The Long But Steady Journey: How The Chanel J12 Has Evolved


July 10, 2018 | BY Terence Lim


From baby steps to walking with swagger, Chanel J12 today has matured into a fine horological specimen able to stand on its own. Society faces Dawn Koh and Mae Tan show how versatile the watch is

Going by the concept of life cycles, the Chanel J12 is a young adult. After all, it has been 18 years since the French fashion powerhouse debuted the high‑tech ceramic, sports‑inspired watch in 2000.

Even in the early days, it impressed the horological cognoscenti with its strong looks and clean lines complemented with equal verve and versatility. It didn’t matter if the J12 was presented in black or white ceramic—it always held its own and attracted its own legion of fans. As it grew in stature, the brand took the opportunity to introduce technical innovations such as tourbillons and chronographs into the line to further up its appeal. The J12 was making long, steady strides in the world of horology, earning plaudits and respect for its efforts.

As the line blossomed, Chanel pushed the envelope even further, melding jewellery setting—a skill that its ateliers excel in—with watchmaking. Setting the J12 with copious amounts of sparkling diamonds and rare gemstones enthralled female horophiles and fashion lovers; even the most hardcore of critics had only praises for the J12, which was blossoming into a fine teenager. In 2011, the French luxury giant upped the ante by researching on and developing titanium ceramic, its own high-tech alloy that gives off a silver, metallic sheen. This gave birth to the J12 Chromatic, which sports the third colour in the family.

(Related: Chanel Introduces New Coromandel High Jewellery Collection)

Today, at age 18, the watch is a full-fledged icon in its own right, having weathered the ebb and flow of style trends. The ceramic that the brand makes at its own manufacture in Châtelain remains high-quality, if not better than before, and Chanel has kept the aesthetics of the model relatively similar to the original—save for minor design tweaks for efficient manufacturing purposes and better ergonomics.

Still, Chanel refuses to rest on its laurels. It is constantly reinventing the wheel as it injects new design elements into the J12 to stay relevant and speak to the younger, newer clientele. Last year, a whimsical take on the iconic watch featured a silhouette of Gabrielle Chanel on the dial indicating the time with her hands. This year, the J12 Untitled pushes the Chanel Watchmaking Creative Studio further. Twelve one-of-a-kind variants of the watch feature unique abstract motifs produced in ceramic marquetry on its dial and bezel. The J12 Untitled is available in either black or white with only 1,200 pieces produced for each colour.

What lies ahead for this strapping, handsome, young adult? It has everything working in its favour. The J12 is widely accepted by both men and women, and it can be worn on- or off-duty; it has worked hard to where it stands today with ample recognition from the cognoscenti; the line covers the entire range from basic tickers and technical wonders, to bejewelled wrist candies; and it boasts the financial muscle of Chanel. So long as it continues to appeal to the modern consumers, the road to further success is as scratch-proof as its high-tech ceramic watches are.

Click below to see Dawn Koh and Mae Tan show how versatile the Chanel J12 is. 


Photography Darren Gabriel Leow

Styling Desmond Lim

Hair Sean Ang, Fac3Inc, using Kevin Murphy

Make-up Larry Yeo, using Chanel

Photographer’s Assistant Eric Tan

Stylist’s Assistant Joey Tan

Model Sung Hyun, Mannequin

Location The Coastal Settlement

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