Ahead of its time: Chanel's latest J12 watch collection
With the launch of its sophisticated J12XS timepiece, the French fashion house proves it's as cutting-edge as ever
Many luxury fashion brands have launched mechanical watches, but the company that blazed the trail nearly 30 ago - and continues to impress - is Chanel. Adding haute horology to its haute-couture pedigree, the label's J12 is perhaps one of the most imitated designs in the watch world.
Created by Chanel's legendary Jacques Helleu, the collection was named for the America's Cup J Class yachts that inspired it. Marketed as a "fine jewellery sports watch", this bold and unusual timepiece proved an instant hit: it was for men and women and water-resistant to 656ft (200m), although its real achievement was pioneering the use of high-tech ceramic – which proved to be highly resistant to everyday wear and tear – with streamlined design.
The Chanel J12 is a classic that has been revisited and reiterated many times over different stylings, with first white and then grey ceramic being introduced, plus diamond-set pieces and a plethora of different sizes over the decades. The latest collection was launched earlier this autumn: the J12XS playfully shapes up to its name, being both extra-small at a petite 0.06ins (19mm), and all about excess.
Available in black or white, it plays with the way a watch can be worn. The tiny timepiece is braceleted by a slim calfskin strap that can be rocked on its own, or over a matching matt cuff with silver piping. You could also wear it over a black fingerless leather glove, in a salute to Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld's signature accessory.
A larger cuff iteration has six slim patent leather straps mounted with the watch and there is a fabulous time-telling ring version, together with a number of high jewellery pieces. Chanel worked with the distinguished Parisian embroidery house Lesage to hand-decorate cuffs with sequins and glass beads to simulate the appearance of shagreen and alligator leathers.
As ever, Chanel is stylishly ahead of the curve, setting trends rather than following them: these are luxuriously edgy watches for the fashion-forward.
Chanel J12XS from £3,775; chanel.com