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Timeless Appeal

Chanel’s Première Original Edition retains its predecessor’s
form, which remains entirely contemporary after more
than three decades since its launch
In 1987, Chanel made its entrance into the world of fine watchmaking with the Première. The timepiece was a stunning debut by every measure, but it marked more than the genesis of a new product line. Instead, the Première also heralded what was to come, by establishing the rhythm of watchmaking at Chanel: to conceive and create objects of beauty by employing technical expertise in the service of design. The maison has paid homage to this historic watch with a throwback, the Première Original Edition, which epitomises the collection’s timeless design.

The First Of Its Name

The Première’s launch in 1987 was a watershed moment both for the House of Chanel and the watchmaking industry at large. The landscape was markedly different then, with ladies’ timepieces often being mere reworked versions of their men’s counterparts, scaled down and set with gems to invoke femininity. It was an approach that reflected prevailing attitudes, but also one that neglected the potential of a more considered viewpoint.
The Première from 1987
Enter Jacques Helleu, Chanel’s then artistic director. A veteran who had joined the maison three decades earlier at the age of 18, Helleu designed what would be Chanel’s first timepiece with a perspective shaped by his experience and ambition. He declared, “I fought to make a design that was strong, that was unique, that — more than just launching a single collection — would become an eternal reference.”
The Place Vendôme in Paris
The Première was the result. Stylish, edgy and resolutely contemporary, it melded both feminine and masculine design codes to present a bona fide women’s watch. The timepiece’s octagonal case mirrored the outline of the brand’s classic No. 5’s bottle stopper, itself an allusion to the outline of the Place Vendôme, which Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel viewed from her suite at the Ritz Paris. To tone this sharp, rectilinear silhouette down, Helleu applied softer shapes through details such as the hands and crown. He then strengthened this iconic motif even further by fitting the Première with a bevelled sapphire crystal, under which sat an unadulterated dial in black, devoid of all but the most essential markings.
Beyond just its silhouette, the Première is also defined by its faceted case and bezel
Meanwhile, the Première’s bracelet drew its inspiration from another Chanel classic: the interwoven leather-and-chain strap of the quilted bag. This didn’t just make for a supple bracelet for comfort, but also played with contrasting materials in an intricate way that both reinforced the case’s two-tone aesthetic while balancing its simplicity.

Fully Fledged

The Première line has, over the decades, matured and welcomed new iterations sporting variations on its signature design codes. The case material, for instance, has run the gamut from white gold to ceramic. This has spurred different evolutions of the bracelet to keep up with alternate configurations including delicate, feminine strings of pearls in one instance, as well as gourmette chains in various metals.
The Première Mini, with diamond-set dial and bracelet featuring pearls and diamonds
Gem-setting has made frequent appearances too, whether in simpler executions confined to the bezel, or full pavé-set statement pieces that straddle the line between watch and high jewellery. This has been complemented in recent years with Chanel’s deepening savoir faire in watchmaking; in the Première Camélia Skeleton, the maison shows off Calibre 2, an in-house skeletonised movement openworked to depict a camellia in bloom.
Première Camélia Skeleton
Yet another example of Chanel’s fusion of watchmaking and jewellery craft was the Hors Série Première Haute Horlogerie capsule unveiled last year. This series of three limited-edition pieces pairs the Première’s iconic case with variously oversized bracelets that turn up the bling factor to reflect the boldness of the 1980s — and offer statement pieces for the wrist.
The outsized, extra long bracelet of the Hors-Série Première Iconic Chain
The line-up of timepieces in the Première collection today speaks to a watch that has confidently come into its own. This makes the launch of the Première Original Edition — essentially a re-release of the timepiece that started it all — a triumphant return of the original to a collection that has come full circle.

Here, a gold-plated steel case measuring 26.1mm by 20mm bears the iconic octagonal outline of the 1987 model — complete with the same bevelled crystal and minimalist black dial, of course. The leather-and-chain bracelet and two-tone aesthetic have also been retained, with careful attention to every aspect of shape and proportion to make the new watch practically indistinguishable from its predecessor.
Première Original Edition
Arnaud Chastaingt, Director of Chanel’s Watchmaking Creation Studio, has made a few subtle tweaks to update the Première Original Edition. For one, the shade of gold used to plate the case and buckle has been ever so slightly tweaked to make it more congruent with the maison’s contemporary jewellery pieces. Functionality has also been improved with an improved buckle.

By and large, however, the Première Original Edition is a faithful recreation of 1987’s Première watch. This is arguably the strongest endorsement of the Première: to consider the original watch through today’s lens is to see a watch that continues to be entirely contemporary. Such is the timelessness of its appeal, which speaks to the strength of its design.
Witness the triumphant return of an enduring classic.