Just close your eyes and think Chanel. You immediately conjure images of haute couture, of classic elegance, of black and white fashion and of the famed Chanel No. 5 perfume, among others. Maybe you think of Gabrielle (Coco) herself, or of the designs she created and made legendary. Maybe you think of the concepts that inspired her, and maybe you think Chanel watches.
It was in 1987 that the house of Chanel unveiled its first wristwatch. Conceived of by Jacques Helleu, artistic director, that first watch, the Première, was revolutionary for its day. It featured an octagon case that recalled the bottle stopper of the iconic Chanel No. 5 fragrance and was inspired by the shape of Place Vendome, the area of Paris that Chanel called home. That first Première watch boasted a chain link bracelet that was interwoven with black leather – a nod to the beloved Chanel handbags. It was resolutely feminine at a time when most watches were tailored for men, and it fast became one of the most sought-after watches of its time.
"I fought to make a design that was strong, that was unique, that – more than just launching a single collection – would become an eternal reference," said Helleu of the Première as he ushered this iconic haute couture brand into the world of watchmaking. Now, Chanel reimagines the emblematic watch in a sleek rendition that is at once modern and yet beautifully retro. Designed by today’s director of the Chanel Watch Creation Studio, Arnaud Chastaingt, the re-issued Première Édition Originale is stylish, chic and immediately identifiable from across a crowded room.
"In 2022, I wanted the Première to find its place again and to put it at the heart of our collection,” said Chastaingt. “This creation is our DNA and a CHANEL code through and through. Far more than a watch, the Première is a lesson in style."
And style is exactly what the Première Édition Originale watch embraces. The octagonal shaped watch is crafted in black and gold – a pure statement of elegance and a tribute to Chanel, who frequently designed in dual colors. The case and bracelet links are stainless steel with 18-karat yellow gold plating, while the dial is black lacquer and the leather that intertwines with the gold plated links is black, as well. The dial is devoid of numerals and markers for a crisp, clean look. Just the Chanel logo, the word "Swiss" and the hands grace the face. A black onyx cabochon is set on the gold-plated crown and the gold-hued hands feature a center black circle where they meet.
The watch is the quintessential embodiment of class and grace. The sapphire crystal that protects the dial is also octagonal thanks to beveled corners and edges that give the watch a great sense of depth and dimension. Offering just the hours and minutes, the watch is powered by a high-precision quartz movement and is water resistant to 30 meters.
To celebrate the re-issue of this first watch, Chanel Watchmaking and Fine Jewelry has completely redesigned its 18 Place Vendome townhouse. The brand also turned to Korean American model and artist, Soo Joo Park, as the face behind the new Première Édition Originale.