An instantly recognizable icon, the Chanel J12 has won hearts since it was launched in 2000. In an era when luxury was defined by gold and steel watches, the ceramic, pitch-dark J12 broke the mold. The J12’s use of extremely scratchproof and tough ceramic — its distinguishing trait — is complemented by the maison’s elegant aesthetics.
Over the past 22 years, this well-loved timepiece has been interpreted in a multitude of mesmerizing iterations. It was incorporated with a chronograph in 2002, with a tourbillon in 2005, and with a second time zone in 2007.
The 2009 J12 Noir Intense’s white gold case was set with 724 cut and faceted ceramic baguettes, and fitted with the caliber 3125 developed in association with Audemars Piguet. A year later, 2010 welcomed the J12 Marine, which is water resistant to 300m, along with the J12 Rétrograde Mystérieuse, a skeletonized timepiece that was exclusively designed for Chanel by Renaud et Papi Manufacture (APRP SA).
Other memorable renditions of the J12 include the titanium ceramic J12 Chromatic of 2011; the J12 Moonphase of 2013; the J12-G10 of 2014 that came with a NATO bracelet; the J12 Skeleton Flying Tourbillon of 2015 that was also developed by Renaud et Papi; the Mademoiselle Chanel of 2017 whose namesake illustration points to the time; the J12 Untitled of 2018 with striped marquetry dial; and the diamond-paved see-through J12 X-Ray and the two-toned J12 Paradoxe of 2020.
But the J12 is not just for women, though. The J12 was originally designed by the late artistic director, Jacques Helleu, as a wristwatch for himself. A sports watch he named after the J-Class yachts from the America’s Cup, the J12 was also inspired by Helleu’s passion for cars. Since then, the J12 has manifested in myriad forms such as the J12 X-Ray, which Chanel just relaunched this year in a new iteration, and the J12 Diamond Tourbillon fitted with the stunning in-house caliber 5.
The pursuit of greater technical competence
In 2019, Chanel acquired a significant stake in Kenissi — an acclaimed movement manufacturer that develops movements for high-watchmaking brands like Tudor and Norqain — with the objective of further advancing its watchmaking capabilities.
The year would prove to be a pivotal juncture for Chanel watchmaking. Chanel unveiled a 38mm J12 equipped with the caliber 12.1 in that year. This technically complex timepiece developed exclusively by Kenissi for Chanel would go on to win the Ladies’ Watch Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève that same year.
The 33mm J12 equipped with the caliber 12.2 made its debut this year. Based on the J12 caliber 12.1, this new movement had to be entirely reengineered so that it could fit a smaller case size of 33mm. All of the caliber 12.1’s 174 components had to be reconceptualized, redesigned and restructured differently, resulting in a brand-new movement, the caliber 12.2, a highly precise chronometer that is COSC-certified.
Besides the 33mm J12 with caliber 12.2, Chanel also added 11 new renditions to the J12 repertoire. These include the 38mm J12 Wanted de Chanel with caliber 12.1; the 33mm J12 Wanted de Chanel with a high-precision quartz movement; the 33mm J12 Baguette Diamond Bezel with caliber 12.2; the 38mm J12 Baguette Diamond Bezel with caliber 12.1; the 33mm J12 Baguette Diamond Star with caliber 12.2; the 38mm J12 Black Star with caliber 12.2; the 38mm J12 X-Ray Red Edition Rouge with caliber 3.1; the 38mm J12 Gabrielle with caliber 3.1; the 38mm Mademoiselle J12 La Pausa with caliber 12.1; and the 19mm Mademoiselle J12XS with a high-precision quartz movement.
Topping off this diverse collection, the J12 Diamond Tourbillon Caliber 5 in black ceramic and matte-black ceramic feature openworked dials that showcase the mainspring barrel at the 12 o’clock position and the tourbillon regulator at the six o’clock position. Unlike most movements, the caliber 5’s gear train is located along the edge of the movement instead of the centerline of the movement.
The caliber 5’s predecessors include the caliber 1, which was Chanel’s first in-house movement and drives the Monsieur de Chanel of 2016; the caliber 2 that drives the Première Camélia Skeleton of 2017; and the caliber 3 that drives the Boy.Friend Skeleton of 2018.
You can read more about the J12 Diamond Tourbillon Caliber 5 here.
Immerse yourself in the world of J12
If you’re keen to explore the many compelling aspects of Chanel J12 watchmaking, Chanel currently has a J12 pop-up in Ngee Ann City in Singapore from September 17 to October 2, 2022. Make an appointment here.
Expect a multisensory experience that expounds on the subtle details of new and previous J12 timepieces. Discover how Chanel spared no expense in achieving the perfect bezel sound for the J12, and try your hand at scratching the scratchproof ceramic of the J12. Seven times harder than steel, the ceramic components of J12 timepieces, such as the case, bezel and bracelet, are painstakingly crafted and stringently tested by the Manufacture G&F Châtelain, a ceramic workshop that Chanel acquired in 1993.