FIRST LOOK: Chanel brings back Première to celebrate 30th anniversary year


Chanel is celebrating 30 years of watchmaking in 2017 with a re-release of its original Première ladies’ timepiece.

In October 1987, the French fashion house launched Première, a ladies’ watch designed to remind women of the shape of the stopper in the top of a Chanel No5 perfume bottle.

The aim, according to Chanel, was to define a unique vision of fine watchmaking through the creation of watches conceived as objects of desire and beauty, without compromising the craftsmanship and technical expertise required to make exceptional timepieces.

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Unlike most fine watchmakers at the time, Chanel designed its first collection specifically for the women that love its fashion and accessories. It was not a simple reworking of a man’s watch.

“The watch thus became a genuine piece of jewellery, the embodiment of femininity, above and beyond its functional role,” Chanel says.

The original Chanel Premiere, launched with Carole Bouquet, in 1989.
The original Chanel Premiere, launched with Carole Bouquet, in 1987.

The original Première was a hit, but was a mere hors d’oeuvres ahead of the J12, which arrived in 2000 and put Chanel watchmaking on the map with its all-black polished ceramic finish. With the J12, Chanel convinced the world that high-tech ceramic is a precious material, and made deepest black a popular colour in watchmaking.

The black J12 was joined by an all-white version in 2003.

The J12 forced watch buyers to take Chanel seriously as a fashion house with some well-designed watches. They took even more notice in 2005, when horological complications were added to the Chanel J12 Rétrograde Mystérieuse Tourbillon Watch, which used an RMT-10 calibre.

11 years later, in 2016, Chanel created its first in-house movement, the Calibre 1, with instant jumping hour and retrograde minute. It was used in Chanel’s first watch for men, the Monsieur de Chanel.

At the age of 30, Chanel’s watchmaking business intends to continue reaching higher up the horological ladder with the introduction of its second in house caliber, which will be used in a reinterpretation of the original Première watch.

Details of the watch are being kept under wraps until Baselworld, but an image has been released, which shows a coloured leather strap snaking through Chanel’s signature chain to form an elongated bracelet.

The original eight-sided watch case returns, housing a mother of pearl dial with no hour markers. The maker’s name is the only embellishment on the face.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder