Karl Lagerfeld’s spirit permeates the new Chanel J12 XS watch collection, which oozes urban attitude and a touch of badass. As the creative wizard of Chanel since 1983, Lagerfeld’s idiosyncratic styling – complete with fingerless gloves – has added a touch of rock-chick glam to the French Maison’s style.
What’s new about the J12 XS collection?
The first thing you will notice is that Chanel’s iconic J12 ceramic watch has been whittled down to an XS size of just 19mm. However, what it has lost in size it has gained in attitude as the watch case is paired with bold leather cuffs, fingerless gloves and the coolest finger watch I have seen all decade. The black-and-white colour scheme of the 12-piece collection is very much in tune with Chanel’s latest 2017 Cruise Collection presented in Havana, Cuba.
In keeping with the tradition of the J12 family, which is made from high-tech ceramic that is virtually scratch-proof and will look as good as new for years to come, the J12 XS collection is built around a 19mm white or black ceramic watch. Presented in either white gold or steel cases, the J12 XS comes with a diamond-set bezel and in some cases with diamond-set strap stays, which add a feminine sparkle and hold the strap in place.
One of the most original proposals is the J12 XS Glove. A limited edition of 150 pieces, the J12-XS watch is strapped on to the exterior of a pair of lambskin fingerless gloves. You can just imagine Michael Jackson moonwalking with one of these babies on his wrist. It's certainly the first time I have seen a watch-glove, and the novelty was presented as a contestant in the Ladies’ watch category of the prestigious 2016 GPHG watch awards.
Another glamorous proposal are the Lesage cuffs, beautifully embroidered by the French Maison that was bought by Chanel in 2002. Following the monochromatic palette of the collection, the black and white Lesage cuffs play host to the diminutive J12 XS watch, with a gorgeous calfskin cuff hand-embroidered with sequins and glass beads.
Contrasts are the name of the game
The tension between masculine and feminine elements, which Coco Chanel played with throughout her lifetime as a designer, is at work again in the J12 XS watch collection. By pairing cool, high-tech ceramic with warm calfskin leather or studding the edges of a black cuff with frosty white diamonds brings a leather and lace feel to the watches that is empowering to women.
Why is the J12 watch so famous?
Coming up for its sweet 16th birthday, the J12 has established itself as a true design icon in the pantheon of watchmaking, appearing in different iterations over the years, but always faithful to its ceramic soul. It is interesting to note that the stylish and sporty ceramic case that has conquered the hearts of women was in fact originally conceived as a men’s watch. Jacques Helleu, the French Maison's famous artistic director for more than four decades, wanted to recreate the inky-black colour of Coco Chanel's lacquered tables and found a solution in black ceramic, which he used to create the first J12 watch.
Chanel's international head of watches Nicolas Beau described the J12 as "a watch conceived by a man but stolen by women", a concept that fits in beautifully with Gabrielle Chanel's talent for poaching materials exclusive to men's wardrobes, such as tweed and jersey, for her feminine collections. The tension between masculine and feminine worlds, also explored in the Chanel Boy.Friend watch collection, is what has made the J12 such an extraordinary phenomenon over the past years and is obviously the way ahead for Chanel’s watchmaking division.