Interview: Frédéric Grangie, President of Chanel Watches and Jewellery

The J12 and "manufacture" movements.

Best known for the fashionable J12 wristwatch in ceramic, Chanel has quietly built its mechanical watchmaking competence in the last few years. In 2016, the fashion house unveiled the Monsieur de Chanel retrograde jump hour, powered by a movement developed with the help of independent watchmaker Romain Gauthier, in which Chanel owns a stake. And last year, the Wertheimer brothers, who together own Chanel, bought a substantial minority in F.P. Journe.

But most crucial of all was the agreement inked early in early 2019 where Chanel agreed to buy a 20% stake in Kenissi, a movement factory majority owned by Tudor, and consequently, by Rolex. With a vast new factory under construction in Le Locle, Kenissi gives Chanel access to high-quality mechanical movements produced in large numbers, large enough perhaps, to replace the ETA and Sellita movement it is now reliant on.

Chanel J12 calibre 12.1 Kenissi 1

The cal. 12.1 produced by Kenissi for Chanel

At Baselworld this year the facelifted J12 equipped with a Kenissi movement made it debut, the first step in Chanel’s move upward in the value chain when it comes to proper watchmaker.

Overseeing all that is French national Frédéric Grangie, a luxury industry lifer who started his career at Louis Vuitton in 1992 – in the anti-counterfeit department interestingly – before stints at Marc Jacobs, Fendi and Goyard.

From 2010 to 2016 he returned to Louis Vuitton as the chief executive of the brand’s Japan operation, a crucially important role as Japan is one of Louis Vuitton’s largest markets.

And in July 2016, a few months after the launch of the Monsieur de Chanel,  Mr Grangie was appointed President of Chanel Watches & Fine Jewelry.

Frederic Grangie chanel

Frédéric Grangie

I was supposed to speak with Mr Grangie at Baselworld but a railway delay meant the interview was not to be. He kindly agree to do it over email, and here it is.

The interview was edited for clarity.

Amongst the fashion houses that also produce watches, Chanel is arguably the most successful in watchmaking, thanks to the iconic and best-selling J12.

You are now developing men’s watches more widely. Can you explain how you plan to achieve the same success with men’s watches as you did with the women?

Watches remain timeless objects of desire and design associated with unique know-how. In 2000, Jacques Helleu created the J12, first of all, for himself, and therefore, for men as well.

No doubt he foresaw before anyone else, and because Mademoiselle Chanel herself was inspired by it, that women would quickly borrow their watches from the men’s wardrobe. And in that sense J12 was a revolution.

Our philosophy as a fashion and creative house is to ensure the excellence and desirability of our creations, and to give to our clients the freedom of choice. And what’s great today is that our clients, men and women, are as sensitive and passionate about the calibers as they are about the design.

In the meantime, we are delighted to observe the real passion that has met the Monsieur de Chanel since its presentation in Basel in 2016. And that’s why in 2019, we continue to enrich the collection especially with the limited edition in black ceramic.

Chanel J12 new H5697

The J12 with the Calibre 12.1 produced by Kenissi

The passion for calibres as you mention means the collaboration with Tudor on the Kenissi manufacture comes at a good time, since it allows Chanel to develop “manufacture” movements. Can you tell us how the relationship between the two companies developed, and where it is going?

The new Kenissi manufacture offers a high-end product, meeting the exacting specifications of Chanel. In addition, we share with the Kenissi manufacture a common vision and values of excellence.

So today, we are presenting the new J12 Calibre 12.1, equipped with a Kenissi movement but you will be discovering other designs in due course.

Are there plans to develop complicated “manufacture” movements at Kenissi, like a chronograph for the J12 for instance?

I am sure you understand that I cannot answer this question at this stage.

Chanel J12 calibre 12.1 Kenissi 2

Perhaps one day it’ll be a chronograph movement through the porthole…

You spent a good number of years in Japan, first with Fendi and then as the head of Louis Vuitton Japan. The country is a big market for luxury goods but also one with unique and refined taste. How did that experience shape your perspective on the business?

The Japanese market is one of excellence. It is a very sophisticated and mature market. 
Luxury brands have been established there since the 1970s, and Japan invented modern luxury through integrated distribution. They make no compromise when it comes to accomplishment.

Above all, and after 10 years spent in Japan, I have a real, personal and sentimental passion about this country.


Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Introducing the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph

A concise chronograph.

In addition to its delicately decorated and mechanically fascinating automatons, another hallmark of Jaquet Droz is the Grande Seconde, a wristwatch featuring an extra-large seconds counter based on a 19th-century pocket watch. While originally a time-only watch, the Grande Seconde has grown to incorporate various complications, including a deadbeat seconds, and now, a monopusher chronograph.

The brand recently took the covers off the Grande Seconde Chronograph, adapting the counters of a stopwatch to fit the signature aesthetic of the model, creating a surprisingly minimalist chronograph.

The collection is made of four watches – three regular production models in steel, plus a limited edition of 88 pieces in red gold with an ivory grand feu enamel dial.

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph Off Centred all three black

Each features trademark Grande Seconde figure-of-eight dial, but with the lower sub-dial dedicated to a co-axial sub-dial that combines the 30-minute resister and retrograde date.

Ironically, that means that although it is a Grande Second model, the chronograph doesn’t actually have a constant seconds hand, and instead only has a central, elapsed seconds hand for the chronograph.

A unique movement

All four models are 43mm in diameter and powered by the same movement, the cal. 26M5R.

It’s an automatic, single-button calibre with a column wheel and vertical clutch for the chronograph, as well as a silicon balance spring. And like most chronograph movements used by Jaquet Droz (and Blancpain), the calibre is based on the Frederic Piguet 1185 that’s now made by Blancpain, but substantially customised for Jaquet Droz.

jaquet droz grande seconde chronograph movement

The movement runs on a single barrel and has a power reserve of 40 hours. It’s fitted with a skeletonised, 18k red gold rotor.

Dial details

Apart from the case material and dials, the models are differentiated by a twist, literally.

The steel Grande Seconde Chronograph has off-centre sub-dials, with the movement having been rotated 45 degrees clockwise, putting the crown at four o’clock and leaving the watch interestingly asymmetrical.

Jaquet Droz has done similar for a handful of Grande Seconde limited editions in the past, but never on a complicated model.

jaquet droz grande seconde chronograph blue

The date indicator is differentiated from the elapsed minutes on the sub-dial by way of a red tip. It’s a subtle touch that echoes with the red “31” on the date track.

Functional colour coding is also applied to the limited edition in red gold, and the steel model with a silver dial. On those two models, the colours of the scales dictate their purpose – blue for chronograph, and black for time and date.

jaquet droz grande seconde chronograph silver dial

This isn’t the case unfortunately for the other steel models, which instead have the dial print uniformly done in silver, presumably for visual consistency.

jaquet droz grande seconde chronograph steel

88 in red gold

The symmetrical enamel dial on the gold model is a nod to the historical Grande Seconde, just like the other classic-leaning watches in the collection that take more literal inspiration from the original pocket watch.

jaquet droz grande seconde chronograph red gold

The dial of the Grande Seconde Chronograph in gold is made of several pieces of ivory fired enamel. Both sub-dials are recessed, with their centres being a separate piece that is raised, giving the dial depth.

All lettering on the dial is done the old school way: made of enamel executed via the petite feu technique, basically enamel print baked in an oven.

jaquet droz grande seconde chronograph gold enamel

Key Facts

Diameter: 43mm
Height: 14.83mm
Material: 18k red gold or steel
Water resistance: 30m

Movement: Automatic cal. 26M5R
Frequency: 21,600bph, or 3Hz
Power reserve: 40 hours

Strap: Alligator leather

Price and availability

The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph Ivory Enamel (ref. J007733200) is an 88-piece limited edition and is priced at 50,000 Singapore dollars, or about US$36,300.

The Grande Seconde Off-Centered Chronograph in grey (ref. J007830242), silver (J007830240) and blue (ref. J007830241) is not limited and is priced at 31,000 Singapore dollars, which is about US$22,500.


Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Business News: Vacheron Constantin Introduces Blockchain Certification

Starting with its vintage offerings.

While high horology is usually slow to embrace high tech, luxury watch conglomerate Richemont has been quicker than its rivals, most notably with its acquisition of Yoox Net-a-Porter and Watchfinder, albeit at significant cost. And now the leading Swiss brand in its watch division, Vacheron Constantin, has become the first mainstream watchmaker to use blockchain technology for authentication.

Blockchain is a digital ledger that records events and transactions that’s stored across numerous servers, making it immutable and tamper-proof. Amongst its uses is to increase the traceability and transparency of supply chains in manufacturing or food supply.

But the technology is better known as the foundation of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. A handful of watch brands have accepted bitcoin as payment for watches, but Vacheron Constantin is the first to rely on blockchain to provide assurance to the customer.

Vintage bona fides

According to Vacheron Constantin, the technology will aid in eradicating fraud and counterfeiting on a meaningful scale, by allowing owners to trace a watch through its chain of custody, even several times removed from its point of sale at the boutique, or when the watch has been serviced.

Since May 15, 2019, Vacheron Constantin has bestowed blockchain certification on Les Collectionneurs – vintage watches that are sourced, restored and certified by Vacheron Constantin, and then offered at selected boutiques around the world.


The selection of Les Collectionneurs watches recently available at the Vacheron Constantin boutique in Singapore

All Les Collectionneurs watches sold from now onwards will be accompanied by both a physical and digital certificate. The paper certificate that is already standard for a Les Collectionneurs watch, but now consumers will also receive protected digital certificate that verifies a watch’s authenticity in a permanent way while, crucially, maintaining the anonymity of its owners.

Vacheron Constantin Les Collectionneurs 10

The scale of Les Collectionneurs is a tiny enough that the blockchain experiment is easy to manage and carries little risk. If it proves successful, the technology will be rolled out on larger scale, applied to Vacheron Constantin’s new watches and also across other Richemont brands.


Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Welcome to the new Watches By SJX.

Subscribe to get the latest articles and reviews delivered to your inbox.