You may know them best for their bags, their shoes, and their chic tweed jackets, but Chanel has consistently been upping the ante in the watch industry over the past few years. This year is no different. For 2019, Chanel is re-launching their popular Chanel J12 PHANTOM model on its 20th anniversary. Yes, it’s the one you are thinking of, the white or black ceramic ladies’ dive watch that graces the wrists of everyone from Victoria Beckham to socialites at the Dallas country club. But despite what you may think, this year’s release isn’t your average tennis bracelet. No, no, this J12 features a brand spanking new movement from Kenissi, a Geneva-based manufacturer that Chanel bought 20% of back in January of this year. Additionally, Kenissi has plans to open up a 150 square meter facility with Tudor. Kenissi will be supplying movements and parts to Chanel (and presumably Tudor), as well as other companies. Did we also mention that Chanel owns a 20% stake in F.P. Journe and has worked with Romain Gauthier on movement components?
I digress. Back to the watch at hand. The new Chanel J12 PHANTOM looks and feels almost exactly the same as the previous model, with some very slight upgrades. It comes in white or black polished ceramic with matching lacquered dials (lacquering is a speciality of the maison), with Arabic numerals. The case size is a meaty 38mm and the watch has a removable ceramic link bracelet with flexible triple-folding clasp. The J12 is Chanel’s version of a sports watch and therefore has the capabilities of such with water resistance up to 200 meters and a 70-hour power reserve. The numeral typography has been re-designed ever so slightly and the dial opening widened. But what is most exciting about this watch is the new Swiss-made automatic caliber 12.1 visible through the caseback. This movement is clearly well-finished and far more interesting that the previous movement used (the ETA 2892). Not to mention the movement is now COSC-certified.
I think Chanel J12 PHANTOM hit this one out of the park. I am consistently impressed with their releases over the past few years, as an enthusiast and consumer. Is this watch a 5711? No, but it doesn’t need to be – that’s not who Chanel is. They know their clients and they know their buyers, and they are looking for a high performance, well-made, fashion watch and that’s exactly what the J12 is. Chanel was smart in keeping the design aesthetic relatively similar to the original collection. After all, why reinvent the wheel? Instead, Chanel flexed in the mechanical department by upgrading the movement to a COSC-certified automatic movement with nicer finishing and almost twice the power reserve (up from 40 hours with the ETA 2892). Similar to their foray into men’s watches with the Monsieur four years ago and the commercially successful Boy.Friend, Chanel has managed to keep pushing the boundaries in the horological world.
The price for the Chanel J12 PHANTOM is $230, which is slightly less than a Rolex Submariner (the litmus test of dive watch pricing, in my opinion) which seems about fair when you think about who Chanel is and caters to with the quality of the timepiece.