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At first glance, the new J12 introduced in 2019 by Chanel may not look very different from the original model launched in 2000.

And yet, the barely perceptible makeover took four years to complete (8 if we include the new movement) because, as explains Arnaud Chastaingt (foto below), Director of Chanel’s Watchmaking Creation Studio “It’s easier to create something brand new rather than trying to change an icon”.

When the late Chanel Artistic Director Jacques Helleu designed the first J12 nineteen years ago, inspired by the yachting world, he made it chic and sporty, sleek and resistant. Crafted in high-tech deep black ceramic, the 38 mm case had a matching ceramic bracelet, a wide bezel, and a black dial with white Arabic numerals, a railroad minute track in the centre, and a date between 4 and 5 o’clock.  Equipped with an automatic movement, it was androgynous, unisex, and an instant success.  An all-white version followed three years later.

Chastaingt was a luxury design student in 2000 when the J12 was launched.  He remembers his fascination when he discovered in the press “this revolution in watchmaking”.

Called in, in 2013, by Nicolas Beau (foto below), International Director of watches and fine jewelry at Chanel, to “refreshen” the J12, Chastaingt (who by then was head of Cartier’s Paris watch studio) rose to the challenge and joined Chanel.  But how could he touch the design of an icon, created by an idol?   It was a long and difficult process, that he compares more to a “surgical act” rather than one of pure creation.

The result? While the basics of the original J12 remain intact, 70% of the components have been changed.  The face appears wider thanks to the narrowed steel ring and bezel that surround it – a bezel that now has 40 notches instead of 30.  The crown is screw-down, and like the cabochon, is smaller.

Typography is slightly modified, numerals are now in ceramic, the hour and minute hands are the same width, the seconds hand and Super-LumiNova are revised, the bracelet and buckle are refined, and the case back is transparent to reveal the new in-house movement that, with 70 hours of power reserve, is slightly thicker than the original, requiring a slightly rounded case to accommodate it.

A new J12? For Chastaingt, “this is more than a new J12, it’s the J12 of the future”.

 

Water resistant to 200 meters, COSC certified, it comes with a 5-year guarantee.

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