When women turn their back on quartz, seduced instead by mechanical movements, Chanel goes with them. To wit the Première Flying Tourbillon whose arrival in the world of hautes complications hasn’t gone unnoticed. A timepiece that reconciles technical mastery and magic, a combination dear to the brand with the double C signature.
Gabrielle Chanel studded her creations with elements such as the lion (she was a Leo) and the number 5. In a world bordering on the cabalistic, places have a story too. The Première watch, which borrows the contours of Place Vendôme and the stopper of the Chanel N°5 bottle, is an anthology of all things Chanel. Since its creation in 1987, it has adopted many of Chanel’s signature materials, from a woven bracelet in black leather and gold, to pearls and ceramic. In 2011, a triple-turn bracelet refreshed its decidedly vintage silhouette. For the Première’s 25th anniversary, which also celebrates the brand’s watchmaking debut, Chanel endows it with a flying tourbillon complication; a natural progression after the brand’s first tourbillon, introduced in 2005 on a J12.
This was a first for Chanel and the Swiss engineers, movement-builders and master watchmakers at Renaud & Papi (APRP SA), Audemars Piguet’s advanced Research and Development, who worked hand-in-hand to develop this extraordinary tourbillon. Fashioned into a camellia, Chanel’s favourite flower, it beats quietly, almost secretly, inside the Première watch. Its interlocking petals and diamond-studded centre lend the flower its delicate texture. The movement, which develops a 40-hour power reserve, is mounted on a custom-designed rectangular plate. The chamfering, drawing and circular-graining of parts by hand adheres to the finest Swiss tradition. The hour and minute hands are set with diamonds, and positioned slightly above centre on the black ceramic dial.
The case keeps the balanced proportions of the original, but with slightly larger dimensions of 28.5 x 37mm compared with 19 x 26mm for the classic Première watch. Proposed in a limited edition of 20 individually numbered pieces in 18k white gold, the Première Flying Tourbillon is set on its case, bezel and crown with 101 baguette-cut diamonds for a total 5.7 carats and 127 brilliant-cut diamonds for a total 2 carats. It takes 23 hours to set the stones and over a hundred hours to assemble each watch. A version set with baguette-cut Mozambique rubies which are certified natural and non-heated is also proposed.
At the same time as the Première watch celebrates its 25 years in style, the other timepieces in the 2012 collection magnificently commemorate the quarter-century during which Chanel has distinguished itself in watchmaking. Foremost among them is, of course, the J12.
Since its debut in 2000, imagined by the late Jacques Helleu, Chanel’s artistic director, it has continued to rise above the crowd. From the “inalterable” glossy black of the launch year to the white ceramic version introduced in 2003, the J12 has flaunted its unisex appeal, a trait inherited from Chanel herself, who preferred to wear a man’s watch. In 2011, the undulating sheen of titanium ceramic, moving with the light from platinum grey to a stormy sky, revolutionised the traditional black and white.
This year Chanel builds on the Chromatic’s success with new models: a version with a powdered rose dial (33 and 38mm); another with a halo of 36 baguette-cut diamonds (~3.47 carats) and 12 baguette-cut diamond hour markers (~0.52 carat); two more respectively with baguette-cut pink sapphires and baguette-cut cognac sapphires (33 and 38mm); and a version with 12 diamond hour markers (also 33 and 38mm).
Soon to be unveiled, Melle Privée is a limited series of 10 whose enamel dials, the work of Anita Porchet, will immortalise birds taken from the folding screens in Chanel’s private apartments. True to the spirit of Mademoiselle, from 31 Rue Cambon to Chanel watches, these symbols lose none of their magic.
adapted from BIPH / Mathilde Binetruy
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