Ice, Ice Baby: A Look At Jacob & Co.’s Most Dazzling Timepieces
Jacob Arabo's eponymous brand is forging a clear path to horological legitimacy.
I’ve been wracking my brain trying to put to words the impact Jacob & Co. has had on the world of Haute Horology. Because there is truly no one quite like Jacob Arabo in the business. Arabo came to New York from Russia at age 14. He started out as a jeweler’s apprentice to help support his family at 16. While making jewels for other brands, he sold his own creations as a side hustle before hanging out his own shingle in New York in 1986.
His designs soon caught the eye of singer Faith Evans, who turned her husband, the Notorious B.I.G., on to Arabo’s work. Soon he became immortalized in hip hop lyrics as “Jacob the Jeweler.” But it wasn’t just celebrities that were drawn to Jacob & Co. — collectors have also taken note of his extravagant timepieces because Arabo specializes in highly complicated timepieces with iconoclastic designs made with precious materials such as rare stones.
A self-made man, Arabo approaches watchmaking the same way he did selecting the finest gems: with great technical dexterity and a certain regard for decadence. Some might say it’s over the top, but at the same time, there is something quite dazzling about Jacob & Co.’s works. The following five timepieces are perfect expressions of this iconoclastic manufacture.
Jacob & Co 3-D Astronomia Minute Repeater
An out-of-this-world watch indeed. The 3-D Astronomia was first introduced at Baselworld in 2014, and every year it just gets more brilliant and complicated. This year, Jacob & Co. has unveiled a Minute Repeater version just to raise the stakes of this ultra-rare watch.
It features a Carillon repeater with three gongs and hammers (as opposed to the usual two). The gongs are stacked on top of each other vertically so that you can better see them in action through the sapphire case sides. The chimes ring out with the familiar Doh Re Mi tones to mark the hours, minutes and 15-minute intervals, An innovative safety feature protects the mechanism by preventing the wearer from winding the watch while it is chiming. And four arms radiating from the center cradle a triple-axis tourbillon.
On the iced out side, the 3-D Astronomia is set with 15.44 carats of sapphires in two blue hues, and baguette diamonds on the base plate and case. The display also features a one-carat spherical diamond a lacquered, dial rotating globe. The coolest part? The flying astronaut which rotates on an axis around the 3D globe!
Jacob & Co. Twin Turbo Furious: The Twin Turbo Furious Bugatti Edition
In a business move that was equally as disruptive as Jacob & Co.’s lavish timepieces, in March the manufacture announced a long-term partnership with the car makers Bugatti on a series of exclusive co-branded products. According to the press release, the partnership wants to push "the limits of what seems mechanically possible."
The news signalled an end to Bugatti’s long-standing partnership with Parmigiani Fleurier, which also produced some outstanding timepieces. But with the Twin Turbo Furious: The Twin Turbo Furious Bugatti Edition, Jacob & Co. once again seeks to up the ante technologically. This watch is driven by two triple-axis tourbillons (to ensure precision timing). Other extras under the hood include a column-wheel chronograph and a decimal repeater that chimes at 10-minute intervals.
The look is a little flashier as well. It’s turquoise blue outer ring is a tribute to Bugatti’s 110-year anniversary blue Chiron. It also features the Bugatti logo on the center of the dial between the chronograph counters. The power reserve indicator at 6 o'clock is called a “fuel” indication.
There will be 18 pieces made in carbon fiber, 18 pieces made in rose gold and three that will boast diamonds. Each of the 39 pieces will be individually numbered. To make it even more elusive, you can only buy this watch if you own a Bugatti.
Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chrono Edition Limitée 100 Years
A little less exclusive, the second piece in the Jacob & Co./Bugatti collaboration is the Chrono Edition Limitée 100 Years. An homage to the 100th anniversary of Ettore Bugatti’s business in 1909, there will be just 110 pieces produced.
This watch is also inspired by Jacob & Co.'s original Epic X Chrono with column-wheel caliber. This version comes cased in forged carbon with a black matte dial and the colors of the French flag running vertically between the subdials. It comes on a rubber strap that also pays tribute to the Chiron. Because it’s not diamond encrusted, it's priced at a respectable (for the brand) 36,000 Swiss Francs, it could even be considered an entry-level Jacob & Co.
Jacob & Co. and Messi: the Epic X Chrono Messi
2019 has been a big year for partnerships for Jacob & Co. In January, the brand inked a deal with soccer legend Lionel Messi — the nine-time champion of the Spanish soccer league, four-time winner of the European Champions’ League, five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or as the best player in the world, five-time winner of the Golden Boot as the top goal scorer in Europe, and gold medal-winning Olympian.
To recognize Messi’s outstanding accomplishments, Jacob & Co collaborated with the Football god on a series of equally epic timepieces. The Epic x Chrono “Messi” style comes in a 47mm, polished grade 5 titanium, titanium and rose gold or titanium and white gold, diamond-studded case, with anti-reflective sapphire glass, a ceramic chronograph bezel and buttons, and rubber horns, and crowns.
The light blue and white color scheme references Messi’s Argentinean heritage. The timepiece also features his famous No. 10 in red on the flange ring, the “Messi M” logo on the dial at six o’clock and his signature on the glass sapphire back, which also displays the automatic bi-compax skeleton chronograph movement.
180 models of the wristwatch are being produced, with retail price ranging from $28,000 to $150,00 for the baguette cut diamond-set version.
Jacob & Co. Billionaire
If I first heard about Jacob the Jeweler through Jay-Z’s ''Money Ain't a Thing,” it wasn’t until Baselworld 2015 when I was truly blown away by the Billionaire.
This one-of-a-kind was created by Arabo created in affiliation with Flavio Briatore and his Billionaire Lifestyle SARL company. The press at the time described it as “a dazzling representation of the courageous and rebellious Jacob & Co. spirit.”
This hand-finished, exclusive Jacob & Co. Skeleton Manual Winding Tourbillon Caliber JCAM09 is enough to take one’s breath away. But the real glory is the 18 K white gold 58 X 47.5mm case and bracelet set with 260 carats of emerald cut diamonds. Each stone is significant with some individual rocks measuring 3 carats. And they are all individually bead set to maximize brilliance.
In 2018, former pro boxer Floyd Mayweather bought this ultra-blinged out watch for a reported $18 million. I felt privileged and very nervous to be in the same room as this timepiece at Basel. It’s nice to think that for a moment, I was part of Jacob & Co’s unbelievable history.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell & Pierre Vogel)