© Written by Rachael Taylor for BaselWorld Brand Book

When Chanel first experimented with ceramics, and pioneered in turning this new material into an indisputable precious material in matchmaking, the goal was above all to achieve the perfect shade of the House’s favourite colour.

“Our aim was to create an unalterable black watch,” recalls Chanel Watch and Fine Jewellery president Philippe Mougenot, referring to the birth of the iconic J12 line. “Ceramic imposed itself as the best choice of material to achieve the intense black colour because it came not from a surface treatment but was embodied in the material itself.”

It took Chanel five years to develop the patented scratchproof, age-proof, intense black ceramic formula for the first J12. When it launched in 2000 it became an instant icon of watchmaking – not just within the brand’s offer, but across the entire industry. It sparked, as Mougenot likes to say, “a true revolution in style”.

He also says that demand for such watches is still strong, with ceramic having transcended trends to become a watch category in its own right. No surprise, then, that Chanel is continuing to develop new watches and techniques in this category.

“Chanel uses high-tech ceramic, mineral ceramic composed of zirconium and yttrium,” reveals Mougenot. “The formulas used by Chanel for the J12 collection have been patented and are unique to the brand. But the real innovation can be found in the production process and the secret polishing techniques used to achieve its irreproachable shine.”

Colour continues to play a powerful role. The phenomenally successful white J12, launched in 2003, was followed in 2011 by the J12 Chromatic, a titanium-ceramic mix with a silver-grey mirror-like quality.

“All these colours have proved their ability to mix with the most precious metals and stones, enabling us to create a variety of edgy designs with unrivalled plays of light,” says Mougenot. “We have also created a mysterious black with a matt finishing, thanks to a polishing technique using diamond-powder.”

This year at BaselWorld, Chanel presents the J12-365, a new watch created exclusively for women. This collection will demonstrate the beauty of high-tech ceramic associated with diamonds and the new beige gold, a Chanel exclusive alloy.

Read the original interview in the BaselWorld Brand Book 2014 here (pages 48-49).

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