“Practical, precise and impeccably simple, like the men’s watches which Mademoiselle Chanel liked to borrow from her lovers.” Such is Chanel’s vision of its J12, and no doubt why Giulio Papi was determined nothing should detract from its pure round form when designing the J12 Rétrograde Mystérieuse. This Gordian knot has given rise to multiple patents, a complex mechanism and a crown moved from case to dial. The J12 Rétrograde Mystérieuse is the anniversary watch par excellence in its combination of elegance and technical prowess.
The problem of this retractable crown, set between 2 and 4 o’clock on the dial, is that it inevitably obstructs the minute hand in its travel. This is when the idea of a retrograde hand took seed, sending the minute hand counter-clockwise during which time a numerical display takes over. It counts the minutes from 11 to 19 on an engraved disc, inside a magnified aperture between 5 and 6 o’clock. An important point to note is that the retrograde movement, unlike the majority of retrograde systems, is in no way detrimental to the movement’s accuracy. In an additional subtlety, dictated by the absolute purity of form that Chanel demands, two of the ceramic cabochons around the bezel are in reality pushbuttons which can be independently activated to set the crown in time-setting or winding mode.
Black, white and blue
Every Chanel watch collection transcribes one of the hallmarks of the rue Cambon firm. The Première watch revisits the stopper of the legendary N°5 perfume. Camélia finds inspiration in Chanel’s emblematic flower. Mademoiselle looks to the long pearl necklaces favoured by Coco Chanel, while Chocolat explores the quilted, stitched fabrics of Chanel bags. No exception to this rule, the J12’s original inspiration were the quintessential black and white of the brand. The choice of ceramic was dictated by the depth of colour this material can produce. In this respect, the substantial amounts which Chanel has invested in developing machining processes for ceramic proved decisive.
The latest model to join the collection, the J12 Marine is dedicated to the ocean’s deep. Its distinctive features are 300m water-resistance, a rubber strap, screw-down crown and ceramic unidirectional rotating bezel. The only break with tradition is the unprecedented blue of the bezel, minute hand, seconds hand and tinted sapphire crystal.
Equally symbolic of this year’s new launches, the J12 29mm in ceramic returns to the black and white colour code but with a surprisingly smaller case. Sober or set with 40 diamonds around the bezel, it confirms the trend for small sizes in women’s watches.