud Chastaingt did with the design and you will see that everything has indeed changed.

Tous les changements de la J12

J12 in white ceramic © Chanel

• The case is now made entirely out of ceramic (the previous case was a combination of ceramic with a steel back) with a transparent sapphire crystal back. 

• The ceramic bracelet has been redesigned with extended links.

• The bezel is thinner and has more grooves (40 instead of 30), and it makes a better sound when it rotates.

• The crown is one-third thinner and the ceramic cabochon is smaller in diameter and thickness.

• The numerals have been changed, as has the typography for the date window. The new font was developed in conjunction with a typographer and the numerals are now in ceramic to match the case. 

• The minute scale is now on an inclined flange.

• While the hour hand was bigger than the minutes on the original J12, now it’s the other way around. The hands are also skeletonized and filled with SuperLuminova inserts, with a smaller counterweight and an arrowhead filled with SuperLuminova.

Tous les changements de la J12

Case back view © Chanel

By far the biggest change, however, is seen through the transparent sapphire crystal case back. The new Swiss manufacturer KENISSI has developed an entirely new base calibre for the J12. The calibre 12.1 is COSC chronometer certified (the previous model was not), offers 70 hours of power reserve and comes with a five-year warranty. The oscillating mass has been redesigned in tungsten to produce an openworked perfect circle design, which is a signature of Chanel’s high-end watches. Despite all these improvements, the new J12’s retail price starts at just €5,300 – a €350 increase over the previous model that barely covers the cost of the chronometer certificate.

Tous les changements de la J12

Calibre 12.1 © Chanel


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Through her life, Gabrielle Chanel embodied strength, character and a fierce desire for independence. Maison CHANEL, avant-garde and constantly innovative, has come down through the decades to become an unmistakable symbol of distinction, elegance and refinement.

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