A Moment In Time: Rediscovering Chanel’s Iconic J12 Watch

12 min read
Lawyer Diana Hamade in the J12 watch in white ceramic and steel and dial set with 12 diamond indicators, CHANEL WATCHES

MOJEH celebrates the 20th anniversary of Chanel’s iconic timepiece, the J12, with a trio of inspiring Arab women


Three women walk into a photography studio, one a self-confessed “incessant goal-setter,” another who, despite her ambition, refuses to set them for herself. Three different women, three different outlooks, experiences and dreams, yet all tied together by the same inescapable thread which binds us all. Time. 

And as the iconic J12 watch by Chanel looks ahead to its 20th anniversary, its enduring appeal also remains as inevitable as the time it so masterfully and stylishly keeps. Created in 2000 by Jacques Helleu, the house’s artistic director, he imagined it as timeless and sporty, its silhouette – sleek black, of course, the white version would not become available until three years later – inspired by his twin loves of automobiles and sailing. 

Held in thrall to the regal silhouettes of the America’s Cup racing class, Helleu would name his timepiece for the J12, a peak racer of the era, and 20 years on, Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the Chanel Watch Creation Studio, has given the J12 a makeover whilst retaining its iconic identity. 

J12 watch in black ceramic and steel, CHANEL WATCHES

And as with most icons, an intriguing paradox remains at the heart of this style celebration, for the J12 is something that has transitioned, yet remained the same; a timepiece that has moved on while standing still; evolving without ever really changing. 

And there is both peace and energy to be found in a symbol of endurance in this whirlwind world of ours; time and tide, after all, famously waits for no man.“An icon does not change,” says the House that created the J12, “it adapts to the passing of time by capturing and sculpting it, by enhancing and understanding it.” 

And so, it is with this in mind, that we return to our three women – all different, all unique, each adapting, learning, evolving in their own distinctive ways – and ask them to ruminate on what time means for them. 

On her left hand Diana wears: J12 watch in white ceramic and steel and dial set with 12 diamond indicators, CHANEL WATCHES | Coco Crush ring in 18k white gold with diamonds, CHANEL FINE JEWELRY | On her right hand she wears: Coco Crush ring and bracelet in 18k white gold and diamonds; Comète shooting star bracelet in 18k white gold and diamonds; Comète Spirale ring in 18k white gold set with 39 brilliant-cut diamonds, CHANEL FINE JEWELRY


“There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis,” wrote Malcolm Gladwell in his psychology- disrupting, international best-seller, Blink. He could have been writing about Diana Hamade. 

“I’m fast at making decisions,” admits the whip-smart Emirati Attorney at Law. “My husband is always surprised at what a risk-taker I am, but I like taking decisions without thinking too much, as more often than not they end up doing well. I guess it’s because I believe in fate. Whatever is meant to happen will happen, so why not?” 

Why not, indeed? After all it would be practically impossible (not to mention foolhardy) to argue with such an accomplished woman. Having founded her own law firm, Diana Hamade Attorneys at Law in association with EKP, Diana specialised in Sharia and family law, and completed her LL.M at the University of Aberdeen.

And the woman once named as the ‘Most Influential Female Lawyer in the UAE’ by Thomson Reuters has also defied attempts to pigeon-hole her, branching out to become a national newspaper contributor, the author of a style column in a glossy quarterly, and being regularly sought out for speaking at engagements across the globe. 

“I am all about setting goals, although I prefer short-term ones,” says the 50-year-old. “I am not about marking milestones or achievements, although I do stop and give myself credit from time to time.” 

The back of the J12 watch in white ceramic and steel, CHANEL WATCHES

Citing her father as an inspiration in her life, she admits that given the gift of time, she would spend it with him. “We did not have a very long time together,” she says. “He passed away when I had just finished law school, before I really embarked upon my life. But I know that I got a lot from him. He was a man ahead of his time, he lived a life that was uncommon for people of his generation.” 

Tellingly, for a woman so comfortably grounded in the present, the mother-of-three says she would eschew, if offered, the fantastical ability to travel forward or backwards through time, insisting that right here, right now is right where she needs to be. 

“I have travelled extensively in my life, indeed a lot when I was quite young,” she says. “Travel made me feel more settled now, and no place has given me the past and present like Dubai. I feel blessed.” 

She does however admit to possessing a solid piece of advice she would happily pass onto her 16-year-old self should they ever meet by chance through a tear in the space-time continuum: “Do it your way and don’t fear others judging you. It took me time to care less about what people thought.” 

But of course, caring less about what others think is not indicative of the empathy Diana has for others and the time she takes for herself, and she admits to an affinity with the Chanel brand for its “enduring style” and ability to forge ahead creatively. 

“Time is a gift,” she muses. “I cherish it and make sure I make the best of it. I wish to define it.”And while we’re on the subject of defining, talk turns to the inimitable Coco Chanel, who Diana praises as “a woman we relate to.” Adding, “Her style changed our lives. Chanel is sought out by a woman to de ne a certain moment, to celebrate love and success. It is a luxury that every woman should wish to enjoy.” 

Revealing that her favourite way to spend time is “with my loved ones,” Diana also makes sure she balances the giving side of herself with the ability to nurture her own needs. All of which makes her favourite time of the day so apt: “Bedtime,” she smiles. “Mine only, and alone.” 

Lana wears J12 Watch in white ceramic and steel, CHANEL WATCHES | Coco Crush ring in 18k white gold and diamonds; Coco Crush earrings in 18k white gold and diamonds, CHANEL FINE JEWELRY


“If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall,” wrote the poet, Nadine Stair, in 1953. “I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds, and I would pick more daisies.”

And it is the metaphorical picking of daisies, the all too humandesire for more moments, that for dancer Lana Fahmi, manifests both in the precious bond between herself and her late father, andin the eternal link to her past self.

“I would like to go back to a time when my late father was still with us and spend a day with my family while he was around,” she says of the visits she would pay if she were granted the gift of time travel. “I would also give my younger self a big hug. Tell myself to have more fun and be more courageous. I think I was taking life too seriously while I should have been just relaxing and enjoying it.”

By her own admittance, the Damascus-born co-founder of the Sima Dance Company came to dance later in life, an unusual arc in a discipline that for most begins in tandem with learning to walk. Joining the company in 2007, she went on to establish the Sima Dance Academy in Lebanon six years later, revealing of what drives her, “I think that human beings make their own fate and create their destiny.”

J12 Watch in white ceramic and steel, CHANEL WATCHES

Like many women in the arts, while keeping her eye on the future, Lana has both a natural a nity with, and an aesthetic yearning for, days gone by.“I definitely wish to be living in the past,” smiles the 32-year-old,“specifically in the pre-technology era, before social media and smartphones. I feel that the past was rich in art and culture.” Breaking down her daily moments, Lana admits that it is the seconds, minutes and hours of the a.m, before the clock strikes noon, that inspire her the most.

“The morning is the most important part of my day,” she says.“It sets the tone for the rest of the day and I always feel morningsbring hope and optimism. Time does restrict us, especially in acity like Dubai that is so fast-paced, but I try my best to carve outsome free time for myself.”

However, being a distinctly morning person hasn’t turned Lana into an avid goal-setter, as she freely admits, “I am very ambitious, but I don’t set milestones or goals. I always seek personal and professional development, for me it is an ongoing process that never stops, but I allow things to flow naturally and don’t like to constrain myself with time-bound goals.”

Citing “confidence” as her most evocative signifier of elegance, Lana muses on the role Chanel has played in her life. “The rst giftI received from my husband was the Chanel fragrance, Chance,and it is one of my favourites. To me, Chanel re ects classic beautyand classic elegance,” she says.

And speaking of elegance in motion, Lana doesn’t have to look very far to nd a woman who in uences her. “My sister has been inspiring to me through the years,” she says. “She is an independent woman with a strong work ethic, strength and resilience. I am inspired by her persistence to succeed.”

On her left hand Mariam wears J12 watch in black ceramic and steel, CHANEL WATCHES | Comète shooting star rings in 18K white gold and diamonds, CHANEL FINE JEWELRY | On her right hand she wears Coco Crush bracelet in 18K white gold and diamonds; Comète shooting star bracelet in 18K white gold and diamonds, CHANEL FINE JEWELRY


“Easily my favourite time of day is twilight,” smiles Mariam Al Hashemi. “You are able to see the beauty of both day and night, and the dance between light and dark allows nature to create its most beautiful pieces of art with the sky as its canvas. At no other time of the day am I able to simply sit back and relax while staring o into the horizon and let everything else simply fade away. I am present, there and then.” 

And it is this appreciation of that most melancholic time of day that benefits the co-executive director of Dual Investment’s candid admission that, “I do feel my life and the world is governed by time or the lack thereof.” 

We’ve caught up with this dynamic 28-year-old Emirati just as time, it seems, is at the forefront of her mind. Strangely, one would think for a Millennial, Mariam yearns for the era before social media and the internet; her old soul crying out for the age before Insta-stories, likes and influencers held such sway over our lives.

“I definitely would like to experience life in a pre-internet age,” she admits. “Life moved at a much slower pace. People seemed to be able to enjoy their own lives rather than watching how other people lived theirs. When you left the house and the home phone you were almost out of touch and on an adventure.” 

“Materialism is overwhelmingly prevalent in today’s world,” she points out. “The hippie counterculture is inspiring to me. They didn’t care about social norms, they lived life on their own terms and only worried about really living that life, experiencing things which broadened their horizons.” Adding that if she were to swing by her teenage self, this simple yet heartfelt piece of advice would suffice: “Enjoy life.” 

The black-lacquered dial and unidirectional rotating bezel on the J12 watch, CHANEL WATCHES

And for Mariam, part of enjoying life comes in the form of achieving and celebrating successes, no matter how small.“I am an incessant goal-setter,” she declares. “These are not necessarily major life goals; they could be small daily inconsequential goals. I am a firm believer that a sense of accomplishment is very important both consciously and subconsciously. I am a big believer in fate. I am also a big believer in karma. If you put good into the world, good will come back to you and I try to apply this to all aspects of my life.” 

As with Diana and Lana, Mariam cites her father as one of the biggest influences on her life. “He makes me want to be a better person,” she says admiringly. “He is by far the most magnanimous person I know. I have never known him to hold a grudge, even when it was completely warranted.” 

When it comes to timeless style, Mariam name checks original U.S supermodel, Lauren Hutton, now in her seventies, as an eternal inspiration, and admits that life experience and a thirst for knowledge are what she finds inherently stylish. 

“Elegance is often confused with how much someone spends on their outfit,” she says. “But it is important to be educated, not only in the traditional sense, but educated in the ways of the world. Experiences are more important than things.” 

And speaking of developing a cultured appreciation of the world, who else but Coco Chanel herself should crop up when the conversation turns to women she admires.“The journey that Coco Chanel started with her small millinery business to creating arguably the most important fashion house in history is something which I admire greatly; it is a truly inspirational one. Chanel evokes aspirational desires, it is timeless.” 

So, if we were to borrow a Time Turner from Hermione Granger and o er it to her to go back and x something – anything! – from her past, what would she change? “Honestly,” she smiles with easy confidence, “I would not change a thing.” 

Read Next: High Contrast Chanel Beauty by Toni Malt 

  • Words by Gemma White
  • Photography by Adam Browning-Hill
  • Make-up by Toni Malt using Chanel Beauty
  • Hair by Betty Bee at MMG
  • Styling by Natascha Hawke