Ernest Beaux: Wikis


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Ernest Beaux (* 8 December 1881; † 9 June 1961)

Ernest Beaux (December 8, 1881, Moscow, Russia – June 9, 1961, Paris) was a French perfumer best known for creating Chanel No. 5, perhaps the world's most famous perfume.



Ernest Beaux[1] was the second son of the French perfumer Edouard Beaux, who worked for Alphonse Rallet & Co. of Moscow, at the time the most important Russian perfume house and purveyor of the courts of Imperial Russia. In 1898, A. Rallet and Company was sold with about 1500 employees and 675 products to the French perfume house Chiris of La Bocca. That year, Beaux finished his primary education, and from 1898–1900 made an apprenticeship as laboratory technician in the soap works of Rallet. After his obligatory 2 years military service in France, he returned to Moscow in 1902, where he started his perfumery training at Rallet under the guidance of their technical director A. Lemercier. He finished perfumery education in 1907 with his promotion to senior perfumer, and was elected member of the board of directors.

Five years later, he celebrated his first commercial success with the »Bouquet de Napoleon«, a floral Eau de Cologne created to mark the centennial of the Battle of Borodino. A female pendant was to follow, the »Bouquet de Catherine«, an hommage to Catherine the Great marking the tercentenary of the House of Romanov. Since Catherine the Great was however of German descendent, the scent, which was inspired by »Quelques Fleur« (Houbigant, 1912) with a pronounced aldehydic top note, was renamed »Rallet N°1« with the outbreak of Word War I in 1914. While his perfumer colleagues at Rallet flew during the october revolution to La Bocca, France, to continue working with Chiris, Beaux remained in military service from 1914–1919, in World War I as infantryman, and during Russian Civil War as a commander of a prison camp at the Kola Peninsula at the Murmansk Oblast. His wife devorced in 1917 in absence after she met another men on her flight by ship to Norway.

As one of the last former Rallet employees, Beaux arrived at Chiris in La Bocca in late 1919, and continued working on »Rallet N°1« to adapt the formula to the perfumery raw materials available at Chiris and to reduce the price of the formula. The series, from which Coco Chanel later selected to number 5, are most probably these adaptation trials of »Rallet N°1«.[2]

Coco Chanel and the N°5

At that time, Joseph Robert was the chief perfumer at Chiris and since there were little prospects of promotion for Beaux, he tried to use his contacts to the emigrated Russian nobility to get new projects. With the help of the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia (1891–1941), the lover of the rising couturier Coco Chanel (1883–1971), he could in the late summer of 1920 arrange a meeting in Cannes where he presented his current and former works. Intended as a Christmas present for he best clients Chanel chose the bottle No. 5 from the adaptation trials on »Rallet N°1«.When Beaux asked her how she wanted to name that scent, she replied: „I always launch my collection on the 5th day of the 5th months, so the number 5 seems to bring me luck – therefore, I will name it Nº 5[3][4] Initially only 100 flacons of »Chanel Nº 5« were produced, which she gave away on Christmas 1921 for free to her best clienst.[5] However, soon the demand for further supply was such that she decided to launch the perfume officially for sale in her shops in 1922. In 1922, she also launched a second fragrance from the two numbered series of bottles that Beaux had presented her, and which were numbered one through five, and twenty through twenty-four: »Chanel Nº 22«, the bottle no. 22 from the second series. But as this did worse than »Nº 5« it was withdrawn and only relaunched in 1926.

Beaux left Chiris in 1922 to head a sales agency for his friend Eugene Charabot in Paris. However, »Chanel Nº 5« did so well that Bader and Wertheimer, owners of Galeries Lafayette, bought the rights to if from Coco Chanel on April 4, 1924, and founded Parfums Chanel for which they hired Ernest Beaux as chief perfumer. In his new functiom Beaux created many famous perfumes until he retired in 1954. His successor as chief perfumer of Perfumes Chanel was Henri Robert. Beaux died in his Paris apartment in 1961, and the church in which his funeral was held was completely decorated in roses.


Since Coco Chanel's breakthrough as couturier only took place in 1925 with her design of the Little black dress, she felt taken advantage of by Wertheimer, and after World War II fought with Beaux against her own perfumes in creating competitive fragrances under her own name, for instance »Mademoiselle Chanel Nº 1« (1946), sold exclusively in her own shops. In France this was prohibited by judicial action for counterfeiting, but Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and Neiman Marcus in Texas kept distributing, and when customers reacted puzzled, Wertheimer gave in and raised Coco Chanels share in the company. In 1947, Wertheimer and Chanel made peace, and when Chanel wanted to resurrect her couture house, he even backed her up financially.[6] "Although she made a fortune on the perfume, throughout her lifetime she was convinced that the deal had been heavily weighted in favor of the perfumer and that she had been cheated out of a huge sum of money,"[7]

His former employer Chiris was not happy to Beaux leave with the formula to Perfumes Chanel, and thus asked Vincent Roubert, who had replaced Beaux at Chiris, to make in 1926 and own adaptation of the »Bouquet de Catherine«, which actually was going back even to Rallet Perfumes. The result was »L' Aimant« (Coty, 1926), which initially indeed treatened the success of »Chanel Nº 5«. »L' Aimant« (Coty, 1926) was a near copy of »Chanel Nº 5«, but Perfumes Chanel revenched in hiring Jean Helleau , the designer of the first »L' Aimant« bottle, and in copying his design for the flacon of »Chanel Nº 5«.[6]

"Pepper and salt don't taste pleasantly when taken alone, but they enhance the taste of a dish," Beaux said in an 1953 interview with Time. The article continued: "Beaux gives each essence the nose test because some scents will last after a week of exposure, while others, for some unknown reason, will last only a few hours. When he is creating a new perfume he does no sniffing, simply jots down a formula, claims he knows exactly what the final result will smell like. Says Beaux: “It is like writing music. Each component has a definite tonal value ... I can compose a waltz or a funeral march.”[5] At the time of the interview, Beaux was not working on any new perfumes, according to the head of the Chanel fragrance house, Pierre Wertheimer.

Another famous quote from Ernest Beaux highlights the importance of synthetic perfumery raw materials: “The future of perfumery is in the hands of chemists,” he said. "We'll have to rely on the chemists to find new chemicals if we are to make new and original accords.”[8]


  •  »Bouquet de Napoleon« (1912)
  •  »Bouquet de Catherine« (1913)
  •  »Rallet Nº 1« (1914)
  •  »Rallet Le Gardenia« (1920)
  •  »Chanel No. 5« (1921)
  •  »Chanel No. 22« (1922/1926)
  •  »Cuir de Russie« (1924)
  •  »Gardénia« (1925)
  •  »Bois des Îles« (1926)
  •  »Soir de Paris« (1929)
  •  »Kobako« (1936)
  •  »Mademoiselle Chanel Nº 1« (1946)
  •  »Mademoiselle Chanel Nº 2« (1946)
  •  »Premier Muguet« (1955)


  1. ^ Philip Kraft, Christine Ledard, Philip Goutell: From Rallet N°1 to Chanel N°5 versus Mademoiselle Chanel N°1, Perfumer and Flavorist 2007, Vol. 32 (Oct.), p. 36–48 (includes complete biography of Beaux and background information on the perfume house of Rallet).
  2. ^ Joachim Laukenmann: Es riecht nach Remake. Chanel Nº5 ist aus einem gefloppten russischen Parfüm entstanden, SonntagsZeitung (Switzerland), September 30th, 2007, p. 80.
  3. ^ Andrea Hurton: Erotik des Parfüms. Geschichte und Praxis der schönen Düfte, Eichborn Verlag Frankfurt am Main (1991) ISBN 3-8218-1299-0
  4. ^ Liz Smith: Fashion: On the scent of a legend, The Times (1987)
  5. ^ a b King of Perfume - TIME Magazine
  6. ^ a b Toomey, Philippa. "Shop Around," The Times, Saturday, Nov 26, 1977; pg. 26; Issue 60171; col D.
  7. ^ "Coco Chanel," Business Leader Profiles for Students. Vol. 2. Gale Group, 2002.
  8. ^ Michael Edwards: Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances, HM Éditions, Levallois, France, 1996, p. 12.

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