The new gents on the block

Two new watches for men for 2016 from Chanel and Cartier prove that French style is still the benchmark of good taste.

Monsieur de Chanel watch

The Monsieur de Chanel watch marks the first time the legendary French Maison has specifically targeted the arena of watches for men. Although many of us believed the immensely popular J12 was originally conceived for men and stolen by women, the truth we are told by spokespeople at Chanel, is that it was designed from day one as a unisex watch. And what about the Chanel Boy.Friend watch? Well, that is a woman’s watch designed to look like a man’s. Anyway, there is nothing ambivalent about the new Monsieur timepiece and it has the honour of being Chanel’s first in-house movement - Calibre 1 - built from scratch at the company’s manufacture in Switzerland. 

Monsieur de Chanel watch in beige gold
Presented in beige gold, the Monsieur de Chanel watch features a jumping hours and retrograde minutes complication (£23,250).

This new watch is surprisingly classic in spirit, with a round 40mm case in Chanel’s proprietary beige gold. The silvered opaline dial features a jumping hours display at 6 o’clock, framed in a window that echoes the shape of Place Vendôme, where Chanel’s flagship boutique resides. The elegant retrograde minute display fans out in a 240 degree arc, and a small seconds window completes the circle. The purity of the dial on the Chanel Monsieur watch provides a radical contrast to the movement, which is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback. 

Five years in the making and protected with two patents, the retrograde minutes and jumping hour complication is revealed on the caseback and has been finished in different shades of black for greater visual impact. What is remarkable about this movement is its generous 3-day power reserve - a technological feat given the complications it has to keep moving. As with all Chanel watches, there are hidden codes in the movement such as the comet gracing the balance wheel, plus a lion stamped on the movement as well as on the buckle and crown. With the Monsieur watch and its first in-house movement, Chanel is fast evolving from being viewed as a fashion house making fashionable watches, to a luxury fashion brand with serious watchmaking credentials.  

Drive de Cartier watch in stainless steel
Cartier’s classic Roman numerals establish the provenance of the new Cartier Drive watch in stainless steel (£5,000).

Reaffirming its reputation as a powerhouse of luxury and one of the few brands to produce an entirely new collection of watches for men - in what has proved to be a very meagre year in terms of novelties - Cartier unveiled the solid Drive de Cartier watch collection at the SIHH 2016 salon in January. The name of the collection obviously alludes to the masculine terrain of cars, and the sleek cushion-shaped case evokes the streamlined dynamics of a vintage sports car. 

On the dial, Cartier’s classic Roman numerals immediately establish the provenance of the watch, while details on the dial consolidate its association with the world of vintage motor cars. The elaborate guilloché patterning decorating the dial is used to recreate the patterns of a radiator grille, while the power reserve indicator is directly inspired by the petrol gauge on a dashboard, and the small seconds counter, like the snailed speedometers of yesteryear. Available in pink gold or steel, these Cartier watches are declined in three models, all fitted with a sophisticated in-house automatic movement: an hours, minutes, small seconds and date watch; a second time zone watch with large date, day/night indicator and small seconds; and a top-of-the-line fine watchmaking flying tourbillon model. 


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