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The new Monsieur de Chanel is quite the gentleman

Monsieur de Chanel is the latest men’s watch from the iconic French house of Chanel. The sophisticated new addition is subtle, restrained and refined; it simply drips savoir faire. But before ‘monsieur’ received its accoutrements it took five long years of working on its skeleton and beating heart. The Calibre 1 with jumping hours and retrograde minutes is a ‘first’ with an exceptional exterior and interior.

A proprietary movement was the final, missing pillar for the maison. When I met Romain Gauthier I found the ideal partner to give shape to our idea, our vision.

Nicolas Beau is the head of Chanel’s watch division. The sportsman and marketer previously worked for ski brand Salomon in London when his roommate put him in touch with Cartier. The roommate worked for Cartier and he took Beau to a weekend event. After that weekend Beau immediately sent his CV to Cartier and was hired. Via Cartier and Baume & Mercier Beau eventually monsieur-de-chanel-02ended up at Chanel. Beau: “What interests me the most about watches are the artisanal aspects, the painstaking work done by craftsmen. Monsieur de Chanel is a watch that was created from the movement up, based on the artisanal beauty of the various movement components. Calibre 1 is a way to express ourselves as a watch maison. We started from scratch and began by designing a movement based on a sense of aesthetics. All 170 components were designed at Chanel. The round bridges, the symbolic comet, the different shades of black; everything was carefully designed and has a connection to the values of the house of Chanel. Take the shiny black polished edge of the round bridges, for example. They are reminiscent of the shiny lapels of a tuxedo jacket. The shine creates a clearer silhouette and a sharper contrast.”

So: in the Calibre 1 function follows form. And that was by no means an easy sequence. Beau: “We started this project five years ago. We were already working with Renaud & Papi, but we had arrived at a point in our history where we felt we wanted to exert more control over the realisation of our movements. A proprietary movement was the final, missing pillar for the maison. When I met Romain Gauthier I found the ideal partner to give shape to our idea, our vision. Romain Gauthier is originally a micro mechanic and his expertise in the area of watch components is well known among the leading Swiss haute horlogerie producers, who make grateful use of his knowledge. Chanel bought a share in the Romain Gauthier brand – the brand retains full freedom – and the movement components we design at Chanel are produced there and subsequently made into a movement and ultimately a watch at the Chanel watch atelier in the Swiss town of Châtelain. This way of working guarantees quality, knowledge and continuity.”

The Calibre 1 movement

The Calibre 1

Calibre 1 looks totally original and has hypnotising qualities, but in spite of that Monsieur de Chanel is still meant to be worn with the dial pointing upwards. The jumping hours in an octagonal window modelled after the Place Vendôme and retrograde minutes with the small seconds in between have been positioned with careful consideration. Beau: “We put the hours at 6 o’clock because most people have a rough idea what time it is. The hours are not as important as the minutes, which we display much more prominently at 12 o’clock. The minutes show the exact time. We put the retrograde marker in a 240° arc, so it is easier to read because of the bigger distance between the minutes.” Calibre 1 is a fully integrated movement which means it cannot serve as a platform for future complications. But Chanel doesn’t plan to stop at a single manufacture movement. Beau: “Calibres 2 and 3 are already under development. Calibre 2 will be put in an existing watch and Calibre 3 is going to be something new entirely.”

The personal particulars of Monsieur de Chanel

  • Numbered edition; 300 numbered movements will be built in 2016 for 150 watches in an 18 carat beige or white gold 40mm case with a height of 10.4mm
  • Ivory-coloured dial with retrograde minute indicator, window with jumping hours and small seconds hand
  • Water resistant to 30m
  • Gold weight: 48.8g
  • Calibre I: the first manually wound manufacture movement made by Chanel
  • Two integrated complications: instant jumping hours and 240-degree retrograde minutes marker
  • 170 components
  • 30 jewels
  • Frequency: 28,800 vph (4Hz)
  • Two spring barrels mounted in series with a 700 coupling
  • Shock absorption system to protect the balance
  • Movement diameter: 32mm or 143⁄4 lignes
  • Movement height: 5.5mm

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Lex Stolk

The author Lex Stolk

Lex Stolk studied Journalism in Utrecht and it was during his time as a student he developed a passion for mechanical watches. He has spent his entire career in the publishing industry working for a wide range of publications before entering the watch world professionally seven years ago. His work for several watch publications made it possible for him to combine his love for both watches and magazines.