Chanel’s J12 Watch Gets a Face-lift

The Chanel J12 is a watch that can be spotted on a wrist from afar: It’s bold, beautiful and iconic—and now it has a slightly new look, at once subtle and significant. “I have the aesthetic responsibility of this icon, often copied but never equaled,” says Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the Chanel Watch Creation Studio. “In that sense, I’m the guarantor of its future.”

Originally created nearly 20 years ago by the late Chanel artistic director Jacques Helleu, the J12 has gotten a refresh at the hands of Chastaingt, who took on the task with the mission being “to change everything, without changing anything.” It was a challenge he admits was one of the most complex creative exercises he has ever confronted. “Creatively I decided to take the approach of a surgeon: I scanned the J12 millimeter by millimeter with the objective to deeply understand how to sublimate the icon without distorting it,” Chastaingt says. “I finally redesigned 70 percent of its components.”

 Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the Chanel Watch Creation Studio

While many of the alterations are minute (the number of the notches on the bezel slightly increased; the numeral typeface was redesigned; there is an incrementally thinner bracelet), the most impressive change is the Caliber 12.1, a new, Swiss-made, self-winding movement manufactured exclusively for Chanel that can be seen through the caseback.

Available in black and white ceramic, the recently released watch has taken on a new persona without losing any of the details that made it such an iconic timepiece two decades ago. “The J12 perfectly incarnates the audacity and the creative freedom of Chanel,” Chastaingt says. (

By Sari Anne Tuschman

Feature Image: The new incarnation of the white ceramic-and -steel J12