I have to admit I am somewhat surprised that Chanel is about to release a new Replica watch collection called the “Boy.Friend.” Not “Boyfriend,” but rather, “Boy,” period, “Friend.” There is a marketer somewhere in Europe who probably thinks the name is brilliant, but I am not sure I totally get what it means. In fact, I have almost no idea what it means. Perhaps I am too American with my lack of perceiving the finer subtleties of French luxury emotion, but consider me a bit lost. I understand that Chanel is playing on the concept of the “boyfriend watch,” which is a masculine timepiece a woman decides to “borrow” for herself and wear (ideally, successfully). That concept makes a lot of sense, but it really doesn’t apply to a watch that is very much feminine in appearance and inspired by the bottle cap of the famous Chanel No. 5 perfume.
After polling a few close colleagues and fellow professional watch writers, we’ve come to the conclusion that the “Boy.Friend” title of Chanel’s new women’s collection was perhaps a decision which, in hindsight, was not ideal. Let’s not blame our good friends at luxury brands for not always coming up with the best names. At least Chanel is trying. Their last major hit was the Chanel “J12″ that, while ambiguously named, at the very least was not confusing. Let’s, instead, focus on the concept and genesis of the Chanel Boy.Friend.
It all began with the Chanel Premiere which, as far as I know, was the first timepiece from the brand to use this Chanel No. 5 bottle cap shape design. The shape actually originated from the aerial view of the Place Vendome in Paris – which is now a high-end shopping district. The emotion of Paris, romance, shopping, smelling good, and luxury made for a beautifully poetic shape and timepiece that only a Parisian company could dream up. In 2013, when writing about the Chanel Premiere with the new chain-style bracelet, I mentioned that it was easily one of the top women’s watches of the year, and do this day, I consider the Premiere watch collection family to be among the finest women’s watches around.
There is an interesting “mega” version of the Premiere known as the Chanel Premiere Tourbillon. This rarefied collection of much more high-end Premiere watches tend to sport a larger case which more often than not is equipped with a tourbillon-based mechanical movement. That tends to equate to prices of more than $100,000. Most of these prized high-luxury women’s watches, of course, also come with a copious amount of diamond decoration.
What the Chanel Boy.Friend watches actually look like are thinner versions of these very high-end Chanel Premiere Tourbillon timepieces – only with much more affordable movements (and decoration). As you can see, there is very little that is “boyfriend” about them, considering the long history of feminine inspiration behind the Premiere collection which has clearly birthed the Chanel Boy.Friend, given that they share this iconic case shape. What is perhaps the least “girly” thing about the Chanel Premiere Tourbillon is that unlike its smaller standard Premiere cousins, it has a rather large case that is 28.5mm wide by 37mm tall.
Less than ironically, the “new” Chanel Boy.Friend comes in two sizes, the larger of which is the “XL” that has the exact same 28.5mm-wide by 37mm-tall dimensions as the Premiere Tourbillon case. The Chanel Boy.Friend also happens to come in a smaller “medium” size which is 26.7mm wide by 34.6mm tall. Here is where I think the “boyfriend” part of the name comes in – Chanel realized that the Premiere Tourbillon was rather large for elegant attire, and wanted to create a more affordable and mainstream version because the case shape and concept is undeniably cool. Thus, Chanel decided to “play on” its large size and comparison to actual “boyfriend watches” and give this new collection the Boy.Friend name.
Compared to the standard Premiere collection watches the Chanel Boy.Friend has some distinct differences in shape such as the perfectly angular shape of the dial and the use of straps versus a bracelet. These timepieces are clearly in the same family, but they aren’t the same. There is a bit more of an “edge” (quite literally) to the Chanel Boy.Friend, and it holds its own from a fashionable perspective. While the standard Premiere watches are trying to be the go anywhere, for everyone Chanel luxury watch, the Chanel Boy.Friend timepiece is a statement unto itself of wanting to live a life of elegance… or at least an expression of authentic upmarket aspiration while running errands. In a sense, it is the slightly more mature version of the Premiere, only marred by its title which seems to suggest the opposite. According to Chanel, however, the Chanel Boy.Friend takes the Premiere “into masculine territory.”
I suppose I can see how a man might want to wear one of these – especially in the Far East where it isn’t uncommon for men to wear watches that only women would wear in the West. Still, I think going so far as to consider any masculinity in the watch to be so readily apparent as to give the watch the Boy.Friend name is a step too far. If you must see the watch on the wrist of a man, my colleague has pictures of that here.
Available in 18k beige (basically rose) gold or 18k white gold, the Chanel Boy.Friend has versions available with and without diamond decoration. In order to soften the angles of the case, there are some curved shapes on the dial which are an interesting touch. The larger Boy.Friend XL watch contains a manually-wound Swiss mechanical movement (something women are statistically probably not that into, given the constant need to wind) with a subsidiary seconds dial, while the smaller Boy.Friend Medium contains a more mainstream-oriented quartz movement that offers the time and a small date window.
With a focus on gold and often diamonds, the Chanel Boy.Friend collection of watches for women will not likely be the go-to timepiece for 20-30-somethings looking for a fun and elegant luxury watch. The Premiere is still going to win that. Taking away the name the Boy.Friend would have more appeal for a mature audience of women who are already at the point in their life where they know what they want and are comfortable with it – whether that is their boyfriend’s watch or something made specifically for them. Chanel Boy.Friend watches will be available for sale starting in September 2015 and