Chanel Introduces the J12 X-Ray

Entirely sapphire crystal.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the J12, Chanel is premiering not one but two epic versions of the iconic ceramic watch. While the first features a striking two-colour ceramic case, the second is perhaps the ultimate J12. Rendered entirely in clear sapphire – case, bracelet, and movement – the J12 X-Ray is delicate, extravagant and novel.

Clear and second only to diamond in hardness, sapphire is also fragile and susceptible to chipping, cracking or shattering. Its properties are similar to that of ceramic, the defining material of the J12, except more extreme. As it is with Chanel’s ceramic cases, the sapphire parts of the J12 X-Ray are made by Chanel subsidiary G&F Chatelain, a case maker that has produced sapphire cases for another Chanel-owned brand, Bell & Ross.

Measuring 38mm wide, the case is machined from a single sapphire block and topped by a white gold bezel set with baguette-cut diamonds. Similarly, the dial is also sapphire, and fitted with a minute track and hands in white gold. All of the hour markers, on the other hand, are baguette-cut diamonds.

Sapphire bridges and links

And beneath the sapphire dial – which also doubles up as the movement base plate – is the Caliber 3.1.

Derived from the rectangular, skeletonised Caliber 3 found in the in the Boy-Friend Skeleton, the Caliber 3.1 is hand-wound with all of its moving parts secured by sapphire bridges, which allows the movement to be seen from the front and back. The pivots of the gears of the going train sit in jewels secured by chatons on the sapphire dial.

The layout of the movement is conventional and symmetrical, with the barrel at 12 o’clock, followed by the gear train arranged vertically and ending with the escapement at six o’clock. Shaped like a flower and equipped with regulating weights, the free-sprung balance resides at four o’clock.

But as impressive as the sapphire case and movement – both of which have been done before by other brands – is the sapphire crystal bracelet. Made up of individual sapphire links secured together by white gold pins and screws, the sapphire bracelet is an industry first.

Key facts and price

Chanel J12 X-Ray
Ref. H6249

Diameter: 38 mm
Height: 10.7 mm
Material: Sapphire with a white gold bezel
Water resistance: 30m

Movement: Caliber 3.1
Functions: Hours and minutes
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4Hz)
Winding: Hand-wound
Power reserve: 50 hours

Strap: Sapphire bracelet

Limited edition: 12 pieces
  Yet to be announced
Price: US$626,000, or 910,600 Singapore dollars

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Up Close: Girard-Perregaux Classic Bridges 45 mm

The time-only version of an icon.

Girard-Perregaux is best known for the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges, one of the most distinctive and beautiful movements in watchmaking – even 160 years after it was first designed. Characterised by its symmetry and arrow-shaped bridges, the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges is one of the few movements has an irrefutably iconic design.

Some of the three-bridges magic has democratised with the Girard-Perregaux Classic Bridges 45 mm, a time-only watch that’s a more affordable take on the 19th century design.

Constant Girard’s movement

French watchmaker Jean-Antoine Lépine revolutionised the construction of the watch movement around 1770 when he invented the Lépine calibre, which used bridges and cocks to secure the moving parts on the base plate, replacing the prevailing pillar construction where the parts were held between two full plates.

Almost a century later, Girard-Perregaux founder Constant Girard took Lépine’s idea a step further by rethinking the layout of the movement, with an eye towards not just mechanical function, but also beauty.

A Girard-Perregaux pocket watch with nickel-plated parallel bridges, c. 1875. Photo – Antiquorum

Starting in the mid 1850s, Girard began working on a caliber with its barrel, gear train, and regulator arranged vertically in a straight line. They were secured by identical, parallel bridges shaped like an elongated rhombus, creating an incredibly elegant equilibrium in the movement layout. Eventually the large, parallel bridges evolved into arrow-shaped bridges in solid gold.

Moreover, the phenomenal aesthetics of the movement were matched by its state-of-the-art precision; many examples of Girard’s movements were equipped with a spring-detent escapement. Girard produced about 20 such movements with tourbillon regulators, and a handful more without a tourbillon.

The three-bridges movement was an expression of the highest form of watchmaking in the 19th century, in terms of decoration, design and precision; most of the original pocket watches were extraordinary examples of horology.

The La Esmeralda pocket watch, the most elaborate tourbillon pocket watch ever made by Girard-Perregaux. Photo – Girard-Perregaux

Revived in the modern day as a wristwatch in 1991, the three-bridge movement remains the hallmark of Girard-Perregaux. In its 1990s heyday, Girard-Perregaux was regarded as one of the preeminent haute horlogerie houses because of the three-bridges tourbillon.

While keeping the same layout, the movement evolved into numerous iterations since then, often with additional complications or more contemporary bridges. The wristwatches were always fitted with a tourbillon regulator, until 2018 when brand unveiled the Classic Bridges (and a year before it had unveiled the similar but modern-looking Neo Bridges).

Striking architecture

In style and finish Girard-Perregaux took a classical approach to the case of the Classic Bridges, which is entirely polished 18k pink gold. Though well made, it isn’t particularly outstanding in look or feel, but the conservative style works well for the design, especially since the focus is entirely on the movement.

The fact that the case is relatively thin, at a bit over 12 mm high, also helps by giving it a more elegant profile.

At 45 mm in diameter, the Classic Bridges sounds overly large, but it is the sort of watch that does better with a wider dial to showcase the movement. There is a more practical 40 mm version with the same movement, but the smaller watch looks slightly cluttered and indistinct.

Importantly, the cal. GP08600-0002 inside is specific to this version of the watch, with a larger, 37 mm diameter to fill the 45 mm case. Most of the movement has been reworked for the larger size, including the base plate and gold bridges.

The cal. GP08600-0001 in the Classic Bridges 40 mm, on the other hand, is a smaller, 32 mm movement with shorter, stubbier gold bridges.

The movement is framed by a brushed, rose-gold chapter ring with applied hour markers

While the movement is neither a tourbillon nor a three-bridge movement strictly speaking (though it does have a third bridge of sorts incorporated into the back), the architecture is nonetheless beautiful and warmly reminiscent of the original tourbillon.

Its twin gold bridges create a striking contrast against the frosted base plate. The lower bridge holds the balance wheel while the central bridge carries the hands, canon pinion, and hour wheel. Right below is a frosted bridge that is responsible for the rest of the gear train and the keyless works; because the bridge is also frosted, it blends into the base plate.

Visible at the top of the dial is what appears to be twin barrels. But it is actually a clever design with the steel micro-rotor on the left and barrel on the right.

Though it does not look it at first glance as a result of the large case and dial, the free-sprung balance wheel is larger than average. Being a crucial part of the movement design, the diameter of the balance doubtlessly had to be maximised for visual effect, which dictates its lower frequency of 3 Hz instead of the more common 4 Hz (which would call for a smaller balance).

While the three-bridges tourbillon has a near-perfect symmetry and streamlined mechanics on the front, the Classic Bridges is slightly more cluttered, with many of its moving parts visible. The visual elegance of the tourbillon movement is definitely absent.

That is a design choice, since they could have been covered up, but it is probably done to clearly distinguish the tourbillon from the affordable Classic Bridges.

The dauphine hands have a contrasting polished and brushed finished for legibility

With almost all the moving parts visible on the front, the reverse is a full plate that’s almost bare, save for a one detail – the barrel ratchet wheel. It’s been skeletonised in a tri-lobe motif inspired by the trademark Girard-Perregaux tourbillon cage, and then especially well finished.

And the back also contains the third, not-quite-a-bridge of the movement, which holds one of the wheels for the automatic winding mechanism.

Fine finishing

Though the Classic Bridges is explicitly a simplified take on the Tourbillon with Three Bridges, the movement is still well decorated.

The twin gold bridges have mirror polished tops, bevelled edges, and brushed flanks, while all of the countersinks on the front are prominent and polished. Ditto for the base plate, which has bevelled edges everywhere. Even the steel bridge for the keyless works has polished bevels.

While every visible component is finished, the finishing is a mix of machine and hand finishing, so it lacks the artisanal flourishes of the three-bridges tourbillon – a fact rather than criticism, given the price of the Classic Bridges. Amongst other things, it would have made a tremendous difference to the look and feel of the watch if the gold bridges have rounded, instead of flat, arms.

On the back, the finishing is unsurprisingly less elaborate. The plate is covered with Geneva stripes, but the countersinks are machined.

That being said, the back does boast one impressive bit of decoration: the open-worked ratchet wheel is gorgeously finished with polished, bevelled along the sharp inward and outward corners.

The ratchet wheel modelled on the classic Girard-Perregaux tourbillon cage

Concluding thoughts

Though open-dial watches are hardly novel, the Girard-Perregaux Classic Bridges has striking dial-side architecture that has two important qualities that elevate it above similar-looking timepieces: attractive decoration and strong historical foundations.

Despite being obviously simplified, the Classic Bridges still manages to convey a little bit of the magic of the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges. The bit of magic does costs 38,100 Swiss francs – a considerable sum but a fraction of what the original tourbillon costs, which is fair considering what was and was not applied in terms of decoration.

The Classic Bridges is fairly priced, but could become vastly more compelling with a little bit more refinement in the finishing, with rounded arms on the gold bridges for instance. As a result, it is just good enough, rather than great as the original tourbillon was.

That being said, the Classic Bridges does have strong competition in the price range, especially from well-established benchmarks like the Lange 1. As a result, it’s most compelling for someone who appreciates the historical importance of the three-bridge tourbillon.

Key facts

Girard-Perregaux Classic Bridges
Ref. 86000-52-001-BB6A (45 mm)
Ref. 86005-52-001-BB6A (40 mm)

Diameter: 45 mm
Height: 12.16 mm
Material: Pink gold
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: GP08600-0002
Features: Hours and minutes
Winding: Hand wound
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Alligator with a triple folding buckle

Availability: Already at retailers
Price: 38,100 Swiss francs (53,800 Singapore dollars) for the 45 mm

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Chanel Introduces the J12 Paradoxe

Dramatically cool.

Having given the J12 a thorough revamp last year, Chanel has just dropped the most astonishing iteration of its signature watch in the lead-up to Baselworld 2020 – the J12 Paradoxe.

Conceived to mark the 20th anniversary of the iconic watch, the J12 Paradoxe looks like a digitally doctored timepiece at first glance. In fact, the stock images of the watch would pass for an abstract J12 ad.

But J12 Paradoxe is actually two-tone – two thirds of the case in white ceramic and the remainder in black ceramic. Rely on the same concept but more valuable materials, Chanel is also rolling out the uber-extravagant J12 Paradoxe Diamonds combining black ceramic, white gold, and diamonds.

While ceramic is about four times harder than steel, the hardness makes it brittle and delicate to machine, making a ceramic watch case slightly more challenging to fabricate than the same in steel. Produced by G&F Chatelain, the buckle and case-maker owned by Chanel, the case is essentially two sections of ceramic anchored to an inner steel frame.

Each section is secured to the frame with two screws, which are visible on the back of the watch. And the movement is also contained with the frame. Because of the multi-part construction of the case, the water resistance is 50 m, instead of the 200 m of the standard J12 that has a single-piece ceramic case.

The dial and bezel insert continue the colours of the case, but each component is a single piece that’s been treated to create a two-colour finish. The steel bezel is first pad-printed black, followed by white on top, and then covered by a scratch-resistant, clear sapphire insert. Similarly, the dial is lacquered in white and a narrow strip of black.

Diamond paradox

Limited to a mere 20 watches, the diamond-set version hews to the same style, but with a slightly different construction. The inner case is made of 18k white gold and clad with black ceramic across two thirds of its width, while the balance is set with baguette-cut diamonds. All of the hour markers are also baguette-cut diamonds, while the crown is topped with a brilliant-cut diamond cabochon.

Kenissi inside

Despite the substantial changes to the case construction, its dimensions remain unchanged. It measures 38 mm wide and contains the self-winding Calibre 12.1 produced by Kenissi, the movement maker that is part owned by Chanel, with Tudor being the other major shareholder.

The Calibre 12.1 is derived from Tudor’s MT5600 family of movements, but customised to have the rotor and bridges executed in a repeating-circle motif that is the trademark style of Chanel’s in-house movements.

That means the Calibre 12.1 has almost the same specs as the Tudor calibre – which is an impressive set of features for an affordable watch. Amongst other things, the movement has a 4 Hz, free-sprung balance wheel, 70-hour power reserve as well as COSC-certification. The only component it lacks when compared to the Tudor movement is the silicon hairspring.

Key facts and price

Chanel J12 Paradoxe
Ref. H6515

Diameter: 38 mm
Height: 10.7 mm
Material: Black and white ceramic
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: Calibre 12.1
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: White ceramic with steel triple-folding buckle

Limited edition: No
 From summer 2020 onwards
Price: US$7,150

J12 Paradoxe Diamonds
Ref. H6500

Diameter: 38 mm
Height: 10.7 mm
Material: Black ceramic, set with approximately 4.5 carats of diamonds
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: Calibre 12.1
Functions: Hours, minutes and seconds
Frequency: 28,800bph (4Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Black ceramic with 18k white gold triple-folding buckle

Limited edition: 20 pieces
From summer 2020 onwards
Price: US$192,600

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