Monsieur de Chanel: Unexpectedly Great

Ready for an unexpected opinion? I think Chanel makes one of the best watches currently on the market.

A few years back that statement would have garnered thunderous laughter from watch collectors around the world. The fact is that statement will still be laughed at by many, but those who are familiar with the Monsieur de Chanel and its variations will have an entirely different view of Chanel. A company that almost exclusively produced high-priced fashion watches has released a piece that is deserving of enormous respect. It’s taking time to gather the kind of exposure it deserves, but the quality is there in every aspect of this watch.

The release of the Monsieur de Chanel was precipitated by Chanel’s decision to purchase a stake in independent watchmaker Romain Gauthier’s namesake brand. This unexpected turn in attention to movement quality and seriousness from a company that had rested on the ceramic J12 (mainly “fashion” models) for years was apparent through the acquisition. Some of the J12 watches really were kind of interesting, but an overall commitment to serious watchmaking was glaringly lacking. When Chanel told Romain Gauthier to design a watch movement for them they knew EXACTLY the kind of aesthetic and perception they were wanting.

Romain Gauthier knocked things out of the park with the Monsieur de Chanel. From a company who almost exclusively produced “fashion watches” to a beautiful beige gold, highly wearable 40mm men’s watch with a legible, yet subtle, dial showcasing jump hours and retrograde minutes complications. The crown subtly shows off a beautiful lion’s head on the crown. For many, especially considering the giant leap for Chanel, that would have been enough to gain high praise. Romain Gauthier would go on to create one of my favorite looking movements on the market, one worthy of having a sapphire case back to display it.

The current lineup for the Monsieur de Chanel comprises a beige gold option for around 35,000 CHF, white gold for around 37,000 CHF, platinum models with blue or black “Grand Feu” enamel dials for about 65,000 CHF, as well as two options with lion motifs for ~85,000-140,000 CHF.

It’ll be interesting to see what Chanel does to springboard off of their recent success with the Monsieur. Acquisitions of stakes in F.P. Journe, Kenissi, and Romain Gauthier in recent times point to expecting better and better things in the coming years from Chanel’s watch division.

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