Chanel, Cartier and Panerai re-shape their thinking in the quest for something new

Coco Chanel opened her first shop in Paris in 1910 selling hats of her own creation, later came the clothes. The company presented its first watch, the Premiere, in 1987, but the real breakthrough came with the introduction of the unisex Chanel J12 in 2000, the first watch to make ceramic casing sexy. This year comes another breakthrough, the Monsieur.

Chanel's handsome new Monsieur men's watch on the wrist of the maison's watch director Nicola's Beau. Full details on watch-next.com #baselworldwatchnext

This is the first watch Chanel has designed specifically for men, the result of a process that, unusually, began not with the watch’s appearance but with its workings. That led to a different way of displaying the time.

Nary an angle in sight. Impressive design of Chanel's Monsieur began 5 years back with the movement. #baselworldwatchnext

Planning for the watch began some five years ago under Chanel’s international watch director, Nicolas Beau. He told Watch that in the current climate, “changing a detail like a different dial to make a watch ‘new’ is not going to save anyone”. The answer? Creativity. A watch that’s attractive and creates emotions.

“We began by hiring eight specialists to look at what we might achieve with a movement, something a bit fun. There was no constraint of case design – it was get the movement right first.”

4. Chanel Monsieur

Called the Calibre 1, the hand-wound, four-hertz, two-barrel movement is a 170-part symphony of circles finished in matt, brushed and glossy black ADLC (amorphous diamond-like carbon). Visible through a sapphire caseback, the movement will only be used in the Monsieur model.

Impressive as that might be, it’s the front of the 40mm that Monsieur wearers will be admiring most. Under a domed crystal, the elegant dial features an instantaneous jumping hour indication at the 6 o’clock position, above it the seconds and a 240-degree retrograde minute scale. The minute hand is adjustable in either direction, an action covered by a patent. It springs back to the zero position after each 60 minutes has passed, completely in sync with the hour changing.

Why a jumping hour numeral rather than the usual hand? Beau: “We liked the idea of a jumping hour because of the importance of numerals to Chanel.” You can imagine he’d be thrilled, then, every time the number five comes around.

Priced at $48,500, there are 150 in beige gold and another 150 in white gold at $50,800. Not a bad price for something that’s likely to transcend the whims of fashion.

Something new – from the outside in

Cartier was founded by Parisian jeweller Louis-François Cartier in 1847 and has been making its name in watches since launching the Santos in 1904, and the Tank in 1919. Its most telling recent releases have been the Ballon Bleu and Calibre de Cartier, and this year’s major launch is a new range for the gentleman, the Drive de Cartier.

Drive de Cartier

What distinguishes this latest model is its shape. A rounded almost cushion-like case gives it an appearance unlike any previous Cartier model, although there’s no mistaking its lineage: the usual brand codes are reassuringly in evidence, from blued hands to Roman numerals.

Drive de Cartier two-time zone in gold case
Drive de Cartier two-time zone in gold case.

Worth noting is that the Drive launches in a steel case; recent launches, for example the Cle de Cartier, have seen gold taking precedence with steel versions appearing a season or so later. Then there’s the pricing, from $8750 for the simple three-handed time teller, suggesting this is a fitting Cartier for straightened times.

Drive de Cartier with grey guilloche dial
Drive de Cartier with grey guilloche dial.

Mind you, there’s the option of choosing yours in gold, which does deliver a luxe look, and there are two not-so-simple variants in the range. The first features a second time zone in a dial layout we haven’t seen before. It’s in a fan-shaped arrangement at 10 o’clock and displays the hours one to 12, while a croissant-shaped opening between three and four o’clock displays a moon or sun to flag whether the hour referred to is day or night time.

Drive de Cartier Flying Tourbillon.
Drive de Cartier Flying Tourbillon.

Your other Drive option is a decidedly upmarket model housing a flying tourbillon and looking all the more special for it. All feature in-house movements – a 9452 MC calibre carrying the Geneva seal powering the tourbillon, a 1904 MC unit for the others. But it’s the looks that are the common allure here, offering something sophisticated without being stuffy. Difficult to achieve, but achieve it Cartier has.

Something nuanced – from the 1950s

Panerai was founded in Florence in 1860 by Giovanni Panerai, and in 1916 it patented a radium-based luminous powder for instruments, called Radiomir. This was the name given to its first watch, a model with a Rolex movement and water-proof case created for the Italian navy in 1936.

PAM00674 - Detail 2

In 1949 Panerai introduced a new luminous substance, Luminor, and a watch bearing that name followed in 1950. This year the iconic Luminor begets a slimmed down version, the Luminor Due. Launched as a range with numerous variants, the Luminor Due is unmistakably a Panerai, but the sleekest one yet, those classic lines up to 40 per cent thinner than previous models.

Smaller-cased 42mm versions – in steel and gold – are powered by a hand-wound P1000/10 movement that’s skeletonised in the gold version, while 45mm models, again in steel and rose gold, are powered by Panerai’s self-winding P4000 movement. Both movements offer three days’ power reserve.

All Dues have sunburst dials, black for the steel versions, anthracite for the gold, which, along with the brand’s renowned stencil-style numerals and giant lever-protected crown, mean it’s still a Luminor you’ll spot across a room.

That said, the design changes mark a transition for Panerai: a morphing from the tool chest to the top drawer. The brand will be hoping that translates to a new clutch of customers.

Click here for the whole the interactive, dynamic edition of Watch 2016 magazine.  

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