Chanel: The 'Crème de la Crème' of Luxury Brands
August 21, 2008
The House of Chanel, famous for its chic and stylish clothing, exclusive and timeless watches, cutting edge designs and sumptuous scents, is the ultimate indicator of luxury and status in every city of every country around the globe. Having recently participated in Basel Fair 2008, the House of Chanel showcased its latest creations, attributes to its watchmaking know-how with the purest fine jewelry traditions.
The lavish brand has been a major participant in Basel Fair since 2003, showcasing its newest horological creations amongst the likes of Rolex and Patek Philippe. According to Nicolas Beau, International Director of Horology, if you want to be a major player in the watchmaking industry and show not only the press but also the most affluent customers in the world exactly what it is you do, Basel Fair is simply the place to be.
The year 2003 not only marked the first year of participation in Basel Fair for Chanel, but also the launch of the J12, which sparked the trend of white watches. From the top names in watchmaking to the smallest brands, the J12 inspired the creation of watches in white ceramic and white leather. Since then, Chanel lovers have witnessed the evolution of the J12 with new editions created yearly. “In watches, it’s a bit like perfume; N˚5 is a long-term product, it’s not a fashion product. We make it fashionable through communication and advertising, but it’s a long lasting product, so we could say that the J12 is the N˚5 of our watches, it’s something which is there for a very long time,” said Beau. “We want people to buy a J12 today and for it to still have a value in the market 20 years from now…so you can expect the J12 to last.” Beau likened the J12 to another of Chanel’s timepieces, the Premier. The first Premier was launched in 1987 and today, 21 years later, it still exists. “It’s not just a marketing trick; it is really a brand philosophy. The fact that the Premier is still here and we made an evolution of it is proof that we have a long-term approach. The J12 in 20 years may be a lot bigger or a lot thicker but regardless, it will still be a J12 and we will continue the older models,” said Beau.
A number of watchmakers have taken to the trend of using ceramic materials for a sleek, bold look that is durable. The high-tech ceramic is an avant-garde, scratchproof material that is setting itself apart in the watch world. Chanel was in fact one of the first watchmakers to incorporate ceramic into their designs. “We didn’t invent the ceramic and never claimed that we did; we simply worked ceramic in a traditional way. Brands like Rado used to work ceramic as a high-tech material; whereas we used ceramic as a traditional material to create a traditional watch, the J12. The J12 is extremely traditional; it has the round case with a three-link bracelet… there is nothing fancy in design, but what is making it original, new, and special is the fact that it is in ceramic, and because of the color, the feel, and the texture of the material,” explained Beau.
The House of Chanel is one that is large and diversified in operations, with three divisions within the organization. “On the one hand there is a lot of inspiration from one category to another, on the other hand there is no inspiration at all,” said Beau. “What I mean by that is that we have three divisions; fashion, cosmetics, and watches and fine jewelry, with each department running independently within the same brand. Our common points are our values and approaches; therefore, the mission of the brand in every category is the same. Obviously, there are some links through values and codes. For example, black and white is a Chanel code but we would never inspire our watches from fashion because fashion is by definition for three months, and is always changing, while a watch is by definition for 50 years. We are in the long-term business in watches and fine jewelry. When you buy a ring or an expensive watch, you shouldn’t buy it for the season, but when you buy a dress, you could!”
Chanel has continued to experience considerable growth particularly in the Middle East over the last five years. Boutiques have opened in Kiev, Istanbul, Shanghai, Beijing and other major cities around the world. According to Beau, Chanel prefers to expand at a slower rate than other brands to ensure perfection, as with each and every Chanel product. “We always want to ensure that we have control of the situation; that the partners we are working with are the right ones, and as much as we can, we are trying to do it ourselves. In fact, it is only in the Middle East that we actually need to have partners by law.”
Although Chanel is in principle a feminine brand, with the majority of its clientele women, the brand does cater to men as well. A number of watches and perfumes accommodate the male market including the popular scent Allure Homme as well as the J12 black chronograph, which seems to be as popular with men as it is with women. However, Beau admits that it is a tricky task to define the clientele of Chanel. “When you are innovative, you are seducing first a younger crowd, because younger people are more open to novelties and innovation. On the other hand, older generations want to look young so they buy them too, so that’s more or less what is happening. I think the brand has been rejuvenated a lot recently especially on the fashion side. The brand as a whole has been given a breath of fresh air. In terms of watches, three innovations have been introduced to seduce a younger audience, unfortunately though, it is still the older people who have the money!”