There were rumours. But then this is Baselworld – there are always rumours. Then the flurry of Instagram shots started and, by Thursday afternoon, it was safe to say that Chanel’s latest launch was the talk of the Messeplatz. This wasn’t some diamond-encrusted métier d’arts, it was a man’s replica watch. And not only that, it was a man’s replica watch containing the brand’s first in-house movement.
Of course, there were a few conversations that bracketed the phrase “in-house” firmly in inverted commas, with mutterings about how Bell & Ross, whom Chanel own, also had an heure sautante in its collection. The implication was clear – there was no way a fashion house, even one that has such an impressive haute horlogerie back catalogue as Chanel, could have really got itself an in-house movement. But it has. And it’s really something.
It’s almost better to start with what you can see through the back first because the brief for this luxury replica watch was to create the most beautiful movement possible, with whatever happens dial-side being in service to that. It wasn’t a movement that had existed before. It was created from scratch and was 5 years in the making. No wonder Chanel decided to call it Calibre 1.
There is no rotor to obscure the black anthracite mechanics, which means you can see all the wheels, some of which were supplied by Romain Gauthier, the legendary independent replica watchmaker and protégé of Philippe Dufour. It also means you can see the lion’s head, which is one of the most masculine of Chanel’s iconic symbols and will be stamped on any subsequent in-house movements from the brand, as well as on the crown and strap buckle.
Another popular Chanel symbol, that of the comet, is hidden in the balance wheel, and if you turn the replica watch over you’ll be able to see the 8-sided oblong shape of the Place Vendome at the end of the seconds hand.
Though, to be fair, you’ll probably be paying more attention to the jumping hour at 6 o’clock and the elegant retrograde minute display above it, both of which can be set backward as well as forward; just another example of the technical mastery at play here. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the font used was created specially for this replica watch, placing Chanel in a very elite group of replica watch brands that have taken that particular typographical step. Mademoiselle Chanel is reported to have said: “in order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”. It looks like the current in-house replica watch design team has taken that to heart.