Clear-cut focus on beauty

A widely circulated video interview by Nicolas Beau, international director of Chanel's watch department, explains the brand's modus operandi.

"We make a design, and then we find the right movement. We have great partners for movements in Switzerland, but if it [the movement] doesn't exist, we create it ourselves."

In other words, beauty leads. Beau points out that Chanel has been making jewellery since 1932, and "I think watchmaking has a natural link to jewellery".

One glance at the newest addition to the Mademoiselle Prive collection shows that watchmaking has a natural link to art as well. The camellia motif in previous models was a direct line back to Coco Chanel's personal style.

The new Mademoiselle Prive takes its cue from her Chinese Coromandel screen. Artist Anita Porchet has created a miniature masterpiece within the round diamond frame of the watch.

The dial, in black grand feu enamel over 18ct gold, is exquisitely hand-painted with a Chinese scene. Each leaf is a 24ct gold paillon cut into leaf shape and individually applied.

Everything about this watch is precious - its artistry and the 4.13ct of diamonds on its white gold case and crown. The hands are 18ct white gold as is the diamond-set buckle of the black alligator strap. It is absolutely unique and, just in case, water-resistant to 30 metres.

The always sought-after Premiere watch, now astonishingly more than 25 years old, was on parade at BaselWorld with, Beau says, slight variations in specifications. The familiar but never dated octagonal shape is unchanged, though shaved by millimetres here and there. The chain bracelet is now easily made tighter or looser by the wearer without the use of a tool.

Perhaps the star is the Chanel Premiere in white gold set with diamonds, a very Chanel-like contrast to the black lacquer dial and onyx cabochon crown.

The yellow gold version also has a black dial while the steel version has a white mother-of-pearl dial.

Chanel also offers an edition of its Premiere Flying Tourbillon, in only five pieces of two variations - one with a blue sapphire bezel, the other with a pink sapphire bezel. This lovely watch is a triumph of haute horologerie.

Much was made of the fact that this year, Chanel was marking an anniversary - 10 years since its first appearance at BaselWorld. On that occasion, Chanel made a big splash by launching its first J12 White model.

A decade ago, the white watch was as rare as the white whale. But when Chanel gave it "her" fashion imprimatur, the white watch became a "must-have".

The J12 has been said to be the most copied watch in the world - a dubious honour.

The J12 White Phantom 38mm is thus a celebration of the brand's success in a very demanding field. Technique might be subordinate to aesthetics, but Chanel has proved its technique is second to none. Only 2,000 pieces of the J12 White Phantom 38mm have been released, each engraved with the words "J12 White 10th Anniversary Limited Edition", the answer to any collector's prayer.

J12, of course, is no longer confined to white, though that is considered the classic version. Its unisex appeal has been interpreted in black ceramic with the matte black version creating almost as much excitement as the original pearlescent white.

Luxury lovers can buy J12 in gemset steel and gold, and there is a titanium chromatic as well.

At BaselWorld, Chanel presented a work of art in Mademoiselle Prive, an anniversary edition of the classic J12, refined versions of the iconic Premiere, and a Flying Tourbillon Premiere limited edition. No mean feat.

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