A new and unique clock from Chanel pays tribute to the king of beasts.

In the mighty fashion jungle, the lion has awakened. In January of this year, Chanel released one of its most thunderous high jewellery collections to date, L’Esprit du Lion, and it includes necklaces, chokers, cuffs, earrings, brooches and rings in yellow or white gold, set with imperial topazes, sapphires, diamonds, beryls and other precious stones. But the most coveted item of the collection – and one that’s a unique piece – is the Esprit du Lion clock, a 3D clay sculpture by artist Jean-François Gambino, who gained international renown for his magnificent animal sculptures.

The lion always held particular significance for Gabrielle Chanel. Leo was her astrological sign (she was born on August 19), and she made it a point to surround herself with lions. In her Paris apartment at 31 Rue Cambon, she had models of lions in wood, silver, bronze and alabaster. “August 19 is my birthday. I was born under the sign of Leo. I am a Leo and, like a lion, I use my claws to prevent people from doing me harm, but, believe me, I suffer more from scratching than from being scratched,” Chanel reportedly said when referencing her love of lions.

The mighty lion is also associated with Venice: it’s the city’s symbol, and a statue of a winged lion lives high above St. Mark’s Square, emblematic of the Doge’s Palace. Chanel once said that she fell in love with Venice when she visited the city in an attempt to ease the harrowing pain she felt at the sudden death of her lover, Boy Capel, in December 1919.

The lion was often prominent in Mademoiselle Chanel’s fashion collections – she used it to adorn her suit buttons and the clasps of her handbags – but it only made its first appearance in the house’s high jewellery collection in 2012. Half a decade later, the lion is back, with 53 high jewellery pieces inspired by the iconic lions found inside Gabrielle Chanel’s Paris apartment. And, of course, there’s the Esprit du Lion clock, a true collector’s item.

Gambino’s clay sculpture captures the allure of the majestic feline. The expressive eyes, royal mane and carefully proportioned body of the lion express kingly movement. At the same time, the lion’s paw rests on the globe housing the clock, as if jealously guarding a precious treasure. The lion is cast in yellow gold, it’s polished and gilded with gold leaf, and it holds Gambino’s signature on its underbelly. The clock itself, housed within the translucent crystal globe, features a diamond-paved dial.

The base of the sculpture is made with rock crystals and set with diamonds, in a nod to Mademoiselle Chanel, who greatly favoured these two materials. Four white gold pedestals paved with diamonds support the crystal base.

Like all Chanel creations, the Esprit du Lion clock is a small design masterpiece, capturing the legendary designer’s timeless, signature style yet infusing it with 21st-century artistry and vitality.

Featured image: Pendule Lion Powerful, “Powerful” Table clock, Lion in 18K yellow gold, rock crystal, onyx and more than 1300 brilliant-cut diamonds. Copyright CHANEL Fine Jewellery.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Curriculum Vitae #44, pages 198-201.