“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

Very few Houses exist that have given the world of fashion as many iconic pieces as Chanel.

Many elements of Coco “Gabrielle” Chanel’s life have been exemplary for decades; the Coromandel folding screens, Camellia flowers, lion sculptures, star motifs, pearl strands, the Chanel No. 5 and the famous “Orient meets Occident” design.

This year Karl Lagerfeld (Head Designer and Creative Director of the House) was inspired by the emblematic jacket of the House in creating the Girl Chanel bag and Lagerfeld also metamorphosed another iconic piece, the “Boy Chanel” bag. (Gabrielle Chanel made a bag that she needed herself, an accessory which freed the hands: a chain interwoven with leather ribbon that allows the wearer to carry it on the shoulder.)

This is no different for the Chanel watches, many characteristic pieces were “reborn” this year.

Première collection

The rectangular (shape of the N°5 bottle-stopper and that of place Vendôme) Première collection embarked on its world-domination in 1987 and this year it encompasses quite a wide range. With the Première Flying Tourbillon the brand cooperated with Swiss watchmakers, Renaud & Papi to create a flying tourbillon stylized with a camellia.

Renaud & Papi (Audemars Piguet Renaud et Papi SA) is a young manufacture, but has the status of inventing and making some of the most complex calibers. They develop movements for other brands including Richard Mille, Harry Winston, Chanel and Franck Muller.

This is one of the most feminine tourbillons we’ve ever seen. The different versions are finely set with diamonds or sapphires and are available in white, yellow and beige gold.

To make the spring even more enjoyable for ladies, Chanel created a limited line, the Première Rock, with a steel triple row chain interwoven with pastel pink, beige or light blue leather. The collection includes a slightly more rock&roll watch with black lacquered dial and steel double row chain bracelet and clasp.


J12 collection

Chanel followed a similar concept with the J12 timepieces. From 2000 the brand has been making the high-tech ceramic really fashionable and stylish. There are many variations: new colours, the creation of matte surfaces, limited editions and exceptional pieces. In the haute horlogerie category Chanel worked once again with Renaud & Papi but in this case the tourbillon is a star, more specifically a “Comète”, set with 30 brilliant-cut diamonds. On some models even the dial is openworked giving us the chance to see the manual-winding mechanical movement. I tried on the version with a black onyx dial which is set with 227 brilliant-cut diamonds and 18K white gold flange set with 74 brilliant-cut diamonds – it was an instant love.

One of the J12 Color watches received a typical military-world NATO strap, but in a lady-like fashion: the 38mm size, the high-tech ceramic and steel case and the jeans-blue dial is a nice accessory for any fashionista.


Mademoiselle Privé collection

On the last Biennalé in Paris, I already endorsed a few Mademoiselle Privé timepieces. At Baselworld, Chanel showed us watches in three categories of the exceptional craftsmanship: Mademoiselle Privé Coromandel Dials, Symbols, and Embroidered Dials.

“We are playing our part in the kingdom of the imagination. Embroidery can be a woman’s dream become reality” – François Lesage. François Lesage was a French couture embroiderer. He had collaborations with the greatest haute couture fashion houses, and the archives of the Maison Lesage house the largest collection of couture embroidery in the world. His atelier is now part of the Maison Chanel through its company “Paraffection”.

Last December Chanel celebrated its 11th Métiers d’Art show in Salzburg, held at the historic Schloss Leopoldskron – an event honouring the fine craftsmanship that the artisan partners bring to the Chanel collections. The show included a rich palette of white, red, navy and black mixed with alpine hues, mixing extensive featherwork with leather, cashmere, lace, tweed and gorgeously embroidered chiffon.

Chanel interpreted this exceptional know-how to watches too. The Mademoiselle Privé Embroidered Camellia is decorated by Maison Lesage with a camellia motif made of silk thread and natural pearls. The piece is completed with a 18K beige gold case and white satin bracelet.

The Coromandel Dial collection further showcases the skill and know-how of the Métier d’Art craftsmanship of the House. The motifs are inspired by Coco’s Coromandel folding screens, and the techniques are diverse; Grand Feu enamelling, gold sculpturing and glyptic (engraving or carving on precious stones).

Grand Feu (“great fire” in French) is a very difficult and risky technique. It means a multiple coating with successive layers of enamel – a new layer for each colour used. Once a layer is ready, the face is heated at extremely high temperatures, ranging from 800-900°C. It requires a comprehensive knowledge of materials, colour pigments, patience and exceptional hands…

On the Chanel Coromandel dials there are a variety of Asian motifs, such as the lotus with Grand Feu enamel technique. A few Chanel symbols are embodied in mother-of-pearl marquetry, like the Comète or the Camélia.

Chanel introduced a capsule collection “LES ÉTERNELLES DE CHANEL” this year with three exceptional High Jewelry watches. The secret watches are fully set with diamonds, pink or blue sapphires, showcasing the virtuosity of the gemsetting craft of the House.


Photo credits: Chanel, Loupiosity.com.
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