Over the past decade, plaudits and awards have flooded in for Dior’s women’s watches, their mix of artistic prowess, unique to the design house, and high-end calibres supplied by LVMH stablemate Zenith, elevating their status from fashion timepieces to haute horlogerie.
However, Dior’s journey into ‘proper’ watchmaking began 20 years ago in 2004 when the maison introduced the first Chiffre Rouge model, marking the brand’s venture into automatic timepieces.
Exclusively crafted for men, Dior Chiffre Rouge watches were often released in limited editions, their hallmark being simple, elegant, yet contemporary design, manifested in various iterations ranging from opulent gold editions to sportier brushed-steel models.
Then, roughly 10 years ago, and almost inexplicably, releases of new Chiffre Rouges dried up, the model seemingly being relegated to a footnote in the maison’s back catalogue. But for those who remember the originals, there has long been a gap in the Dior line-up – a gap that has now been filled with a new Chiffre Rouge collection.
Initially conceived as an automatic diving watch and crafted under the watchful eye of Dior Homme’s then creative director, today it stands proud as the sole flagship men’s model in the brand’s timekeeping division.
Unsurprisingly, since inception, the watches have taken many sartorial cues from Dior tailoring, translating the intricate details into distinctive features. The infusion of Parisian sophistication has always been evident in nuanced embellishments such as the asymmetrical lines and quirky off-centre crown.
The very name of the watch invites its wearers into an exclusive club. The word ‘chiffre’ tips its hat to the codes of chivalry and heraldry where it referred to a secret code, a family crest or a monogram.
Today it is more commonly used to mean a figure or number, and here that number is represented by a red ‘8’ – Monsieur Dior’s signature colour and lucky number – in the date window at 4 o’clock.
A fan of strong colour Monsieur Dior used red for contrast. A red dress appeared in every collection, for what he called his “coup de Trafalgar”. He wrote that red “is the colour of life. I love red and I think it suits almost every complexion. Bright reds – scarlet, pillar-box red, crimson, cherry – are very gay and youthful.”
Dior Chiffre Rouge
Naturally, the new timepieces, which are a testament to enduring style, pay homage to the Chiffre Rouge’s origins, while embracing contemporary enhancements.
Available in 38mm or 41mm cases (indicating that the watch is no longer solely aimed at the male market), the inaugural ultra-stealthy watches are in blackened steel with subtle red accents and all of the distinctive features – the off-centre crown at 4 o’clock and red pusher on the chronograph model, the unique angular case – that originally captivated enthusiasts.
Beyond the subtle touches, the most recognisable element of Chiffre Rouge, has always been the case, where the right side is enlarged and straight cut. In the new collection, this is emphasised by a bezel notched on its upper left quadrant and a ‘bumper’ on the right side of the case. A touch of opulence is added with the inclusion of a rose gold or glossy black panel, signifying the special status of these 20th-anniversary editions.
A fresh touch that acts as a reminder of the Chiffre Rouge’s roots lies in the debossed and embossed ‘cannage’ pattern on the dial, oscillating weights and interchangeable rubber straps. An emblem of the fashion house, the motif is replicated by scanning the surface of a Dior handbag before injecting rubber into 3D moulds to create the illusion and texture of fabric.
A true ‘family affair’, the new Chiffre Rouge models are a physical representation of the buzz phrase ‘stronger together’, Dior having called upon the services of its LVMH sister brands Zenith and Louis Vuitton to supply movements for the collection.
Five of the eight new watches will be available in stores and online from February 12 – the date that Christian Dior took the fashion world by storm in 1947 with the launch of the New Look. A further model will go on sale in July and two more coming to market in October.
The original five will include two 38mm time-and-date-only models powered by a Sellita SW300 calibre, one with a black-diamond-set bezel and rose-gold bumper in a limited edition of 300 pieces; a chronograph housing a Zenith El Primero movement; and two flying tourbillon pieces, each in a limited edition of 20 – one with a rainbow sapphire bezel – with movements created by Louis Vuitton’s La Fabrique Du Temps and featuring a tourbillon carriage decorated with the signature cannage motif.
July will see 100 pavé dial models with gem-set rainbow indices and bezel plus five coloured interchangeable straps, and October’s launches will be two 100-piece editions in steel and grey with rose-gold accents.
Earlier this month, Lan Cittadini Cesi, director of Dior’s jewellery and watchmaking business unit, told Women’s Wear Daily that the Chiffre Rouge’s anniversary provided the perfect opportunity to reintroduce the model, calling the watch a “unique proposition in terms of creativity”.
Prices start from £6,800, with the collection underlining just how far Dior watches have come in 20 years.