Home Artistic creation Chanel celebrates the 35th anniversary of an “icon”

Chanel celebrates the 35th anniversary of an “icon”


Thirty-five years after its release, the Chanel Première watch has been reinvented for today.

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In 1987, Jacques Helleu, then artistic director of Chanel, launched the first watch creation of the luxury French fashion house.

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As much a high-fashion piece as it was a device for keeping time, the watch incorporated various design cues – or codes – from the house into an elegant watch style.

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Well known to Helleu, a 30-year veteran of the brand who joined the house at just 18, these recognizable design elements included an octagonal case inspired by the bottle cap of the iconic Chanel No. 5 perfume – itself inspired by the famous Place Vendôme in Paris.

The unique feminine design has been secured to the wrist with a flexible chain strap delicately interwoven with leather, a nod to the chain straps of the house’s coveted quilted handbags.

“I fought to create a design that was strong, that was unique, that – more than the launch of a single collection – became an eternal reference,” Helleu said of the design when it was released.

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Helleu’s creation was called the First.

Thirty-five years later, the Première has been reinvented for today by Arnaud Chastaingt, director of Chanel’s watchmaking design studio, with the Première Edition Originale.

The original Chanel Première edition.
The original Chanel Première edition. Courtesy of Chanel

“La Première was the first page of our watchmaking history,” says Chastaingt. “She was born of absolute creative freedom and initiated a vision, the “Allure of Time” as measured by Chanel…

“Much more than a watch, the Première is a lesson in style.”

Positioned at the “heart” of the brand’s luxury watch collection, Chastaingt’s recent celebration of Chanel’s historic design sees the Première timepiece stick to the original, decorated in black and gold, the minimalist face highlighting an absence of details such as numbers, a second hand or date.

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“Première is also a true statement of geometric, two-tone purity,” says Chastaingt of the streamlined reissue, available in Canada at Chanel boutiques. “More than a watch, it’s a fashion item whose style takes precedence over its horological function. And, I guess, that’s what made him more than an icon.

Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the Chanel watch design studio.
Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the Chanel watch design studio. Chanel

To mark the release of the First Edition Originale, Chastaingt has created three ultra-limited watches – only five pieces of the three special models have been created worldwide – for a capsule collection of Haute Horlogerie models. Titled Hors-Série Première, the unique creations each play with elements of “excess” such as pavé diamond details and the addition of dangling charms.

“Exaggerated, agglomerated, layered, stacked, I chose to pay homage to Première by playing with excess,” Chastaingt said of the trio of timepieces.

For example, the design of the iconic Hors-Série Première chain includes several turns of the chain in 18-carat yellow gold with black velvet and 625 brilliant-cut diamonds.

The three limited Haute Horlogerie creations are designed to celebrate the “intrinsically unique” elements of Première design, explains Chastaingt, allowing it “to offer new dresses, new looks to this eternal icon”.

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