Insider: Nicolas Beau Reveals Key to Success and His Thoughts About Chanel Men’s Watches Line

HAUTE STUFF. Lending his savoir-faire to Chanel watches, Nicolas Beau proves how disruptive creativity is the key to succeed

Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider

Nicolas Beau

Though relatively young in the watch industry, Chanel’s 27 years of watchmaking journey proves sufficient for the luxury brand to showcase a commendable level of maturity. At the Baselworld this year, it unveils not only splendid, sparkling pieces but also a J12 with a flying tourbillon and Mademoiselle Privé watches immaculately adorned with accent Japanese craftsmanship. Topping that achievement off is a series of groundbreaking watch campaigns, featuring zoomed images of J12 and other timepieces in various hand positions—no longer conforming to the 10:10 standard of modern watch campaigns.

Luckily, Nicolas Beau, the international director of Chanel watches, is on hand to shed some light on the unusual marketing approach and daring innovations for the women-oriented watches. exuding French elegance in his immaculate navy blue suit and with a sleek black ceramic J12 chronograph on the wrist, Beau lets DA MAN Caliber peek inside of the watch house that combines beauty, luxury and original creativity.

Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider J12-365 Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider J12-365 Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider J12-365 Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider J12-365 Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider J12-365 Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider J12-365 Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider J12-365 Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider J12-365 Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider J12-365

The fun campaigns of J12-365 watch

“Being disruptive means expressing our creativity without having to respect all codes of the industry. We tend to create codes instead”


DA MAN Caliber: Hi Nicolas, how are you doing? Could you tell us what this year’s highlight is?
Nicolas Beau: T
here is one main highlight that there is a coherence between the message in the imagery of the campaign—which is presented for the first time this year during the Baselworld—and the vision of the products. Because, there’s a very clear story on different product lines—the story of J12, Première, Mademoiselle Privé lines, respectively—and how much they relate with the vision of Chanel as a luxury brand, not only as a watch brand.

Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider Baselworld

Chanel’s booth at the Baselworld

DA: it seems Chanel is trying to break conventional patterns, from the campaign to the J12 G10 model bearing a military-inspired NATO strap design. What goals Chanel watch is trying to archive as a brand?
We are a hundred percent driven by creativity. I forbid my marketing team to follow the competitors, but at the same time if they don’t pay attention on the competition, they are fired! [Grins] All the innovation is to show that Chanel as a creative brand is trying to be disruptive. Being disruptive doesn’t mean creating a “crazy” watch that will light a cigarette or make you travel at a speed of light. [Laughs] Being disruptive, in a Chanel way, means expressing our creativity without having to respect all codes of the watch industry—as we don’t respect all codes of fashion. We tend to create the codes instead.

When we launched the Première back then, there were a very few watches for daily wear for ladies. There were ladies’ watches, but many of them are masculine-looking—being smaller versions of the men’s watches and not something purely designed for women. When we introduced the J12 in black and white ceramics, the watch material was perceived as a very technical piece, and black and white colors were not so popular. Even white watches didn’t really exist back then! But nowadays, you see black and white completely incorporated in many watch portfolios, and we’re proud leading the way. Had a marketing survey been done in 2000 to figure out which the perfect color for a watch was, no one would have said black or white. NATO is another example; we’re stealing it from the men’s world and turning it into part of a feminine luxurious jewelry accessory, the J12-G10.

So, creativity is definitely leading the way, and marketing is there to put the creations on the market. Advertising is there to tell the story behind the products, and this year is more about the vision of time by Chanel. It’s about the moment—we are a brand that is focusing on the present. While we have our own heritage and roots, we bring those to the present. That’s what we do in fashion, fragrances and cosmetics, also in watches. That is why you don’t see the hands at 10:10 in the campaign, because the present is now and it can be 10:10, 6 o’clock or twenty past three—it doesn’t really matter. That’s what we try to express through this series of campaigns.

Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider Mademoiselle

Chanel’s Mademoiselle Privé Camélia Brodé

“We are only 27 years old, but we are doing this métier, with all the passion and seriousness as any other high-end watch brands”


DA: How do you define Chanel watches?
Two things: You would say only Chanel can do that and you should be able to say that the watchmaking design and beauty are not the work of technicians. The way we create a new watch is through design first and then the watchmakers find a solution to realize it. Let’s take the J12 Flying tourbillon with a comet star-shaped tourbillon as an example. The watchmakers asked us not to put diamonds on the side of the star because they might be too heavy for the tourbillon. They also asked to make the star symmetric, to make the weight balanced. But a Chanel star is always asymmetric, so they had to go back to the drawing board and figure out the solution to balancing the tourbillon. This example is in line with the philosophy of the brand, that design comes first and then the making process.

Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider Commander

J12 Flying tourbillon High Jewelry edition

DA: The fact that Chanel grew from the fashion industry, does that hinder or actually benefit the brand’s watch department?
Just to make one thing clear, I don’t like that is Chanel being called as a fashion brand. Chanel is a luxury brand.  In a sense that if you look at Chanel fragrance, it’s not “fashion” perfume. If you look at the fashion pieces, it’s fashion; and if you look at us, we are the new baby of the company—we are only 27 years old. However, we would like people to realize and understand that we are doing this métier (craft), with all the passion and seriousness as any other high-end watch brands.

But going back to your question, of course the brand’s watch division. We have a lot of people walking into the boutiques and discovering our watches, whereas they might not be a type of clientele who’d enjoy checking out an independent watch boutique. We have the most influential women on the planet wearing Chanel and at the same time they are also buying Rolex, Cartier and so on. Now we don’t let them go out without having a Chanel watch. [Giggles] So yes, it’s helping a lot; it’s helping support what, I think, our biggest strength is, that we can offer women every product for their life: skincare, shoes, bags, custom jewelry, watches, haute couture and ready-to-wear.

 Nicolas Beau DAMAN Chanel Insider High Jewelry

One of Chanel‘s Mademoiselle Privé Coromandel watches

DA: Is there any plan to create a special line for men’s watches in the future?
We have no boundaries on genders or styles, as long as the watch is creative and innovative in Chanel style. But a dedicated line for men—why not? Although the masculine market is so rich of beautiful brands and various models, and it’s not our natural playground, but one day I’m sure we can create special pieces for men.

DA: Out of all the Chanel timepieces, which is your favorite?
 have one or two favorites in every collection. In terms of savoir-faire, I enjoy the Mademoiselle Privé Caméllia Brodé watches that we worked together with La Maison Lesage. The embroidery is magnificent, and the collaboration has been such a great fun, and I’m very happy to see the reaction of the customers toward the watches.

Another thing that I like is the beige gold version of J12-365. We worked on this piece quite a while because we were very disappointed with the harmony of yellow gold or rose gold with the ceramic. Now I’m very pleased to see that we finally managed to find the right harmony of colors. So, my favorites are more linked to the amount of sweat to achieving a product, because I obviously like them all—otherwise I will not put them in the market. [Laughs] So naturally, it’s the achievement that I’m very passionate about.