Long gone are the days when I sneered at the mention of a Chanel watch and dismissed it as a fashion item. I remember sitting at a fine London bar some years ago with my WOSTEP-trained watchmaker-turned-marketer friend from Audemars Piguet and, unavoidably, talking shop. After a few decadent cocktails, my Dutch courage compelled me to blurt out how much I liked the Boy·Friend Skeleton. Then I went on about how Chanel watch had upped the horological ante. To my surprise, he confessed that he loved the J12! Talk about genderleess or unisex watches, whatever the label is, Chanel was already on board back in 2000 with the introduction of the ceramic J12. I’m not a watch snob. I am not partial to only artisanal or boutique independents. Nevertheless, glossy ceramic watches just aren’t my thing.
That said, Chanel watch is independent. And ever since I learned that the brand’s watchmaking studio solicited the help from esteemed independent watchmaker Romain Gauthier to create some of its first high-end mechanical movements back in the day (and subsequently bought a minority stake in his company), I’ve paid attention. Chanel is also a strategic shareholder of Swiss movement manufacturer Kenissi, and it has a stake in F.P. Journe as well as holdings in other part makers. In 2019, Chanel introduced the automatic Calibre 12.1, specially developed by Kenissi. And that is the movement that we now find in the 38mm J12 watches. The brand calls this new capsule collection CHANEL WANTED. It consists of four of Chanel’s signature watch styles – the J12, Première, Boy·Friend, and Code Coco. The French maison is a master of desirability, and Chanel logomania is spilling over into its timepieces. For this special curation, it is all about playing with the Chanel watch wordmark. Thus, the six inseparable letters transform into different designs to stamp across the selected watches.
The most sought-after item in the capsule collection is this box in black-lacquered wood containing six exceptional J12 watches. These six pieces have received a more subtle new case and come in six different tone-on-tone graphical iterations. The black shiny logo motifs play against a matte black backdrop across the enamel dial and ceramic bezel in different compositions. The Chanel watch 38mm case has a new matte black finish and a highly scratch-resistant ceramic construction with a black-coated steel bezel. A steel screw-down crown features one brilliant-cut diamond (~0.15 carats). The bracelet is in the same ceramic material with the same finish and secures to the wrist with a steel tri-fold buckle. Visible through the sapphire crystal case back is the aforementioned self-winding Calibre 12.1. This COSC-certified movement has a stunning black-coated finish and a black oscillating weight with 34 brilliant-cut diamonds (~0.26 carats). It operates at a frequency of 28,000vph and offers a 70-hour power reserve.
While the six watches can be sold separately, the box and the watches inside are numbered and limited to just five pieces each. If you haven’t got your fixer on speed dial pulling some strings already, consider yourself woefully behind.
The rest of the WANTED collection is technically limited but not numbered, so the watches are more available than the Highly Wanted set. The two J12 limited editions showcased in the WANTED collection are crafted in black and white glossy ceramic. The pair play on their duality, each offering a different inerpretation of the Chanel motif.
The 38mm black J12 with a sapphire case back also houses the Kenissi-developed Calibre 12.1. The usual J12 design elements on its black-lacquered dial and black steel bezel are absent, making way for the bold, iconic Chanel wordmark. This white-on-black graphic motif stretches extravagantly across the dial, overlapping onto the bezel for a powerful impact. The retail price for this watch sits at €8,100. The 33mm white J12 with a steel case back, on the other hand, houses a high-precision quartz movement. Its design sees the Chanel logo continuously splashed across the white-lacquered dial in polished rhodium-plated inscriptions from row to row. The silver metallic letters on the steel bezel show through the white-varnished sapphire crystal ring. This watch retails for €6,150. Taking the iconic Première bracelet timepiece a step further, this limited edition features six Chanel-letter charms in black lacquer dangling as pendants from its steel and leather chain. The watch itself has a high-precision quartz movement housed in a steel case with a solid case back and a black-lacquered dial. You can pick up this model for €6,200. Exuding a rock ‘n’ roll spirit is the Code Coco limited-edition with a black embossed calfskin strap with silver trim and black calfskin lining. It is punctuated by six palladium-treated Chanel letters. A prominent Mademoiselle turn-lock sits right in the middle of the watch between two black-lacquered dials. One of the dials displays the time while the other one flaunts a 0.10ct princess-cut diamond. The watch has a steel casing with a solid case back and a quartz movement ticking inside. This model carries a price of €8,550. The Boy·Friend limited edition evokes the spirit of the ‘90s in a pixelated design. This rhodium-plated motif on a black-lacquered dial recalls a frame of the Tetris game. The quartz-operated watch comes on an interchangeable black satin effect calfskin strap with palladium-treated “CHA” and “NEL” divided by the rectangular steel watch case. You can pick up this model for €5,350.
Simply put, the WANTED capsule collection is HOT. These watches are fun and sexy in an androgynous way, and I want them all. I never thought I’d be caught dead wearing “logos”. But I also never thought you could wear multiple watches together and look so cool. I’d lose the glossy J12 and get the matte version instead (if I could find one, that is). And do I care the rest run on quartz movements? You know, we all have those moments when we are compelled to go with the heart instead of the head. This may be one of those moments for me.