On February 12, the French house of Christian Dior presents new watches in the Chiffre Rouge collection. The date is no coincidence: on February 12, 1947, designer Christian Dior presented his first collection in Paris, which, under the name of New Look, changed the course of fashion history. And this is not the only reference to the history and the symbols of the French brand.

Hermès, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel. Brands better known in the world of fashion or accessories do not shy away from watchmaking either. And when it comes to design, they usually draw on their rich heritage. Chanel plays on the life of Gabrielle Coco Chanel, while Hermès, originally a saddle maker, bets on the world of equestrianism. Louis Vuitton, of course, uses the famous Monogram motif. Christian Dior is no exception. The Chiffre Rouge collection, first introduced twenty years ago, is the proof rather than the promise, returning to the watch market after a hiatus that since 2015.

Dior has been making watches since the mid-1970s. In 2004, when the advent of smartphones had put fashionable quartz watches on the back burner, the brand introduced its first men’s watch with an automatic movement, under the direction of Hedi Slimane, then creative director of the men’s collections, playing with asymmetry in its design.

A groundbreaking caliber

Throughout the year, the brand will be unveiling its new watches, which we can boldly describe as unisex. February 12 will see the launch of the first of them: two 38mm steel models with a date window (one of which has a bezel set with black diamonds), powered by the Sellita automatic caliber, and a 41mm chronograph powered by the CD.001 movement – the El Primero by Zenith, which, like Dior, is part of Bernard Arnault’s LVMH group. In June, a tourbillon watch will be unveiled, featuring a movement assembled by Geneva-based watchmaker Louis Vuitton Fabrique du Temps.

The groundbreaking caliber El Primero (Spanish for “First”) is particularly noteworthy because it adds relevance to the Chiffre Rouge chronograph. Zenith launched it 55 years ago, in January 1969, after seven years of development, as the world’s first automatic chronograph. Not only was the El Primero watch more user-friendly than manually-wound chronographs thanks to its automatic winding, but it was also a very precise caliber, capable of measuring 1/10th of a second.

Times were not kind to the new invention, though. In the years that followed, the Swiss watch industry was completely engulfed by the quartz crisis and Zenith’s management chose to bet on quartz. The El Primero might have gone down in history had it not been for watchmaker Charles Vermont, who believed in the caliber and – with the brand’s permission – archived all the technical drawings and the machines needed to produce it.

Then, in 1988, when Rolex decided to redesign its own Daytona chronograph, which was still equipped with a manual winding movement, it built the new automatic caliber 4030 on the foundations of the El Primero. And, thanks to Charles Vermont, Zenith was able to satisfy Rolex. Today, the El Primero is used in some models of other LVMH brands as well as in Zenith’s own cases. Thus, the El Primero has found its place not only in the history of watchmaking, but it also deservedly belongs to its present.

A fresh wind

Three new Chiffre Rouge models are artfully linked by common design elements: in particular, the black color of the dial and case. The case and bezel are made of steel with a black DLC coating. The case is water-resistant to 100 meters.

The Dior designers have brightened up the elegant black color with touches of red for a sportier look: red circles frame the round date window at 4 o´clock, and the eighth day of the month is highlighted in red, as eight was Christian Dior’s lucky number. The chronograph’s seconds hand and central seconds hand are also red. The red ring can be found on the distinctive crown of the watch, asymmetrically positioned at the 4 o’clock position.

The highlighting of the number eight in the date window is not the only reference to the history of Dior fashion house. The originality of the watch is further enhanced by the cannage motif, the famous pattern that has become a symbol of the brand. The cannage motif adorns both the dial and the rotor of the automatic movement. It is also found on the black rubber strap, which can be easily replaced with a more luxurious black alligator strap.

The new Chiffre Rouge watches show that Dior, like Louis Vuitton for example, cannot be completely ignored in the world of watchmaking.

No Comments