Chanel's New J12 Watch Campaign Features Fashion's Most Incredible Women
In an exacting industry where the messages about products are often fixated on performance, technology and accuracy with a serving of symbolism and patrimony on the side, Thomas du Pre de Saint Maur had a problem. Chanel had just tasked him, the creative mind behind many of the maison’s marketing campaigns, to create a memorable new campaign for its iconic J12 watch. He knew this was a special project; it had to be different, emotive—but how?
Eventually he hit upon the romantic notion of talking about moments, not time per se. “A second is a second, and a minute is a minute for everyone in the world, but none of us have the same sensation of time,” he explains. “Time has a different emotion for each one, and this is what we wanted to talk about.” And so It’s All About Seconds was conceived, a campaign in which nine women share their personal experiences about a second that changed their lives.
Keira Knightley, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Lily-Rose Depp, Vanessa Paradis, Liu Wen, Anna Mouglalis, Carole Bouquet and Ali MacGraw were recruited for the project. Saint Maur and his team conducted interviews over a long period.
“They were purely conversations, no agenda,” he says. Saint Maur dislikes testimonials, which he says are crafted and guided, and it shows. “We wanted something genuine, something fluid. Sometimes it happened fast, other times it took days, but we were determined to keep it light. You need time to have a fun yet deep conversation with someone.”
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All nine women have relationships with Chanel. Knightley is one of the brand’s more visible faces, and so is Depp, the daughter of Paradis, herself a Chanel ambassador for many years. With MacGraw, on the other hand, they “just fell in love” with her. Saint Maur was star-struck by the American actress, which is unusual for someone accustomed to working with big names. “It’s like meeting Hollywood royalty, a legend,” he says of MacGraw, now 80.
The Chanel campaign is one of only two commercials MacGraw has agreed to do during her entire career. In it, she identifies the moment that changed her life as “the second an agent saw the Chanel N°5 ad [starring MacGraw] in a drugstore.
After that he asked me if I’d like to be in the movies—for which I had no qualifications. I guess the rest is history.” The 27-year-old model was shot by French photographer Jérôme Ducrot for the Chanel ad in 1966. The subsequent move into movies paid off with a Best Actress Oscar, for the 1970 film Love Story, and a heartthrob husband, the rugged Hollywood star Steve McQueen.
Presented in black and white, the new Chanel campaign is indeed thought-provoking. When I turn the question on Saint Maur himself, he nominates his second as the moment he said yes to working with Chanel 11 years ago.
“It was on a Friday morning, January 2008, when Chanel called. You’re trained not to say yes to a first offer; you always take your time and think about it. I hung up—and shortly after, I picked up the phone, called them back and said yes. It felt like a very, very long second. And then, of course, there’s also that moment I said yes to my husband.”
What’s the precious second that changed your life?
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