Vanessa Paradis And Lily-Rose Depp Channel

Mother-Daughter Time: Vanessa Paradis And Lily-Rose Depp Channel Chanel For The 20th Anniversary Of The J12

The actresses join a pantheon of unforgettable faces in the maison’s 2020 campaign.

By Rhonda Riche

Chanel is one of those brands that is both timeless and timely. And its new advertising campaign celebrating the 20th anniversary of the classic J12 watch couldn’t be more of-the-moment.

Launched at the beginning of May, a new series of black and white online clips feature some of its most iconic brand ambassadors ruminating on time – what it means to them and why they treasure every second of it.

At the center of this campaign is actress and model Lily-Rose Depp, who, like the J12, is 20 years old. Not only does Depp speak to the next generation of Chanel enthusiasts, but she also represents the continuum of female timepiece buyers. In keeping with the maison’s history, the campaign also features contributions from such legendary Chanel queens as Ali MacGraw, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, and Depp’s mother, Vanessa Paradis.

So while it feels like time is currently standing still, it’s interesting to use the occasion of the J12’s birthday to investigate the past, present, and future through the lens of a diverse crew of strong, independent women.


Chanel was one of the first luxury brands to embrace the idea of the ambassador. Think of Catherine Deneuve or Carole Bouquet – faces that were, at the time, as famous as the scents and clothing they promoted.

But when the J12 was introduced in 1999 and launched in 2000, advertising focused solely on the watch. This strategy made sense. The timepiece, Chanel’s first since the Premiere was introduced in 1987, was revolutionary enough that it was a star in its own right.

A true sports watch, the J12 was created by Chanel’s artistic director, Jacques Helleu, but it felt like it could have been created by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, herself. Beloved by Coco, J-Class racing yachts served as the inspiration for the J12 design, but it became iconic for so many other reasons.

One reason was its all-black design (an all-white version was introduced in 2003). Another was its embrace of ceramic. Other than RADO, watchmakers had been slow to take to this material because it was hard to work with. And the final reason, it was conceived as a unisex watch at a time when androgyny was acceptable. It was okay for girls to dress like boys, but boys did not wear women’s watches.

A lot has changed in the world in the past 20 years. A lot has changed in the past five months, but the allure of the J12 remains strong. Partially because, while Chanel doesn’t have a ton of collections – the Premiere, the J12, the Boyfriend, the Code Coco, the Mademoiselle Privé, and the Monsieur, plus a variety of high jewelry watches – the brand is always tweaking its timepieces.


Chanel is also devoloping its outreach strategy with this new campaign.

First of all, it’s online only. Secondly, it recognizes voices from many generations. And of all the grand dames in this digital drive, Ali MacGraw has the longest association with Chanel.

MacGraw began her professional life as an assistant to photographer Melvin Sokolsky. She then became the face for Chanel N°5 in 1965. These ads launched her acting career. She went on to star in era-defining films such as Goodbye, Columbus, Love Story, and The Getaway.

Looking back on a career spanning 50 plus years, MacGraw’s insight on the future is, "20 years is not enough to do all the things I want to do."

Chanel’s vision for tomorrow is perfectly encapsulated in the J12 Paradoxe and J12 X-Ray watches, both released in March. Both watches also point to the iconic collection in a new direction.

The Paradoxe remixes the classic black or white look by introducing a case that is two-thirds white ceramic and one-third black. It looks simple, but the technique to mix the two hues requires a high degree of skill.

The Maison is also offering The J12 Paradoxe Diamonds, which has an inverted color scheme. The case of the Paradoxe Diamonds is one-third 18K white gold set with 40 baguette-cut diamonds and two-thirds black ceramic. The baguette-cut diamonds contrast nicely with the sleek black ceramic case and lacquered dial.


An even more impressive technical feat is the J12 X-Ray sapphire – the world’s first full-sapphire crystal timepiece with a skeletonized movement. We’re talking about the case and bracelet. Machined from a single block of sapphire crystal, this 38mm watch also features a white gold bezel set with baguette-cut diamonds. The sapphire dial also features baguette-cut diamond hour markers.

If this watch had a muse, it would be either Naomi Campbell or Claudia Schiffer – the epitomes of the 1990s glamourous “It Girl.” Both of these glamazons ushered in an era when high fashion met street style – the kind of sport-chic the J12 encapsulates. And like supermodels Campbell and Schiffer, these new timepieces elevate the idea of what luxury means. These high-end novelties do not represent the future of watchmaking in general, but they do point to the stars watchmakers can reach for.


Chanel is a lifestyle as much as it is a luxury house. Most women have the means to access Coco’s joie de vivre with a splash of perfume. And for younger women, the classic white or black ceramic J12 is a great entry-level investment piece.

This year’s models, now, contain a new movement from Kenissi, the Geneva-based manufacturer that Chanel bought a 20% stake in back in January. And the baseline versions start around $5,700. Considering a small leather 2.55 handbag will set you back about $3,400, that’s a steal.

This is why Lily-Rose Depp is such an excellent ambassador for the next generation of J12 aficionados. Not only is she the same age as the watch, but she has also grown up in the House of Chanel. Her mother, the French singer, model, and actress Vanessa Paradis, has been a spokesmodel for Chanel since 1991.

There many reasons why these celebrity pairings are so perfect. One: There is a sense of family within the Maison – the house does not abandon their ambassadors when they are no longer trendy. And two: The history of the J12 and its spokespersons prove that this is a timepiece that evolves with its wearer.

As Depp says in her digital video for the 20th anniversary of J12 watch, “It would be most wonderful to spend 20 years with my loved ones, my family, and friends.”

(Images & videos provided by CHANEL

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