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A closer look at the Chanel J12

"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."

So said the ever-quotable Coco Chanel, the visionary designer behind what is arguably the most respected and iconic fashion brand on the planet. This is a fashion house which embodies the constant evolution of style, which champions grace and sophistication, and which never fails to impress and amaze with each and every release. Chanel is not merely a centre for dresses and pretty trinkets; it’s a powerhouse of ideas and concepts, and where this brand goes, others unfailingly follow.

There are dozens of reasons why Chanel has grown to be such a behemoth of the world of high fashion, and one of the most instantly recognisable brands on the planet today. One could look to the quality of their products, made according to the highest standards by a notoriously meticulous design team. One could just as successfully pin their success to the legend which surrounds this brand’s birth and route to fame; indeed, there have been dozens of books and even a mainstream cinematic release about its enigmatic founder. However, it seems to us that a major part of Chanel’s success comes from the fact that this is a brand which positions itself just on the very edges of accessibility and affordability. From the fashion brand’s iconic clothes to its beloved perfumes and accessories, this is a company which deals in luxury that isn’t beyond the wildest aspirations of everyday people. Never cheap, but neither ever fully out of reach.  

We’d also argue that Chanel’s stratospheric achievements come down to the fact that this brand has a consistency, a house style, and an iconic look which permeates all of its products. To wear Chanel is to hark back to the golden days of Gallic glamour and sophistication while looking to the brave future of styles yet to come. Aside from their iconic handbags, few - if any - of Chanel’s output embodies this quite as successfully or succinctly as its timepieces, and of its many timepieces, none have entered the arena of the truly iconic as has the wonderful J12.

Xupes pre-owned Chanel J12 white ceramic placed on a Chanel classic double flap lambskin leather handbag

Chanel Timepieces: A World Apart From The Everyday

Chanel dipped into the world of horology at various points throughout the 20th century, as one might expect from one of the industry’s most iconic jewellery and accessory designers. However, it wasn’t until 2000 that the brand really arrived on the watch scene, and this all came down to the triumphant release of the J12 - a watch series which immediately rocketed the reputation of Chanel as a luxury watchmaker into the heady heights shared by Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, and others.

The J12 managed to epitomise the Chanel look and distil it beautifully into a timepiece. Clear, simple, confident lines, a swooping series of elegant curves, and a remarkable and distinctive robustness which made this timepiece perfectly viable for everyday wear and outdoor pursuits; these were the hallmarks of the J12. Design features aside, another of the key features of the J12 was the fact that this was well and truly a unisex item - something which was brilliantly in step with the world of fashion at the turn of the 21st century, and which lent the J12 an air of stunning and simplistic modernity. The ingredients for a contemporary icon were all in place, and since its launch, this timepiece series has grown from strength to strength.

Xupes pre-owned Chanel J12 white ceramic placed on a Chanel classic double flap lambskin leather handbag

Design Features of the J12

The original J12 timepiece was inspired by nautical watches from the previous century and featured a stylish oversized dial and broad bezel, set in a scratch-resistant casing. The watch was launched with a truly distinctive look, which involved much of the body being made from a mostly matte black ceramic, which resulted in a genuinely surprising and deeply elegant finish. Moody, seductive, utterly modern yet undeniably timeless, the J12 boasted all the key attributes we associate with Chanel and caused major ripples throughout the luxury timepiece industry as a whole.

The use of ceramic materials was the most intriguing aspect for many collectors, as this showed Chanel striking out into a new field of design and on a new pursuit of excellence. The J12 was undoubtedly a watch which was ahead of its own time, and just as has been the case with Chanel many, many times before, the trails they blazed would be quickly followed by several others. This use of hi-tech and advanced materials put together in (where else) Switzerland’s La Chaux de Fonds, showcased something which became key in the 21st-century horology industry: that luxury watches need not be formulaic. It’s arguable that the J12 broke down the door for alternative material use eighteen years ago, and is partly responsible for the breadth of options in the luxury market today.

Once it was clear that they had a hit on their hands, the top brass at Chanel were keen to put more energy into their newly invigorated horology department. The original black J12 was followed in 2013 by a striking and utterly elegant white version - the ‘day’ to the former model’s ‘night - which demonstrated the design possibilities available with the luxury materials used by the manufacturers. This elegant white model was quite quickly followed by an ever-growing list of alternative designs, embellishment options, and material choices (the watches are frequently released adorned with precious gems, and a stainless steel model is also available and highly popular), proving the enduring appeal and popularity of the J12 design.

Xupes pre-owned Chanel J12 white ceramic placed on a Chanel classic double flap lambskin leather handbag

Further Complications

If Chanel has proven one thing over its long history of grace and style, then it’s that black truly never goes out of fashion. In 2013, shortly following the release of the white J12, the J12 Moonphase was launched. This gorgeous timepiece boasted the polished ceramic finish, robust case, swooping bezel and elegant bracelet which had all become the key design features of the J12 model, but it also featured a seductively charming moonphase detail overlapping the ‘six o’clock’ point of the dial.

This moonphase complication is reckoned to be among the most beautiful there is, with its eccentrically curved hand and a trio of lunar images, and there’s little wonder why this model is so highly sought-after by collectors and fans alike. The moon phase display is boosted by a pretty opaline glass with an aventurine counter, both of which allow this detail to truly shine on the wrist and mark itself out as an item par excellence. Of course, this being Chanel, there is always more to explore with each and every release. Flip the moonphase J12 over, and you’ll find the back of the watch is covered with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, allowing the wearer to marvel at the technical intricacy within the mechanism itself.

The Celebrity Choice

By bringing together the unbeatable quality and craftsmanship of Swiss design with the sheer class and glamour of this peerless Parisian fashion house, the J12 was always destined to become a firm favourite with the rich, the famous, and the global elite. It has been seen on the wrists of supermodels the world over, been worn by stars of the music scene, by actors, and by figures of political power - both male and female. Most notably in recent years, it has been seen to be the preferred watch model of choice of Hillary Clinton, and its combination of sportiness and timeless glamour, of unisex appeal and sophistication, make it a timepiece very much of the 21st century. The J12 may have only been around for 18 years, but there’s no doubt it has decades of popularity, success, and influence ahead of it.

Discover our full collection of pre-owned Chanel J12 watches online at Xupes today.