By Rebecca Doulton
The Chanel J12 watch is coming up for its 15th birthday and is continuing to conquer its status as the first of the 21st century's iconic watches. Launched in 2000, the J12 now salutes us, kitted out with a military-style NATO strap and gleaming with diamonds.
The original Chanel J12 watch was conceived by Jacques Helleu, the French maison's famous artistic director for more than four decades, as a timepiece for men. Helleu wanted to recreate the inky black colour of Coco Chanel's lacquered tables and found a solution in black ceramic, which he combined with the profile and indented bezel of a dive watch to create the J12. Described by Nicolas Beau, Chanel's international head of watches, as "a watch conceived by a man but stolen by women", the Chanel J12 fits in beautifully with Gabrielle Chanel's unusual talent for poaching materials exclusive to men's wardrobes, such as tweed and jersey, for her feminine collections.
The NATO strap was originally designed for the British army. Made from reinforced nylon, a tough yet flexible material, the strap was secured to the wrist with a simple buckle and two adjustable strap keepers to ensure the extra nylon stayed safely tucked in place. Just in case you were wondering, the appendix to the name of the watch, G10, is an allusion to the form used to order the military strap from suppliers.
Twisting things one step further in the luxury department, the NATO strap has been upgraded to supple alligator skin with large scales, and the once rudimentary buckle and strap keepers have been covered in brilliant-cut and baguette-cut diamonds.
Seven Chanel watches form the new J12-G10 regiment, which ranges from the commanding high jewellery model to six models with high-tech ceramic cases and a flurry of diamonds. Starting with the highest ranking officer, the J12-G10 comes in a 42mm white gold case set with baguette-cut diamonds (a total of 256) on just about every surface, save the black ceramic indices and the crown, which is set with a brilliant-cut diamond. The movement to power the hour and minute hands is a mechanical, automatic calibre, but with so many diamonds to look at, the time is probably the last thing on your mind.
The remaining six new Chanel watches with NATO straps feature black, white or grey dials with matching, high-tech, 33mm ceramic and steel cases. The bezel, indices, buckle and strap keepers - or loops - are set with a choice of brilliant-cut or baguette-cut diamonds. The movement is a high-quality quartz calibre and the case is water resistant to 50 metres. Naturally, all the new Chanel J12 watches feature beautiful alligator straps to match the colour of the dial.
Read about Chanel's monochrome watches