BaselWorld 2019: Chanel updates the J12 on its 20th anniversary

BaselWorld 2019: Chanel updates the J12 on its 20th anniversary

A New J12

Text: Celine Yap

Chanel gives the J12 a full makeover with a redefined shaped and a new automatic movement

It's been 20 years since Chanel debuted the J12. Over the two decades since the maison's then creative director Jacques Helleu designed the watch, the J12 has taken on countless guises. Indeed, the J in J12 refers to Helleu. From all black to all white, from ultra sporty to extra petite, from super glamorous to quirky irreverent, the J12 never misses a beat.

This year, Chanel's most iconic timepiece emerges from a complete facelift that impacts everything from aesthetics to mechanics. A lofty task entrusted to Arnaud Chastaingt, director of Chanel's watch creation studio, it involved small but impactful changes throughout the watch.

Chastaingt refined the bezel, increasing the number of notches from 30 to 40, and gave the watch a new typeface for the applied ceramic numerals and indexes. The railway-style minutes track now comes with indicators. Its crown was also reduced and topped with a ceramic cabochon-we gotta say, this guy definitely knows his stuff.

More importantly, the J12 now comes with a sapphire crystal case back showing off a brand new movement, Calibre 12.1. This is an automatic movement specially developed for Chanel by the Swiss manufacture, Kenissi. You would recognise it immediately with the oscillating weight which is made in tungsten so that it winds optimally despite the open circle design.

The new Chanel J12 comes in a 38mm case which is slightly thicker compared to the earlier models but thanks to fluid lines, soft curves and a bassine case that plays down the effect, it feels and appears no different than before. But even if it did, the addition of an exclusively made in-house movement should be well worth the "sacrifice".