Two decades ago, when Jacques Helleu, the then artistic director of Chanel, decided to design a watch, he created the timepiece that he himself wanted to wear. He imagined it as timeless, sporty and all black – and he drew inspiration from his two greatest passions, cars and sailing boats. He used, as reference points, the sleek chassis lines of racing cars and the striking silhouettes of the boats in The America's Cup racing class, J12. This also supplied the name for what is now one of Chanel's most recognisable creations.
Released in 2000, the black ceramic J12 became an instant classic. And ahead of the watch's 20th anniversary next year, Arnaud Chastaingt, director of Chanel's watch creation studio, has given it a subtle makeover – just enough to keep it fresh, but not too much that its identity is altered. The bezel was refined to increase the dial opening: the number of notches was increased from 30 to 40, and the typeface of its numerals and indexes was redesigned. The width of the crown was reduced by a third and the thickness of the case was increased ever so slightly, to soften the watch's profile. Indicators have been added to the inner railway, which has also been reworked, and the hour and minute hands are now the same width, with an increased area of luminescence. Available in black or white versions, the J12's one-piece ceramic case is equipped with a sapphire crystal, allowing the watch's all-new 12.1 calibre automatic movement, specially developed by the Swiss company Kenissi Manufacture, to be seen. Certified by the COSC – Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres – the calibre 12.1 offers a 70-hour power reserve and the watch is water resistant to 200 metres.
To mark the launch of this new version of the J12 (and its strapline: "It's all about seconds"), Chanel invited nine well-known women to share personal stories about "the seconds" that changed their lives, their favourite times of days, their feelings about the passing of time and their first memories of Chanel.
"I'm not one of those people who wants time to stop," says Naomi Campbell, who goes on to talk about her favourite part of the day, sunset. "Everything's so beautiful in that golden light. Everyone looks so beautiful in that light, no one can look bad."
Claudia Schiffer, meanwhile, highlights her Germanic approach to time management, adding: "I don't have time to do everything I want to do. I keep trying, but I think that's called living."