Jacob & Co., the New York–based watch and jewelry brand synonymous with bling culture, has a reputation for taking risks that virtually no other watchmaker would dare.
Take last fall’s Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary model, a triple-axis, flying tourbillon watch featuring a music box complication and a 49 mm case etched with 13 emblematic scenes from The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film whose 50th anniversary the timepiece was designed to celebrate.
At the end of March, just as the high-end watch industry was arriving in Geneva for the start of the Watches and Wonders fair, Jacob & Co. upped the ante yet again with the unveiling of what it claimed to be the most expensive timepiece of watch week (a claim we can’t dispute), the $20 million Billionaire Timeless Treasure.
While the pièce unique features a skeleton tourbillon movement, its astronomical price tag isn’t related to its complexity, but rather to its brilliant and extremely sunny casing: 216.89 cts. of fancy yellow and fancy intense yellow diamonds.
“It took us three and a half years to finish this project,” Benjamin Arabov, the brand’s CEO, told JCK at the Four Seasons Hotel in Geneva, where a throng of retailers and press had gathered to witness the unveiling of the watch. “It literally has our blood, sweat, and tears on it. Yellow diamonds are a lot rarer than white. For every 10,000 white stones, there’s only one yellow. To find them is almost a mission impossible.
“If we didn’t start the piece three and a half, four years ago, we wouldn’t have done it,” he added. “Especially because of the crisis of diamonds being dried up because of the Russian war and the politics behind that.”
The brand began with 880 carats of rough yellow diamonds, which Seraina Wicht, head of gemology watch production, vetted based on only two qualities: cut and clarity (in keeping with the watch’s name, price was no object). Ten staff members were charged with searching for, sorting, and cutting the gems into Asscher and baguette cuts. An additional 15 people were responsible for crafting the watch’s yellow gold lattice structure, setting the diamonds, and encasing the movement.
Some of the largest diamonds (up to 2.5 cts.) were reserved for the case, which is set with 46 stones totaling 55.15 cts., as well as the 159 ct. bracelet, not to mention the 3.59 cts. of tsavorite garnets set on the dial. “But the gems are not placed according to their original size,” according to the press release. “Only color matters here. So several large stones have been cut with massive waste of matter.”
And has the risk paid off? While the brand remains mum about whether the watch has sold, the frenzy that surrounded the big reveal of the timepiece made the Watches and Wonders event at the Palexpo convention center seem like a meditation retreat by comparison.
As Jacob Arabo, founder of Jacob & Co. and Benjamin’s father, prepared to unveil the mega-timepiece (the case measures 52.2 mm x 43.5 mm), the crush of people holding smartphones in the air, poised to capture the exact moment he threw off the showcase covering, conveyed something essential about the brand: “People come here to see the unexpected,” Arabov said. “That’s what this event is all about.”
Top: The Billionaire Timeless Treasure, a $20 million pièce unique by Jacob & Co. (All photos courtesy of Jacob & Co.)Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
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