One swallow doesn’t make a spring, but its return to the northern hemisphere is often a sign of warmer days ahead. Similarly, when Chanel introduced its first mechanical movement, the aptly named Calibre 1, exactly a year ago, observers were impressed but still in need of further proof that the Parisian house, whose timepieces thus far had favoured form over substance, was “warming up” to mechanical watchmaking. The introduction of Calibre 2 for the thirtieth anniversary of the Première watch leaves no doubt: between mechanical expertise and original design, spring is here at last!
The spirit of Gabrielle
As with Calibre 1, the beating heart inside the Monsieur de Chanel watch, this second movement drew on contributions from Chanel’s design studio in Paris and from Manufacture Châtelain in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a town that has longstanding associations with Swiss watchmaking. The two worked hand-in-hand, with the French team first sketching the watch before handing over to their colleagues who transposed their idea into mechanical form, thus confirming Chanel’s belief that “technique is at the service of creation”. When searching for the spark, the detail that would grow into the new timepiece, the creative team looked naturally to one of Chanel’s touchstones: the camellia, Gabrielle Chanel’s favourite flower that featured in her designs as of 1923. They imagined skeletonised bridges which, arranged one above the other, would form petals; the rest of the components would then fit neatly in between. The engineers at Manufacture Châtelain were able to reprise certain elements – pallet lever, escape wheel and double roller – which Renaud & Papi had developed for the skeleton movement inside the J12, presented two years previous. For the rest of the calibre, Châtelain’s newly established movement division worked from scratch. Chanel also called on Manufacture Romain Gauthier, in which it has a stake, to machine the gears and pinions.
The pick of the bunch
Calibre 2 is a manually-wound, mechanical skeleton movement with 107 components, 21 jewels, 48 hours of power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 vibrations/hour that fully respects Chanel’s visual codes. Gabrielle was born a Leo, and the lion discreetly adorned the Calibre 1. This time, it is the more feminine camellia that signals Chanel’s strong attachment to its legacy, with multiple details accentuating this lineage. First the movement’s black colour, achieved by an elegant ADLC coating. Then the shape of the case which, though slightly modified to suit the movement, retains the original proportions of the Première watch that was inspired by the stopper of the Chanel N°5 perfume bottle. Lastly, a keen eye will notice the bright chamfering on the satin-finished bridges that “trims” the movement like the braid on a Chanel jacket.
Set with 246 brilliant-cut diamonds or entirely black with diamond-set hour and minute hands, both versions of Calibre 2 testify to Chanel’s talent and creativity. Matching ethereal qualities with flamboyance, the two renditions of the Première Camélia Skeleton are joined by a limited edition of twelve pieces with full pavé baguette diamonds, and are a convincing expression of Chanel’s new expertise.
So what’s next? With a full-fledged industrial tool at its disposal, comprising the Paris design studio, component manufacturing capabilities at Romain Gauthier, and Manufacture Châtelain whose movement division provides development and assembly capacities in addition to its well-respected expertise in ceramic production, Chanel has all the cards in hand to unite creativity and technique. With more calibres already in the pipeline, spring has only just begun!