Jacob & Co. Caligula: take a peek at what’s behind!
Jacob & Co. and its founder, Jacob Arabo, are renowned for being the celebrities’ jeweller & watchmaker of choice, hailing from New York, and famous for their exceptional jeweled timepieces. But few people are aware that Jacob & Co. recently opened a new office in Plan-Les-Ouates. Located in the fortified house of Arare, a fortified edifice dating back to the Middle Ages (1371), and meant to be a defensive outpost to guard the then emerging Canton of Geneva.
Today, Jacob& Co. presents one of his latest timepieces, the Caligula.
The evocative name demands attention. For history enthusiasts, Caligula was a bloodthirsty Roman emperor whose reign, short-lived as it was, was renowned for both its violent and decadent streak. But for movie connoisseurs, Caligula evokes scenes where eroticism prevailed over bloodshed. Most notably the 1979 “Caligula” film by Italian filmmaker Tinto Brass, who is especially renowned for his work in the erotic genre. As the tale goes, while Tinto directed the erotic scenes by day, his producer Bob Guccione shot more crude scenes by night!
Like this iconic movie, you will see that this watch also suggests more versatile views.
Indeed, Jacob & Co.’s Caligula relates to Brass’ work more than the violence epitomised by the historical tyrant.
So, why? Let us tell you why…
First, this watch stands out from other Jacob & Co. timepieces, which typically feature angular shaped cases, geometric shapes, vibrant colours and are adorned with exquisite gems; moreover, the current Caligula model is presented without precious stones, a rare and rather unusual thing for Jacob & Co.
With its smooth curves, its classical design and its highly conventional colour pattern (we’d expect pink gold and a slate color dial from Philippe Dufour, not from Jacob & Co.), this piece surprises.
Instead of vividly coloured geometric shapes, the dial of the Caligula features a sober and yet elegant guilloché. Even more startling, the case is engraved with a fish net pattern, echoing that of the guilloché finish – which seems, at first glance, a little bit out of context; but there’s still more to be revealed…
Examine the watch more closely, you will see it has two crowns and that the upper part of the dial is hollowed-out. By turning the lower crown, the dial rotates through three positions, each revealing 120° of the dial. While, the upper position only displays the Jacob & Co.’s logo, the median and lower positions are much more exciting.
Moving the dial further uncovers an “erotic” scene: a woman providing oral gratification to the man on the left, or servicing the man on the right. The entire scene reveals itself by selecting the lower position of the dial.
The other crown can be used to set the characters in motion: it is a fully animated scene, and yet not an automaton, since it doesn’t have its own power source.
That said, the painting technique used closely follows the traditions and standards found in erotic watches. Each scene of the 69 timepieces of this limited edition has been hand painted and decorated by André Martinez, a miniaturist from Le Locle. The price tag reflects the limited number of timepieces: $69 k.
Martinez has used a cold enamel technique, which consists in baking synthetic paints at a relatively low temperature: 90°C. Thanks to this process, the end result is very similar to Grand Feu enameling, with a greatly reduced production time. Nonetheless, applying the four layers of enamel requires 15 hours of work.
Those lacquered pastel tones provide a stark contrast with the grey rhodium-plated dial, and highlight the lady’s fishnet stockings as well. The same fishnet pattern is engraved on the side of the case.
The dial itself is exceptionally well executed, both in terms of style and technique; demonstrating Jacob & Co’s watchmaking expertise. This mastery is also prevalent in the overall theme: we'll come to that later, but let us first take a look at its movement.
The calibre, manufactured by Concepto, is based on the Valjoux 7750, with more jewels and enlarged plates.
The C03025 movement measures 35mm by 8.7mm and is fitted with 25 rubies. It boasts a 48h power reserve at 28’800 vph. It is however very difficult to identify the 7750 DNA, at first glance. Furthermore, the smoked sapphire on the case back and the high level finish on the calibre further modify its aspect… The C03025 can be compared to a combination of a top-level 7750 with the proportions of a Valgrange.
The biggest impact of the Caligula timepiece is its cultural contribution to the erotic watchmaking tradition. One must remember how, back in the eighteenth century, "erotic" watches (or to express it through the prism of post-modern criteria, "pornographic",) were very popular among the frivolous ruling elites of Europe and Asia. Then, in the early nineteenth century with the rise of the French Revolutions’ asceticism and the prudishness of Genevan Calvinism, the possession and exhibition of erotic watches was made very arduous. Worse still, production of such pieces was in itself banned. In order to circumvent these restrictions, the watchmakers started producing watches where the lewd scenes were hidden under a secret closed bottom, or a sliding mechanism like the one used on the Caligula.
Nowadays, amidst the inherent timidity among watchmakers, itself a consequence of their excessive political correctness, very few would dare explore this subject.
Ironically, in other quarters everybody else does it, from the (legitimate) "porn-chic" of fashion designers to the (preposterous) "agro-porn" ads to sell food products, such as yogurts for example. Everybody does it, except for watches...
In addition to the legitimacy lent to it by history, this is a totally fun and unconventional exercise, perfectly aligned with present-day mechanical watchmaking, which is purely dedicated for collection and entertainment.
We needed someone bold enough to offer an erotic watch; someone with undisputed legitimacy. And who else could claim this legitimacy to contest this challenge, than the jeweller & watchmaker of celebrities?
The Caligula is a real success, as it bridges the gap between XVIIIthcentury watchmaking (definitely the most note worthy period) and the extraordinary and innovative universe of Jacob & Co., so often misunderstood by the watchmaking community. Furthermore, it is an exquisitely finished piece, and you can hide its risqué scenes at will, when dealing with clients or mingling with the more prudish … Or, alternatively, you may reveal it to close friends - or the dark-haired beauty to whom you may be attracted to. Even if you cannot go further, you'll know if she's got a sense of humour!