As one of the world's most iconic fashion brands of all time, Chanel has produced some amazing and timeless works over the years. For many years, Chanel has not exactly been a brand most watch collectors and enthusiasts generally look to for watchmaking innovation. Yes, they have produced some very interesting offerings with the J12 collection since the early 2000s, but the collection quickly adopted a predominantly female-wearer base. However, that changed in 2016, when we saw the brand return some of their watchmaking focus to men with the debut of the Monsieur de Chanel collection at Baselworld that very year as they attempted to combine the brand’s iconic Parisian style with horological technical know-how.
Enter the Monsieur De Chanel Jump Hour, Ref. H6596 in 18-carat beige gold, which is a gold with a pinkish hue that is lighter than traditional yellow gold, yet a little more subtle than rose gold. What makes the Ref. H6596 special, especially to collectors and enthusiasts, is the fact that the watch was designed and built completely in-house by Chanel!
Looking at its design as a whole, the Ref. H6596 feels very original, masculine yet pure in expression. Its 18-carat beige gold case measures 40mm in diameter by 10mm in thickness, a fantastic size for modern wrists. Turn the watch over on its back and you will find a stunning in-house (and Chanel’s very first), manual-wound Cal. 1 with a 72-hour power reserve and 170 individual components, encased behind an exhibition caseback looking right back at you. A mechanical masterpiece. It features a twin-barrel design and a free-sprung balance with the time display mechanism completely integrated into its base instead of having separate modules, which explains the overall thinness of the Ref. H6596. The development of the Cal. 1 began in 2011 and Chanel worked with the extremely talented Romain Gauthier, who is a micro-engineer and an independent watchmaker himself to create some of its components you see in the movement of the Cal.1.
If you examine the movement closely, you will find that there is a small lion motif on one of the bridges of the movement as well as on the crown. This is actually used by Chanel to hallmark their in-house movements. Why a lion? One may ask. Apart from it being a symbol and emblem of strength and power, it also serves as a subtle tribute to Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel, who was born a Leo. The Cal. 1 also takes on a very modern overall aesthetic since the majority of its movement components are finished with a matt and glossy black color palette in ADLC (short for “Amorphous Diamond Like Carbon”). I personally find this detail to be very appealing because it evokes a very strong sense of synergy and modernity as opposed to the “old-school” aesthetic of a traditional movement, which speaks volumes about Chanel’s horological direction in respecting watchmaking tradition but at the same time, pursuing the contemporary.
On its ivory opaline dial, there is a jumping hour display window at the 6 o ‘clock position which uses a beautiful contemporary-looking typography for its hour display, a lovely running small seconds counter right above it, and a retrograde minute indication. What makes this retrograde mechanism particularly interesting is the fact that it jumps more than 180°, and can actually be set going backwards. Both these features may be considered minor in terms of functionality, but to connoisseurs, it speaks volumes in terms of the technical approach taken by Chanel when developing the Ref. H6596. As for its total production numbers, the Ref. H6596 in beige gold was only produced in a limited edition of a total of 150 pieces, making this variant a particularly rare one to find in the wild.
I truly believe that the Ref. H6596 has managed to bridge the gap between fashion and Haute Horlogerie. This is, by no means a ‘fashion’ watch. If you are after a fine and high-end timepiece that embodies the expression of technical excellence, unique style, and allure, look no further.