I’ve got to hand it to Chanel. I read a lot of press releases, and funnily enough, I quite enjoy the task. Finding a good one, though, is like panning for gold. It’s a mostly fruitless pursuit, but when you hit pay dirt, the elation is worth the wait. In introducing the new Chanel Monsieur de Chanel watch, this oft-unheralded watchmaker gave me gooseflesh — and that was before I even saw the watch.
Chanel is one of those fashion houses, much like Bulgari or Hermes, that the casual horophile will dismiss as nothing more. The truth is, however, that Chanel’s legitimacy as a watchmaker has been growing steadily in recent years. It was the Monsieur de Chanel released back in 2016 that featured the brand’s first in-house caliber (catchily named the Calibre 1), propelling the brand further beneath the loupe than ever before.
Since then, the brand has reworked a classic in the form of the Mademoiselle J12 (playful and serious as the company mantra demands), picked-up a stake in Kenissi, and doubled down on their ability to push the envelope, technologically and materially.
2019 brings an update for the Monsieur de Chanel watch. The easily identifiable dial with retrograde minutes and jumping hours is presented in black. The movement is similarly dark, with black plates and bridges. Thirty synthetic rubies provide the only flash of color against the moody backdrop and rhodium-plated wheels.
The 240-degree retrograde minute hand hugs the going seconds dial that sits above the jumping hour at 6 o’clock. There is no automatic winding, but the twin barrels generate a power reserve of three days. It is a testament to the power generated by the mainsprings that such a reserve is possible, despite the 4Hz operating speed.
Props to Chanel for including spring torque information in their technical notes (700g.mm, for anyone who’s interested). Clearly, the brand wants to be taken seriously. And after wrapping an already credible movement in an interesting case, why shouldn’t they be?
It’s arguable that the black watch phenomenon has passed its apex, but there is still a rabid market for ceramic. The case is 42mm, with wearability further increased by the comfort of ceramic. I’m not sure whether it ever gives me the same level of joy on my wrist as steel, but it’s different, at least. There is something too clinical about it that puts me off emotionally, but I can’t deny that the aesthetic Chanel has achieved here is stunning.
The dial looks like an old-fashioned gauge one might find on a café racer bike. The jumping hour complication is given room to breathe. As the focal point of the dial, this is pleasing to see.
It is difficult to fault well-made in-house creations with an identifiable and considered aesthetic. My only gripe with the Chanel Monsieur de Chanel watch is the fact that ceramic is totally absent from the buckle. In spite of that, the overall offering is very good, with just 55 pieces available. The Chanel Monsieur de Chanel watch will be priced at $26,700. Find our more at chanel.com.