In the nearly 30 years it’s been around, the Chanel watch brand has never had a watch aimed specifically at men. Enter the Chanel Monsieur, an elegant, high-end watch with a movement designed by Chanel itself: another first for the brand.
Why the move into the men’s market? Nicolas Beau, Chanel’s international watch director, says the reason is simple: “We want to explore all categories of watchmaking. Chanel’s motivation was to not limit its watches to any [particular] audience.” Until now, the only Chanel watch worn by any men at all was the J12, and Beau estimates that a mere 10 to 15 percent of J12 wearers are male.
The movement, named Calibre 1, was designed by an eight-person team at G&F Châtelain, Chanel’s production facility in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Work on the new movement began in 2011. The movement is also assembled there.
The watch has special features that will appeal to technically minded connoisseurs, Beau believes. These include its retrograde minutes display, in which the minutes hand travels through an unusually long, 240-degree arc. Beau says that because the arc is so long, the force with which the hand returns to its original position creates an unusually strong shock, which required a special design. Another special feature, Beau says, is the instantaneous jumping hours display, which, unlike other such displays, can be set either forward or backward.
The jumping hours and retrograde functions are fully integrated, rather than modular. Calibre 1 will not be used in other watches, Beau says. The movement is powered by two barrels and has a three-day power reserve.
The initial advertisements for the watch will show the back of the watch only, not the front. Chanel has taken pains to make the movement aesthetically pleasing by incorporating skeletonized, circular bridges (they form the figure “8,” which, as every watch fan knows by now, is a symbol of good luck in the very-important China market). The components combine matte and shiny finishes and silver and black colors. The latter are the result of an ADLC (amorphous diamond-like carbon) coating. The balance spokes form a star, a symbol of the Chanel brand. Calibre 1 is 143⁄4 lignes in diameter (32 mm) and 5.5 mm thick. It has a frequency of 28,800 vph.
Much of what’s visible through the back is the work of Romain Gauthier, the increasingly well-known maker of high-end watches and watch movements. Gauthier makes some of the movement’s gears and bridges (he supplies parts to other watch brands as well). Chanel owns a minority share of Gauthier’s company, based in Le Sentier in Switzerland’s Vallée de Joux.
Although the company is putting great emphasis on the watch’s high-horology bona fides, Beau believes Monsieur will attract men outside the rarefied world of watch connoisseurs. “We can’t rely just on collectors. Other men will buy it because it’s a nice watch with a fine mechanical movement,” he says.
The watch’s dial combines modern and traditional design features, Beau says. The numerals are meant to look like those of digital readouts. The dial has a silvered, opaline finish. The crystal is slightly domed and made of sapphire.
The watch measures 40 mm in diameter and is 10.4 mm thick. This year Chanel will make 150 pieces in what it calls “beige” gold – which has a subtle yellow tint − and 150 in white gold. The prices are $34,500 and $36,000, respectively.