Chanel Monsieur de Chanel Edition Noire: A Great Watch Becomes Even Greater
In many ways I am a minimalist. I am continually paring down my belongings and purging excess “stuff” from my life. I actively choose to reduce my consumption of clothing and accessories and look for multi-functional objects to eliminate the superfluous.
But it wasn’t always this way. I used to be a collector of bits and bobs, trinkets, gizmos, and anything else I thought I might have a use for.
I wasn’t a hoarder; I could clearly distinguish between objects that had no use from garbage. But being a creative person, I always had ideas about what I might be able to make with random objects, and once I became a model maker (see my story in Introducing Resident “Nerdwriter” Joshua Munchow) I thought of countless opportunities to use random pieces of hardware that I came across in projects I wanted to build “someday.”
That, combined with a repair-it-if-you-can mentality growing up, made me very aware of the inherent value of things people threw away every day.
But a quarter century of life and the ability to keep things in boxes in the garage or basement led to the retainment of a bunch of random junk. Even though much of it was technically useful, it wasn’t really useful to me. And suddenly a “collection of possibilities” became a boat anchor, dragging my soul to the bottom of an existential sea.
When, after graduating from college, I moved across the country it became clear I had way more stuff than I needed or had any realistic intention of using. And I didn’t want to take it all with me.
So began my slow process of learning minimalism and reducing the clutter in my life.
The first couple of purges were relatively easy: getting rid of the obviously useless cut my belongings in half, and then by another third. Eventually it started to get difficult. Then emotional.
That is when it becomes not just about getting rid of excess belongings but about curating the life that you want to live. I had to judge my childhood values against my current values and shed the various ideas of what could be in favor of what I needed, what should be. While I’m still far from the extreme minimalists you might imagine, I found a level of minimalism that suits me. At least for now.
This move toward less has also had a strange side effect: I more and more began to appreciate displays of restraint, especially in the realms of design and engineering.
While my taste in watches clearly leans toward the complex, the extreme and the avant-garde, I also have a strong affinity for the simple, the clever, and the minimal. Some of my favorites combine with the former with the later. And it’s one of those I highlight here.
I’m returning to a favorite of mine as it has recently been released in a new version fitting even more with my philosophy than before. The watch I am referring to is the Chanel Monsieur de Chanel Edition Noire, the latest in the Monsieur de Chanel line and quite possibly the best edition yet.
Monsieur de Chanel Edition Noire
The story of the Monsieur de Chanel Edition Noire technically began in 2011 with the start of a relationship between Chanel and Romain Gauthier. The relationship would go on to bear the fruit of Caliber 1, Chanel’s first in-house movement, with Gauthier and his team playing a role in its development and production.
Caliber 1 made its debut in the original Monsieur de Chanel, a stunningly restrained regulator with jumping hour and retrograde minutes. Not only did the watch shock the industry and stake Chanel’s claim of being a true watch manufacture, it was a highlight of the year. And in my mind has gone on to be one of the best jump hour watches of the decade.
Bold claims, I know, especially about an historically fashion-centric brand; but similarly to Hermès, Chanel has invested heavily into haute horlogerie with the acquisition of its own manufacture and a friendly minor stake in Romain Gauthier. For a more detailed explanation of that relationship, check out Surprising Ties That Bind: Chanel And Romain Gauthier.
The hard work and creative releases from Chanel over the past few years highlight that the brand is serious about horology. The latest version of the Monsieur de Chanel builds on the success of previous models by seriously taking collectors wants into consideration.
The movement is still the same awesomely clean Caliber 1, based around twin mainsprings in series driving the retrograde minutes and instantaneous jump hour as well as delivering a generous 72-hour power reserve.
The Monsieur de Chanel was a winner from the beginning, so there is no rush to change anything.
What is different for 2019 is the overall appearance thanks to new finishing and new materials. The first generation of the Monsieur de Chanel was housed in cases made of gold and platinum, which made the watches a premium proposition as well as a more delicate wrist piece. Beautiful, yes, but a bit of a risk as an everyday watch.
In all the coverage I saw on various websites and social media, people clamored for a stainless steel case and a more reasonable price, so Chanel met fans of the Monsieur de Chanel half way.
The new Edition Noire is housed in a matte black ceramic case with subtle polished steel trim along the bezel edges as well as a lightly brushed stainless steel case back. The steel not only makes the watch ultimately more wearable day-to-day, it also drops the price over the previous gold and platinum versions by a hefty margin. This allows a wider segment of collectors the chance to purchase something they want to wear regularly.
Minimal mechanics meets minimal design
While the price is still premium, it marks a shift for the brand to consider the collectors’ perspective, and when you combine that with its design sensibilities you end up with a fantastic watch. The Monsieur de Chanel and its Caliber 1 are a shining example of restrained and thoughtful design succeeding. The dial layout feels utterly classic while typography and shape keep it somewhat modern.
The minute dial, a 240-degree arc of seven-segment-inspired numerals, adds a digital feel and brings a more modern slant. An inset dial inside the numerals houses the Chanel logo, and a second inset into this dial features the running seconds. The hand shapes are styled to mirror the shape of the jump hour window, blocky with strong chamfered corners.
The jump hour window is prominent at 6 o’clock, with two wings where it is screwed to the dial. Otherwise it is a faithful representation of the Chanel No. 5 perfume topper, a squared octagon that has become iconic for the brand. The jump hour disk features the same seven-segment-inspired numerals as the minutes, perfectly positioned in the squared window.
The dials are all matte black with a rough texture, while the slightly raised numerals and markers are in contrasting silver. The jump hour disk also has a black background to help maintain unity across the dial (something every date window in existence should adopt).
The window is polished steel matching the numerals and hands, and when combined with the bezel trim and crown makes for a very clean appearance. Too often a variety of hues at varying levels of light and dark make their way onto a dial, lessening the visual impact and muddying the design. Chanel has always been a master at keeping the color choices both simple, often monochromatic.
The Monsieur de Chanel Edition Noire is stunning precisely due to its use of high contrast, clean lines, and minimalist approach.
This combines in the movement, which was developed with help from Romain Gauthier. The movement shines out both because it is extremely complex (though it’s not simple) and because it hits a few points very well and lets the rest speak for itself.
And I absolutely love the mechanics. A retrograde minute display is always a great addition to a timepiece, and since the mechanism inherently involves a jump/snap return to zero, it pretty much has a built-in jump hour function. So this combo seems like the most fun use of a mechanism that I still feel is woefully underrepresented in the watch industry.
To my mind, this layout, the restraint shown with the color, materials, and finishes (CMF), and the much more wearable and durable case have made the Monsieur de Chanel Edition Noire. The previous models were already incredible as much as they were surprising, and the newest edition improved upon greatness.
Chanel did a great job keeping the model true to its roots and the brand identity. It is one of those rare watches bridging the divide between fashion, fine watchmaking, and highly critical collectors. If the last few years and this watch are any indication of what is to come, I am very excited for the future of watchmaking at Chanel.
With that, let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.31 A great combination of mechanics, style, and function: a triple threat!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 93.1» 912.999m/s2 The clean lines and awesome mechanics just make this a super solid watch that keeps you dreaming!
- M.G.R. * 65.1 An in-house caliber that is unique to the brand and developed with Romain Gauthier featuring jumping hours and retrograde minutes, now that is hard to argue with.
- Added-Functionitis * N/A It isn’t even that surprising anymore that the coolest watches often are time only. I don’t even feel bad saying you won’t need Gotta-HAVE-That because it’s awesome just the way it is!
- Ouch Outline * 10.6 A hammer to the shin! Always look where you swing a hammer, and make sure your leg isn’t directly behind what you are aiming at! Still, could be worse, and I’d take it again if it meant getting the Monsieur de Chanel Edition Noire on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * They did it, they made it even better! It’s easy to fall head over heels when you get what you want!
- Awesome Total * 775 First take the degrees of the retrograde minutes (240) and multiply by the number of days in the power reserve (3), and finish it by adding the number of pieces there will be of this watch (55) for a succinct awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.chanel.com/us/watches/monsieur.
Quick Facts Chanel Monsieur de Chanel Edition Noire
Case: 42 mm, matte black ceramic and stainless steel
Movement: in-house manual winding Caliber 1 with twin serially operating spring barrels for a three-day power reserve; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: jumping hours, retrograde minutes, seconds
Limitation: 55 pieces