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Channelling the stars: the Interstellar collection by Chanel

The house of Chanel has long been a byword for excellence in style and design. It’s a relative ‘newbie’ when it comes to watchmaking, but with its latest collection, Interstellar, Chanel has wowed rivals and watch fans alike, writes Norman Burns.

In some of the stuffier circles of the watchmaking world the term ‘fashion watch’ isn’t exactly a compliment. It’s easy to slap a high-end brand or logo onto a watch that might look the part, but delivers very little in terms of accuracy or build quality. A cheap imitation, in other words. Not so with Chanel, which talks the talk and walks the walk with its dazzling range of wristwatches.

Chanel The J12 Diamond Tourbillon abd J12 Night Star 33mm.
The J12 Diamond Tourbillon watch and J12 Night Star 33mm, Chanel.

Chanel, the watchmaker

Chanel launched its own watch brand in 1987 but really stepped up to the plate in 1993 by acquiring Swiss watchmaker and jeweller Châtelain. This meant the brand could move towards the ‘holy grail’ of watchmaking – producing its own in-house mechanical movements and becoming a ‘real’ watchmaker. In the decades since, Chanel has matched this engineering prowess with some eclectic and innovative design, incorporating cutting-edge materials such as ceramics into its timepieces – and all the while maintaining the cool elegance that founder Gabrielle Chanel imbued in the brand.

The J12 Hyper Cybernetic and the Boy.Friend Cyberdata with its diamond-set ‘circuit board’, Chanel.
The J12 Hyper Cybernetic and the Boy.Friend Cyberdata watch with its diamond-set ‘circuit board’, Chanel.

Interstellar Capsule Collection by Chanel

With its recently released Interstellar Capsule Collection, Chanel amps up the ‘wow’ dial considerably. The Interstellar range features 23 models, some in limited editions of just a dozen pieces, but every one is a real eye-catcher with some very funky nods to the space age and science-fiction themes to boot. The Boy.Friend Cyberdata’s black-lacquered dial, for example, is a groovy ‘circuit board’ design flecked with – what else would you expect from Chanel – 54 brilliant-cut diamonds. A quartz movement powers this one and the Cyberdata’s Art Deco-meets-The Jetsons look is a real standout. For the spectacular J12 Hyper Cybernetic (38mm matte black ceramic/18k white gold case), Chanel turns to its in-house 12.1 automatic movement, which meets the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute’s exacting standards as an ultra-accurate timekeeper.

The J12 Spatiotemporal watch, Chanel.
The J12 Spatiotemporal watch, Chanel.

The ‘split’ design features 240 brilliant-cut diamonds and just 55 pieces will be available. Even fewer (12) of the 38mm J12 Spatiotemporal have been produced. This time the dial and bezel (18k white gold) are adorned with diamonds. The Calibre 12.1 automatic movement is under the hood once more. And perhaps Interstellar’s pièce de résistance is the J12 Diamond Tourbillon (55 pieces). This time, a manually wound movement powers the watch, which features a diamond-set tourbillon (French for ‘whirlwind’) at 6 o’clock on the white ceramic dial (which is partly skeletonised so you can see the mechanical ‘dance’ going on behind the scenes). A tourbillon is a device that helps counter the effects of gravity on a mechanical watch, thus ensuring timekeeping is as accurate as possible – and few watchmakers in the world have the skillset to produce them.

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