Audemars Piguet celebrates hip-hop artist Jay-Z with limited-edition watches

Hip-hop artist and record-business entrepreneur Jay-Z and 130-year-old Swiss luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet on Tuesday in New York City unveiled a limited edition of 100 timepieces to celebrate Jay-Z’s 10th anniversary in the music business. The watches—a special version of the brand’s Royal Oak Offshore chronograph—have a small “10” in diamonds on the dial. They come in stainless steel, rose gold, and platinum, and retail for $23,500 to $69,500. The project was two years in the making; Jaz-Z was actively involved in the design.

Francois-Henry Bennahmias, president of Audemars Piguet North America, said more limited-edition projects with well-known celebrities in sports and entertainment will be announced in coming months. As with the Jay-Z watches, some proceeds will be given to charity by Audemars Piguet. In the past five years, the Swiss brand, which has annual U.S. sales of about $40 million, has given more than $5 million to U.S. charities, most of them directed at women or children.

Jay-Z, a watch collector, is a longtime fan of the watch brand, which approached him about the project and solicited his input on design. He owns 12 (“which I all bought myself,” he told reporters) and even included the name of the watch in one of his songs.

Each of the watches, which will only be sold at Audemars Piguet flagship New York boutique, comes with a 40-gigabyte iPod engraved with a saying by Jay-Z and uploaded with his albums. At least 27 have been pre-sold.

A portion of the watches’ sales—totaling $500,000, said Bennahmias—will be donated by the watch company to the S. Carter Scholarship Fund for inner-city children, founded by Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter.

In December 2005, Jay-Z became president and chief executive officer of Def Jam Recordings, the well-known hip-hop label founded by music moguls Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen.

While he told reporters he has retired as a recording artist, he’ll continue to run his other interests, including a sneaker line with Reebok and a fashion line. He has no intention, though, to start his own watch brand or be affiliated with one as fellow hip-hop artist and mogul Daman Dash has with the luxury-priced brand Tiret New York.