Beautiful Book

The J12 by Chanel, page by page…

In 2020, Chanel’s J12 celebrated its twentieth birthday. Member of the elite circle of watchmaking icons, this watch designed by Jacques Helleu is nowadays a classic, just like the tweed suit or the N°5 perfume. Today, historical journalist Nicholas Foulkes dedicates an exceptional book to this piece. J12 Instant Éternel is the story of an emblematic model, the story of the first black ceramic watch.

By Chloé Redler
In 2020, the J12 by Chanel celebrated its twenty-year anniversary.

The J12 by Chanel, icon of the 21st century?

Le livre J12 de Chanel Instant Éternel de Nicolas Foulkes
The J12 Instant Éternel book by Nicholas Foulkes unveils the secrets of this watchmaking icon.

The story of the J12 by Chanel deserved to be told. A young collection in the house Chanel – being only twenty years old –, it can nevertheless pride itself in being nowadays an emblematic one, fully integrated in both the watchmaking sphere and general fashion. Because fashionistas have indeed not overlooked its potential and nuances that makes it a model as technical than design.

La montre J12 de Chanel Calibre 12.1
The J12 watch Calibre 12.1 in highly resistant black ceramic and steel – © CHANEL / 2019.

Conceived in 2000 by Chanel’s artistic director Jacques Helleu, this avant-garde marvel is intended for both men and women. Genderless by definition, the J12 can now pretend to the title of watchmaking icon among those of the 21st century. The English historian and writer Nicholas Foulkes (Nick for friends) understood it too. Specialized in great Houses and luxury items, he tries in the one hundred and sixty pages of his book J12 Instant Éternel to tell everything about the gears and secrets of a watch that reshaped traditional watchmaking with its original – in every sense of the word – look in black ceramic.

The J12 by Chanel immortalized

Extraits du livre J12 Instant Éternel sur le J12 de Chanel
On the left: Bella Nong wearing the J12 Calibre 12.1 watch in highly resistant white ceramic and steel. Citta BellaTaiwan, July 2019 – © Photography Chou Mo.
On the right: Adut Akech wearing the J12 Calibre 12.1 watch in highly resistant white ceramic and steel. Chaos SixtyNine, The CHANEL Issue, July 2020 Courtesy Chaos SixtyNine magazine – © Photography Luigi et Iango.

Very complete, the book shows through photographs by Karl Lagerfeld, Guido Mocafico, Peter Lindbergh or even Man Ray the evolution of a watch that revolutionized watchmaking codes. Faithful to the chromatic shades of the J12, the visuals selected are in black and white. For instance, the picture of Adut Akech, famous Australian-South Sudanese model whose beautiful, slightly iridescent dark skin recalls the nuances of black ceramic and creates a stunning contrast with the white ceramic of the J12 Calibre 12.1 she is wearing. The picture opposes the one of Bella Nong, with her porcelain skin.

Extraits du livre J12 Instant Éternel sur le J12 de Chanel
On the left: Jake Davies wearing the J12 Chronograph in highly resistant black ceramic and steel. Claudia Schiffer and Jake Davies photographed for the 2008 Spring-Summer collection ad campaign – © CHANEL / Photography by Karl Lagerfeld / 2008.
On the right: Watch J12 Calibre 12.1 in highly resistant black ceramic and steel. © CHANEL / Photography by Guido Mocafico / 2019.

We love the raw simplicity of Karl Lagerfeld’s photography: a natural Claudia Schiffer and a Jake Davies sublimated by his J12 black ceramic Chronograph. A timeless read.

Price: 80 euros

The thousand and one faces of the new J12 by Chanel

During the past two decades, the J12 managed to renew itself to answer any technological challenges desired by the Chanel watchmaking workshops. In 2019, the house unveiled an altered edition which modifications, no matter how slight at first glance, are nonetheless obvious. Indeed, the unidirectional rotating bezel is thinner and boasts forty grooves – 30 on previous models. The whole piece actually flaunts more finesse and openness, with a smaller crown and ceramic white numbers on the dial.

La J12 de Chanel nouveau calibre 12.1
Subtly modified, the new J12 is powered by the self-winding calibre 12.1 certified by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) – © CHANEL.

Another change and not the least this time, the new J12 (see our technical data sheet) houses the highly precise self-winding calibre 12.1 certified by the COSC (Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute).

2020, the J12 is 20 years old

2020, anniversary of this icon, saw the birth of many interpretations, each as remarkable as the other. Let us exemplify:

The J12-20 Enamel

The J12·20 Enamel uses the champlevé technique to give life to the many patterns on the bezel and dial.

The J12·20 Enamel version boldly brings together ceramic and craftsmanship. Covered in numerous different patterns, the bezel and black dial embody the know-how of the house’s artisans. Bottle of N°5 perfume, lipstick, iconic tweed jacket, thimble or Coco Chanel herself: all these drawings are realized in black enamel using the champlevé technique – a process in which enamel is applied into multiple incisions on an object, then fired.

La montre J12-20 Calibre 12.1 en céramique blanche, acier et diamants
On the left: patterns of the J12·20 watch – © CHANEL / 2020.
On the right: J12·20 watch – Calibre 12.1 in highly resistant white ceramic, steel and diamonds. © CHANEL / 2020

The J12 X-RAY

As if under x-ray, the J12 X-RAY unveils its gears and skeletonized calibre 3.1.

Chanel signs here a first in watchmaking by designing a case and bracelet in sapphire, a highly resistant transparent material. The J12 X-RAY (see our data sheet) is set with baguette-cut diamonds on the bezel, dial, and crown cabochon. As its name indicates, the watch reveals every gear of the skeletonized calibre 3.1, also comprised of some sapphire parts for an x-ray vision effect. Edition limited to 12 pieces.

The J12 Paradoxe

With a bicolour case in black and white ceramic, the J12 Paradoxe is a true technical feat realized by the craftsmen of the Chanel workshops.

This bichrome variation flaunts a black and white high-tech ceramic case. Creating a perfect colour-separation between the two parts so as to form one unique case of 38 mm diameter (see our data sheet) was another challenge for the watchmaking artisans. And all of this without a hitch!

Wearing the white ceramic version of the J12 equipped with a new self-winding movement, Lily-Rose Depp recounts the seconds that changed her life.

Consult our technical data sheets of the J12 collection.