Dior’s Masculine Chiffre Rouge Watch Is Back, and It’s Pure Sleekness
Can Dior be the next fashion label to capture watch enthusiasts’ hearts and minds with its reborn Chiffre Rouge collection?
When you hear the name Dior, what do you think of? Perfume? Handbags? The type of watches that occupy the consciousness and Instagram feeds of so-called #watchnerds might not be the first thing the storied fashion label calls to mind.
Those who recall the early aughties, however, or who have plumbed not-so-vintage watch archives might recall a certain collection which marked the luxury label’s bid for watch enthusiasts’ attention: the Chiffre Rouge. Now 20 years since its introduction, it’s back in sleek black and red across a range of models offering everything from simple time telling and chronograph functionality to gemstones and tourbillons.
Dior has already proven itself in the realm of high- end and even complicated jewelry watches. They have the acumen, the knowhow and the name to compete for a slice of the luxury market and to get your attention. But can they win over persnickety watch collectors anew?
From a fashion designer’s perspective, watches are accessories. Obviously. The design sensibility for which prestigious fashion labels are celebrated can be applied to timepieces as well. Right? Alas, those who specifically collect and study watches are a grumpy bunch and don’t always see it this way. In this sometimes insular subculture, the term “fashion watch” was long something of a dirty word for mass-market, often white-label watches—the antithesis of what many enthusiasts value most. Lines have begun to blur, however, and this attitude seems increasingly antiquated.
Fashion and apparel brands face skepticism in the competitive world of watchmaking, just as even established watch brands do. Success stories such as Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Hermès and Chanel having broken into serious horology were hard-fought, but they’ve begun to soften collectors’ hard hearts. A famous name doesn’t get you a VIP pass to the watch enthusiast conversation, but the discourse is increasingly open.
A couple facts about Dior, however, should get watch lovers’ attention: it’s been making watches since 1975 and has its own development and manufacturing center in La Chaux- de-Fonds called Les Ateliers Horlogers Dior SA. The brand is serious about watchmaking, but its catalog is predominantly feminine. You can get the likes of fashionable quartz watches with precious metals, as well as those that qualify as haute horlogerie or haute joaillerie to echo the brand’s presence in haute couture.
In 2004, the brand aimed to expand upon that image. The creative director of Dior’s menswear division introduced the Chiffre Rouge as the brand’s first automatic watch and easily its most masculinely conceived to date. Its target audience was clear: watch guys. Made for a number of years, the Chiffre Rouge eventually faded from the brand’s catalog but has now returned for 2024 to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
The Chiffre Rouge is based on sport watch archetypes though it isn’t made for a specific activity. Rather, its posture is sporty and integrated with tool-watch characteristics: an asymmetrical architecture with a protruding 3 o’clock caseside (which Dior calls a “bumper”) is reminiscent of, say, the Omega Speedmaster. Other distinctive features include an uncommonly long crown at 4 o’clock and notches in its fixed bezel between 9 and 12 o’clock, and together they help give the Chiffre Rouge an unmistakable identity.
Those are the features which define the collection’s silhouette and character at a glance, but there are more details to appreciate on closer inspection. The dials and straps feature patterns that echo Dior bags’ quilted texture which it calls “Cannage.” The collection’s mainstays, the time-only and chronograph models, feature a date window with a red, round frame. Emphasizing the date window in this way is unusual. Said to be Mr. Dior’s favorite number, the date wheel’s number eight is the only date to appear in red. Rouge, of course, means “red” in French and is one of the signature colors of Dior. Chiffre, on the other hand, is usually translated as a numeric “digit,” but some have suggested the meaning can also be broader. Interpret the name as you will, but Dior has conceived the new Chiffre Rouge with a serious, all-black color scheme punctuated by touches of striking red. Some models feature elements of rose gold and gemstones to inject even more color.
The time-only and chronograph Chiffre Rouge watches will be the core of the collection, and they seem to distill the concept down to its essential elements. Past models, for example, sometimes had avant-garde features such as “inverted” movements which saw the automatic rotor on the dial side of the watch for a more animated effect. The new models with hearty 100m water resistance ratings, on the other hand, would seem aimed at practical—if stylish— daily urban wear.
Time-only Chiffre Rouge watches are 38mm wide and powered by a version of the Sellita SW300 automatic movement. Modified and rebranded as the Dior CD.002, this is a movement that commands respect among watch enthusiasts and which has been used as the base for a number of well esteemed watches. One of its best qualities is that it’s comparatively thin, which always helps a watch wear more comfortably.
Chronograph and tourbillon models are a bolder 41mm, the former borrowing El Primero 400 movements from Dior’s LVMH sister brand Zenith. The modern version of one of the first automatic chronographs, it’s also widely considered the most successful, famously beating at the uncommonly high rate of 5Hz (4Hz or less is most common) and here modified to form the Dior CD.001. The complicated tourbillon, of course, is often considered the highest expression of watchmaking and Dior flexes its watchmaking prowess with these models made for elite collectors.
With Swiss-made automatic movements, crowd-pleasing sizes, enthusiast-friendly details and the elegant panache that characterizes the brand’s broader product lines, the reborn collection is poised to break into the enthusiast watch conversation. When you hear the name Dior in the future, it just might be the moody, masculine Chiffre Rouge that comes to mind.
Dior Chiffre Rouge Automatic
Reference: CD.002 automatic
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Case: 38mm, steel with black DLC coating
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap: Black rubber
Dior Chiffre Rouge Chronograph
Reference: CD.001 automatic
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Case: 41mm, steel with black DLC coating
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap: Black rubber
FROM THE SHOP
|Manual winding Sellita caliber AMT5100, with rose gold plating and custom bridge for Furlan Marri; 58-hour power reserve; heated blued steel screws
|Hours, minutes, small seconds and flyback chronograph
|38mm (46mm from lug to lug); stainless steel with olive-shaped pushers for Honey Blue flyback, Taupe flyback and Tasti Tondi pushers for Salmon flyback; water resistant to 50m
|Taupe, blue, or two-tone salmon and black (Revolution edition); double printed text with pulsations scale, polished applied indexes
|Italian leather with quick release system
|270 pieces per reference + 30 collector boxes (including one of each references) in addition.