Charmed, I’m sure! Chanel’s latest Chanel Première watch, the Extrait de Camélia (Extract of Camellia), offers a playful twist on one of the house’s most prolific symbols, the camellia flower.
In this latest incarnation, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s favorite blossom is depicted on a sculpted golden charm that dangles from the watch’s crown. A single brilliant-cut diamond sits at the center of the bloom on the black-dial version, while the jeweled version fittingly puts on the Ritz, with a pavé diamond dial and glittering charm suited for a black-tie soiree. (Remember those?) To complete the look, there’s even a matching open ring with a charm.
As Coco herself once said, “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous!” Before there was J12, there was Chanel Première watch, Chanel’s first watch collection, launched in 1987. After more than 30 years, it has to be challenging to keep Première au courant and irresistible, but Chanel’s designers still manage to find a way – from the minimalist LBD black-dial model to a sexy, revealing skeleton to a series of red-carpet-ready, high-jewelry flying tourbillons lavishly set with baguette-cut diamonds, sapphires, or emeralds (the horological equivalent of an haute couture ballgown).
Like the Chanel Première watch that came before, the Extrait de Camélia speaks the language of Chanel’s iconography fluently. The watch’s octagonal case traces the outlines of the brand’s spiritual home, Paris’ Place Vendôme, where Chanel lived for decades in multiple suites at the Ritz Paris until her death in 1971. The symbolic case shape can be traced to her legendary Chanel No. 5 parfum, which debuted in the 1920s. As sales caught on, the original bottle evolved and was topped with a heavy glass stopper faceted like a gemstone and shaped like the Parisian landmark as viewed from above.
The brand attributes the designer’s affinity for camellias to some apocryphal anecdotes. As one story goes, Chanel, at the impressionable age of 13, was enthralled by Sarah Bernhardt’s performance as Marguérite Gautier in Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame aux camélias (“The Lady of the Camellias”), better known to English-speaking audiences as Camille.
Another references her Parisian contemporary Marcel Proust and his circle of dandies who wore camellias in their lapels, symbolizing refinement, unity, and ambiguity. Chanel adapted the trend, slipping the flower into the belt of her striped Breton shirt while at the seaside in Étretat in Normandy. She first pinned her preferred white bloom to a chiffon dress in 1923. Since then, it has been interpreted in countless ways – from embroidery to printing to engraving – and fashioned from materials ranging from chiffon and tweed to ceramic and sapphires, not to mention 18k gold with diamonds.
“There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony,” Chanel said. “There is time for work. And time for love. That leaves no other time.”