Jacob Arabo Founder and Chairman of Jacob & Co. is visiting new realms of watch and jewellery making with his unique and out-of-the-box designs.
The entrepreneur began his journey in the world of fine jewellery and watchmaking as a 16 year-old apprentice after moving to New York with his family. After developing a keen passion for watches and jewellery he opened a small booth in New York’s bustling diamond district and began designing collections for jewellery brands and private clients. Over the past three decades his small booth has grown into a global business with a boundless quest for creating innovative, creative pieces that are completely unique. No request is impossible and Arabo sets out to surprise his clients again and again with his unusual designs.
While Jacob & Co. continues to keep its headquarters in New York where the brand first began, its watches are manufactured in Switzerland by some of the most skilled watchmakers in the world who bring Arabo’s creative ideas to life. When it comes to the jewellery business, the brand works to source some of the rarest stones in the world, each selected with the utmost integrity of origin and chosen because of their beauty and uniqueness. Jacob & Co. has a huge celebrity following and private clients continue to return to Arabo to create pieces that have never been seen before.
This August Jacob & Co. presented its latest novelties as part of the Geneva Watch Days Event. From unique pieces to out of the box ideas, the brand continues to travel to new realms of watchmaking with its latest designs. Here we discuss with Jacob Arabo creativity, innovation and continuing to surprise his clients.
What can you tell us about the Geneva Watch Days event and why you decided to exhibit your latest novelties there?
The exhibition during Geneva Watch Days was important for us because it was the first time in a long time we were able to see journalists and retailers other than via Zoom. It was vital for the watch industry, as it proved to everyone that the brands were still working, still creating, still pushing forward. We had a number of novelties, like the Bugatti Chiron and the Astronomia Tourbillon Phoenix, plus the amazing Paraiba Tourmaline ring, that no one had held in their hands before, so it was a great chance to experience our products first-hand. It was a real pleasure for our team to see everyone in person again.
This year has been a strange one for all – what is something you have learnt during your time in lockdown that you will take with you moving forward?
I have learned how precious every single moment is. Not being able to see friends and loved ones for such a long time during lockdown taught me that I previously took such things for granted, which we never should. You would think that creating timepieces would have led me to value time more, but the lockdown taught me that these moments are indescribably valuable.
Why did you choose New York to start your watch business?
I initially came to New York City from what was the former Soviet Union with my parents and immediately fell in love with the city and its atmosphere. I can’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
What do you love most about the city?
I love how vibrant it is, the mix of cultures, the fact that it’s a city that never sleeps. I get so much energy just from being here.
Your watch designs are very unique – how would you put them into words?
It is as simple as this; I am a dreamer and I love making impossible things into a reality.
With the complexity of your designs it must be very challenging – is there a watch that you are most proud of?
Well, I love them all. Because all our watches are individually created, they are all extremely complex. We design every aspect of them ourselves, from start to finish. I love the complexity of the Twin Turbo Furious and the Astronomia Maestro, but the Astronomia Tourbillon is the watch that really put us on the watchmaking map. It’s the watch I hold closest in my heart.
What is your vision for your company moving forward?
My mission is for Jacob & Co. to continue making watches and jewellery that surprises people. Pieces that make them say “wow!”
What can you tell us about the upcoming novelties for the rest of the year?
So far this year, we have introduced the ground-breaking Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon, with its “engine animation,” the Opera Scarface, the Fleurs de Jardin Rainbow and we have many more launches coming for 2020. We are spreading our launches throughout the year so that people have something to look forward to every month.
Your watchmaking operations are based in Switzerland while your HQ remains in New York – how do you manage your time across both and what are the challenges you face with this?
The time difference is probably the biggest challenge because the start of our day in NYC is getting close to the end of the day in Switzerland. I arrange my day so that I deal with anything that is related to Switzerland (design, production, etc.) in my morning. Also, I travel there very regularly, though that has proved difficult with the Covid-19 situation. The lockdown has forced us to improve our communication, which is a great thing.
What can you tell us about Jacob & Co. in the Middle East?
The Middle East is a very important market for Jacob & Co. The clients are very knowledgeable and they really appreciate the ground-breaking things we are doing in high watchmaking and in high jewellery.
You have a very strong celebrity following and it must be great to see your watches on the wrists of the rich and famous – can you share a little with us about this?
A lot of my celebrity friends were clients when they were just starting out, so seeing their success is very gratifying. I love making people happy with my designs and I have always been willing to customise pieces or make completely new pieces to satisfy their needs. Having these people as friends and continuing clients is fantastic.
How do you balance innovation and creativity at Jacob & Co.?
My clients expect both innovation and creativity, they go hand in hand at Jacob & Co. When we come up with something new, like the Swiss Music Box in the Opera Collection, we have to innovate to find the best way to integrate it.
What do you believe is the importance of traditional craftsmanship in watchmaking today?
At Jacob & Co., everything we do is rooted in traditional watchmaking. The tourbillons we use follow the same theory as they did back in the late 1800s, but in “a new and innovative way”. We work with the best of the best when it comes to our suppliers and we really support traditional craftsmanship with our exquisite finishing, miniature painting, engraving, art pieces, and more.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by everything around me. That’s why I am so active and why I love to travel. I draw inspiration from the forms I see – buildings, cars, nature. Take the new Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon for example, the case is directly inspired by the Chiron hypercar, including the horseshoe grill.
Can you talk us through your creative process?
I am not a watchmaker, which I think really gives me my creative freedom. Instead, I approach the design as a customer, asking what the customer would like and what would be best for them. I want to make watches that stand out, are beautiful and are great to wear, as well as easy to use.
What do you think men and women are looking for from timepieces today?
My customers are looking for something that not many other people have, or in many cases a unique piece that no one else has. Luxury today is about rarity, and our timepieces and jewellery are very limited or completely unique.
You work a lot with gemstones – is there a particular stone that you love over all others?
I love to work with stones of all kinds. I love diamonds and I love designing new cuts, like the 288-facet Jacob-cut diamond, but I also love coloured stones. These are gemstones that are millions of years old, sitting under the earth. Very soon, only what is in people’s hands will survive, so they are important things. Look at Burmese rubies or Kashmir sapphires, they are disappearing in the market.
What can you tell us about the jewellery collections at Jacob&Co.?
Just as with watches, we aim to do things that no one else does in jewellery. You could say that our DNA is no DNA, as we go out of our way to design pieces like no one has seen before.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt while running your own company?
When I started out, it was just me, making the jewellery after work and selling the pieces on the weekend in the Diamond District. In running my own company, I realise how important the team is. I can only do so much, then I have to rely on the talented experts in all areas to make my dreams a reality. I couldn’t do it without my team.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
“Inspired by the impossible.” This comes from my meetings with watchmakers who, when they hear what I want to do, say “impossible!” That’s where we start, from what others think is impossible. Then we work as hard as we can, sometimes for years, to make it a reality.
What is something you would still like to do with Jacob & Co. that you haven’t done yet?
I’ve taken the solar system, a Bugatti 16 Valve engine, a flower garden, a Swiss Music Box, cities of the world (Dubai, Moscow), art sculptures, and more and put them on the wrist. I am always looking for a new challenge and I always want to innovate in design, complications, materials, and more. I want to be remembered for taking watchmaking to new heights.
Jacob & Co. in one word?