As its name suggests, the Première is the first watch creation by the fashion house Chanel. Since its debut in 1987, this ladies’ model has been a tribute to freedom… Unparalleled! A Lesson in Style…
Text by Anja Van Der Borght
Jacques Helleu, the then artistic director of Chanel, designed the Première watch exclusively for women, launching it in 1987. Helleu joined the French fashion house thirty years prior, at the age of eighteen, to help build the brand’s identity and vision. “I aimed to create a design that is both strong and unique; transcending a single collection and becoming an eternal reference,” said the man who introduced Chanel to the world of horology.
With Personality The Première made a remarkable entrance primarily because it broke free from the prevailing masculine codes of the time. For the first time, a women’s watch was not just a smaller version of a men’s watch, but an elegant and bold creation dedicated entirely to women. The wristband nodded to the chain of the iconic, quilted Chanel 2.55 handbag, made of interwoven leather and metal. The dial and the beveled glass took the octagonal shape of the Chanel N°5 perfume bottle’s cap, itself inspired by the Place Vendôme in Paris, the iconic square visible from Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s regular suite in the Ritz. Today, a building just a few numbers down is the home base of Chanel’s haute joaillerie and haute horlogerie. At number 18, Arnaud Chastaingt, Director of the Watchmaking Creation Studio, shapes time. “I wanted to place the Première, which represents our DNA and is a Chanel code in itself, at the center of our collection,” says Chastaingt. “More than a watch, the Première is a lesson in style.”
Back to the Roots Thirty-five years after its creation, the watch resurfaces as the ‘Première Édition Originale’ in its original version: a dial covered with black lacquer in a golden, octagonal case. No numbers or indexes, no second hand or date display. Beneath the beveled glass, two gold-finished hands move in a microcosm of infinity, while the crown set with an onyx cabochon completes this two-tone geometry.
In 2019, Chanel also created the first velvet-soft version of the Première wristband, with the flexibility of a ribbon inspired by Chanel dresses. For a true couture feel! This year, Chanel presents the Première Ribbon in steel set with diamonds. The precious stones on the bezel emphasize the intense black of the dial. All models are equipped with a quartz movement, so you never have to worry about the watch not keeping time.
The Midas Touch
Chanel’s watch design studio is also introducing the J12 this year with the automatic Caliber 12.1 for the first time embellished with 18K yellow gold. The watch (38 mm) displays the three traditional indications (hours, minutes, seconds), has a power reserve of seventy hours, and is available in black and white ceramic. In both versions, the bezel and crown are made of 18K yellow gold. The dial also features delicate yellow gold accents, with gold-plated hands, hour markers, and a beveled edge around the sub-dial. For the first time since Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the Chanel Watchmaking Creation Studio, presented the Caliber 12.1, the oscillating weight, visible through the sapphire crystal case back, is also gold-plated, elevating the iconic watch’s style – appealing to both men and women – to a higher level. The golden glow of the oscillating weight, with its elegant circular form that is part of Chanel Watchmaking’s unique signature, elevates the J12 to a timeless masterpiece of horological art.