How to Spot a Real Chanel J12 Watch
For die-hard Chanel fans, the perfect accessory collection doesn’t end at flap bags, logo accessories and cap-toe flats. It extends into the world of horlogerie, and requires an iconic Chanel watch. From crisp white ceramic to jet black and diamond-studded, the brand’s J12 collection offers a variety of riffs on its sporty timepiece option. As one of the brand’s most popular watches, it’s often replicated, but fakes don’t come close to the real thing in terms of quality and craftsmanship. Here, Fine Jewelry & Watches Manager Nathan Hall breaks down the signs of an authentic Chanel J12 watch and the precision and detail that go into making the coveted timepiece.
How common are fake Chanel J12 watches?
Chanel watches in general are a more commonly faked watch, and the J12 model makes up about 90% of all Chanel watches that are fakes. Within the J12 family the quartz models are much more commonly replicated than their automatic counterparts.
What are the telltale signs of a fake Chanel J12 watch?
As with any timepiece, the first and quickest way to identify a fake Chanel J12 is if the dial represents the watch as automatic, but the second hand is “ticking,” which means that it has a quartz movement.
Chanel J12 models are somewhat unique in that they always have their serial number engraved on the back. However, they do not have their model/reference numbers engraved (some models will have “J12” engraved and some will not, so this should not be used as a factor in deciding authenticity). The case back is also the area where Chanel secures the multiple external components of the watch with a series of eight screws. On many fake J12 watches, instead of these screws being essentially flush with the case, they are sunken very deep in their respective screw holes.
And, of course, there is the overall “feel” of the watch. A real Chanel J12 will be manufactured with quality and attention to the little details. The edges of the ceramic will be rounded and done very evenly throughout. Specifically, the Chanel J12 is unique in how the case back is connected with the bracelet and the bracelet’s end pieces are soft and rounded; often on fakes these will be sharp and squared off (this can be seen when turning the watch over and looking between the lugs, where the bracelet connects with the case). Additionally, the crown on an authentic J12 leaves very little spacing between it and the crown guards (the two pieces that come off the case to protect the crown from being damaged during wear), whereas on many fake models the crown is much smaller than the space created by the crown guards and the fit is noticeably off.
What steps do you take to authenticate a Chanel J12 watch?
The first step that I take is to look for any of the telltale signs discussed. After working with as many real and fake J12 watches as I have, you instantly get that feeling of intuition into its authenticity. Then looking a little deeper, I manipulate the clasp and make sure it is tension driven, as the J12 models are, and that the links are held together properly and there is not a lot of play between the links caused by poorly designed or manufactured links that do not fit together properly.
I then like to unscrew the crown and move the hands around a bit while closely examining the crystal, case, dial and bezel. Most fakes are actually usually quite accurate in these areas, but sometimes they cut corners, such as using glass instead of synthetic sapphire for the crystal, poorly printed dials, or the wrong color date wheels.
Often, the external components of the J12 watch can be replicated quite well. And therefore one of the last and most accurate determining factors is to examine the movement. Chanel J12 watches will only use Swiss Made movements, containing multiple synthetic jewels. Lower quality fake J12 watches will contain Japan Made movements, while better fakes will use low-end Swiss movements, but will have little to no aesthetic finishing nor synthetic jewels.
What materials do you expect to see in an authentic Chanel J12 watch? How do you authenticate those with diamonds?
Of course, I expect the bracelet and case to be manufactured using high quality ceramic, while the case back and buckle will be made of stainless steel. On some J12 models the bracelet was actually produced in rubber instead of ceramic, but we still expect to find a ceramic case.
A Chanel J12 with diamonds can be more challenging to authenticate, as the diamonds are set and cannot be examined from all angles. However, in our authentication lab, our Gemologists utilize a series of diamond testing equipment to test whether the stones are simulants, moissanite, or actual diamonds. Their gemological training and expertise also allow them to test the diamonds with jewelers’ loups and microscopes to look for natural attributes that identify the stone as either a diamond or moissanite.
What elements of craftsmanship do you expect to see in an authentic Chanel J12 watch?
This is an area where a lot of the intuition I was referring to earlier comes into play. It is often difficult for specialists or experts to explain the gut feeling the get after working within a specific context for an extended period of time. Above and beyond the quality of a Swiss movement, there should be a low tolerance across the board. Chamfered edges should be straight and sharp, edges with a fillet should be round and smooth. The dial should be clean and crisp, with proper print. Mostly, everything should just fit together very well — Chanel uses a very low tolerance and therefore, there should not be any great deal of spacing between different components.
What hallmarks, serial numbers or signatures does Chanel use on its J12 watches? What do fakes often get wrong about these?
You should always expect to see the Chanel logo with the Registered Trademark embossing on the back. Some models will additionally have the J12 logo below the Chanel logo, but not always. Serial numbers can be tricky as manufactures tend to manipulate them over the years, however on most Chanel J12 models, you should expect to see two English letters, each separated with a period, followed by a series of numbers. Because serial numbers are unique to each watch and essentially random, it is not usually possible to identify a fake strictly on this aspect.
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