Chanel Introduces the Monsieur Superleggera Intense Black

Back in Intense Black.

Adding to the successful Monsieur collection, the Chanel Monsieur Superleggera Intense Black Edition is essentially a new colour for an existing model, but nonetheless proves that Chanel is serious about watchmaking.

Thoughtfully designed inside and out, the Intense Black adds racing-inspired cladding to one of the most intriguing watches from outside the establishment watchmakers.

Initial thoughts

Watches like the Monsieur serve as a reminder that good watches can come from unexpected places – even brands perceived to be “fashion” – and should be a wake-up call for those who think Chanel is just a maker of cosmetics and handbags. Technically competent and well designed, the Monsieur collection is a testament to the brand’s commitment to its watchmaking programme.

Like the original Monsieur Superleggera launched in 2021, the Intense Black Edition features a 42 mm case made up of a steel inner case with a ceramic cladding, hence superleggera, which is Italian for “super light”. In this respect, the Superleggera benefits enormously from Chanel’s ownership of G&F Châtelain, which one of just two Swiss suppliers of ceramic watch cases.

Despite the Intense Black moniker, the watch is only slightly more black than the 2021 original, which had a few red accents. In fact, they are similar enough that the yellow “Superleggera” script on the dial might prove to be the easiest way to tell the two versions apart.

Though the two versions are largely identical, it is notable that this is a limited edition of just 100 (the original was not), making it relatively uncommon.

Real watchmaking

The dial features a hobnail pattern that calls to mind an automobile’s grill, with openworked dial elements inspired by the “ultra-light” bodies of Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera, an Italian coachbuilder that had its heyday in the mid-20th century. The ceramic-on-steel construction of the case references the body-on-frame construction of those vintage racing cars.

Like any good racing machine, the real magic is under the hood. Chanel’s Caliber 1 is largely made in-house at the brand’s manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, while the wheels are sourced from Romain Gauthier (in which Chanel owns a stake).

The Chanel Caliber 1 as seen in the standard edition of the Monsieur

But the substantially in-house nature of the movement is secondary in importance to its tangible qualities, which are excellent. For one thing, it nails the basics, with a free-sprung balance beating at 4 Hz and dual sequential mainspring barrels that provide ample power for 72 (instantaneous) jumps of the hour display.

Furthermore, the jump hour mechanism is integrated into the mainplate, as opposed to being a bolt-on module, which saves space and improves energy management. The retrograde minutes display is also notable for its unusually wide 240-degree sweep, and the fact that it can be set backward (though the hours can only be set forwards); typically a big no-no for most retrograde movements.

The movement is attractively finished and demonstrates clear intentionality in its circular layout, which calls to mind the interlocking C’s of the Chanel logo.

The movement’s only technical shortcoming relates to the running seconds indicator, which is not hacking and is not synced to the jumping hour. This means the hour and minute hands can jump slightly before or after the seconds hand reaches the 60-second mark. This is a fundamental challenge of the jump-hour format, which some brands avoid by deleting the running seconds altogether. All things considered, this is a minor quibble with what is otherwise a significant achievement.

Key facts and price

Chanel Monsieur Superleggera Intense Black Edition
Ref. TBD

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 10.85 mm
Crystal: Sapphire
Material: Steel covered in ceramic
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Caliber 1
Features: Jumping hours, retrograde minutes, and seconds
Winding: Hand-wound
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4Hz)
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Nylon strap lined in black calfskin with folding clasp

Limited edition: 100 watches

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