Chanel weaved a mechanical lace to unveil its second in-house movement.
Chanel’s watchmaking ambition is becoming an established fact. Just one year after presenting its first manufacture movement for the Monsieur model, with jumping hours and retrograde minutes, Chanel revealed during the 2017 edition of the Baselworld watch fair its second movement, this time specifically developed for a ladies watch: the Première Camélia Skeleton. It is obviously no coincidence if Chanel chose the Première watch to put forward its new movement. Indeed, as the name suggests, the Première watch is the symbol of Chanel’s first incursion in the world of watchmaking, back in 1987. For this reason, I consider the Première Camélia Skeleton as a kind of logical completion of a trajectory initiated 30 years ago. The sheer quality and the level of watchmaking expertise displayed by the Première Camélia Skeleton underline both the immense progress made by Chanel and its desire to position itself as a respected actor in the segment of high horology.
It is important to note that the new calibre 2 is the result of a specific development, distinct from the one operated for calibre 1 (and despite the fact that they do share a couple of components). The movement was therefore precisely created to bring the Première Camélia Skeleton to life. However, Chanel deliberately maintained some of the calibre 1 aesthetic details in order to reinforce the brand and, even more, the manufacture’s identity (whose signature is the lion, Coco Chanel’s favourite animal). One of these common traits is to be found in the circular architecture of the movement. Personally, I particularly like the contrast between the shape of the movement bridges, further amplified by the floating style of the skeleton, and the geometrical and rigorous aspect of the Première case. Indeed, the latter was inspired by the bottle stop of the maison’s famous Chanel No. 5 perfume, as well as by the octagonal shape of the Place Vendôme.
In the context of the Première Camélia Skeleton, the calibre 2 is much more than just a movement. It is also to be seen as the aesthetic cornerstone of the timepiece. In the absence of any dial, the movement is unmistakeably centre stage. It is very impressive how this watch, at first sight, reveals its aerial dimension, both light and subtle, as if made of lace. Such delicateness can be felt in the finesse of its bridges and in the absolutely perfect execution of the skeleton work. One can feel that the movement was purposefully designed as such. Indeed, the barrel and its mainspring are perfectly integrated and remain extremely discrete (visually speaking, this is generally one of the weak points of skeleton watches). The regulating organ, positioned just beneath the hands’ axis, provides a nice animation for the reverse side of the watch thanks to the oscillations of the balance wheel and the spiral’s behaviour. Furthermore, all the other mobile elements are harmoniously inserted in the actual structure of the calibre 2. Also, the touch of the Romain Gauthier Manufacture can be felt in the precise and meticulous finishings of the movement. The shape given to each bridge was evidently not decided at random. Their respective curves achieve to draw the pattern that has given the name to the watch: the Camélia. The maison’s emblematic flower is depicted with elegance and volume through the different levels, which further accentuate the impression of depth.
The aesthetic outcome of the movement is so convincing that Chanel has even allowed itself to propose a version with diamond-set bridges that successfully manages to maintain the finesse of the calibre 2 architecture, despite the inclusion of diamonds. The curl of diamonds thus created demonstrates a great mastery in the art of diamond setting, putting forward yet again the exclusive conception of the movement. Nonetheless, the model featuring a black ADLC finishing remains my preferred one as it confers a highly contemporary touch to the whole piece.
The technical performances of calibre 2 are just as impressive. The movement is comfortably wound and features a highly respectable power reserve of 48 hours, despite its discrete barrel and a high frequency of 4hz. A daily winding remains therefore necessary for an optimal functioning…but this should definitely not be perceived as a constraint. On the contrary, this exercise will enable us, each time, to marvel at and dive into the intricacies of the movement whilst delicately manipulating the crown.
As for all rectangular shaped watches, the Première Camélia Skeleton appears larger than what its dimensions might suggest. With a size of 28,5 x 37mm, its white gold and diamond-set rectangular case radiates a strong presence on a ladies’ wrist, which might initially slightly take you aback. But in reality, this perfectly dosed out blend of character and finesse is what will achieve to seduce the most demanding amateurs of high horology timepieces. The Première Camélia Skeleton is delightfully paradoxical: curved shapes mingle with straight lines, and its style reveals both a formal and versatile character. The beauty of the movement and the quality of its finishings are undoubtedly the main highlights of this watch, which brilliantly celebrates the 30th anniversary of Chanel’s watchmaking history.
The Première Camélia Skeleton is available in two different limited edition movement finishings (diamond-set or with a black ADLC treatment) as well as in a fully set version limited to only 12 pieces.
Pictures by Ana Stokland