I would like to experiment with a new column where I talk about interesting high-watch specimens that perhaps should never have done so beyond the conceptual phase. It is not that they are bad clocks per se, but rather that they lacked some important elements that would have allowed them to be much more successful. Today, let's take a look at 2010 Chanel J12 Rétrograde Mystérieuse Tourbillon, which is also known as the Chanel J12 RMT.
From 2000 to 2015, the watch industry launched an unprecedented number of very high-end watches. This was driven by the perception of the growth of the watch industry in the new (mainly emerging) markets and by the large corporations that pumped money into the brands, allowing watch manufacturers to experiment with new production techniques, designs and materials . Some of these rolex watches will be classic and some were, of course, duds. We have the benefit of hindsight to look back on these still modern creations and learn some valuable lessons about what works, what not, and what was a valiant effort, but ultimately a failure.
Chanel has enjoyed a long relationship with APRP. The latter represents Audemars Piguet, Renaud & Papi, and is dedicated to design and produce very complicated exotic mechanical movements. In 2010, Chanel launched a very strange and high-end watch for men known as the Chanel J12 Rétrograde Mystérieuse Tourbillon. It was based on the popular J12 collection of most ceramic-boxed watches in white or black that became popular in the early 2000's. The J12 was popular for taking a vintage sport watch design and rendering on modern materials (ceramics).
Chanel wanted the J12 to be popular with men and women, but it was actually the last group of people who made the collection famous. For years, a Chanel J12 white ceramic was the fun and sporty luxury watch for women, and even today Chanel continues to enjoy success with the J12 collection. The few men's models are still very cool, in my opinion, and I always encourage people to see them.
The Chanel J12 began to lose strength as the lower-priced ceramic watches reached the market. What was first a novel luxury (though Rado had been doing it since the 1980s) became a material that more and more fashion watch brands were able to produce. Therefore, the market was saturated with look-alike J12 watches that cost a few hundred dollars instead of a few thousand.
The Chanel J12 enjoyed its first moment in high-end watch light when Chanel released some versions of the J12 watch that used an Audemars Piguet movement. Personally I think these rare watches will become collector's items in the future. The Chanel J12 with the Audemars Piguet movement initially debuted in 2008. That was a more luxurious version of the J12 in pottery with gold which included an Audemars Piguet automatic movement against a more standard one produced by ETA. Two years later, they launched Chanel J12 Rétrograde Mystérieuse Tourbillon in cooperation with APRP.
A few years ago I heard a rumor that APRP designed the movement independently and was looking for a brand to "buy" the concept and produce a watch. That happens a lot, since motion designers and engineers tend to think of interesting concepts first and then try to match them with a brand that will produce them later. I do not have much more evidence of this, but it is not too difficult to understand that based on their working relationship together, APRP could have thrown the idea to Chanel who at that time was anxious to see his fake rolex watch division as more and more towards The upper end and knowledgeable-approved. Chanel possibly did much better in 2016 with the release of the Chanel Monsieur watch (hands down here).
At 47mm wide, the Chanel J12 Rétrograde Mystérieuse Tourbillon came in a handful of blending versions of black or white ceramic with an 18k yellow or white gold base. In most forms, it fits the mold of a standard Chanel J12 watch, but with precious metal accents and a larger size.