Surprise or not, the Astronomia watch collection has been a big hit for Jacob & Co., whose prime ambitions as a watch maker are to wow and tantalize luxury consumers who think they have seen it all. There are currently six versions of the “spacey” Astronomia watch on the Jacob & Co. website, with a few versions that are “unlisted,” as well as some new ones coming up soon at Baselworld 2017. For now, I’d like to return to Baselworld 2016 when I got to play with these two Astronomia watches which are the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Black and the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Clarity Baguette. As practical as I am, I have to admit that playing with $500,000-plus watches rarely gets old, especially when Mr. Jacob Arabo has anything to do with them. I liked these new Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon watches so much we included them in our round-up of top 10 existing watch updates at Baselworld 2016.
Baselworld 2016 saw no fewer than three new Jacob & Co. Astronomia watches. We last went hands-on with the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Sky, which debuted a smaller case and more complications for a cool $680,000. The “most affordable” of the then new Astronomia watches was actually the Astronomia Black, which offers a darker, space-like look in a black DLC-coated 18ct white gold case. It still costs more than half a million dollars.
What Mr. Jacob the Jeweler implicitly understands is the art of showmanship in luxury watch presentation. He knows that if you want something conservative you’ll get an item along the lines of a Patek Phillipe or A. Lange & Sohne. He isn’t trying (at all) to compete with brands like that. He is tailoring products to people who seek to be open-minded and fresh in the way they enjoy their love of ambitious mechanical creations. Accordingly, Jacob & Co. makes watches and jewelry for clients who like to promote their taste, status, and aesthetic confidence in a more brazen visual manner. It would be wrong to judge this as either good or bad, as it is merely a matter of taste.
As someone who can’t afford such luxury toys, I don’t know what I would do as a consumer. As a watch critic, however, I applaud the novelty of concept and execution of technique that you find in something like the Jacob & Co. Astronomia watch collection. Lovingly crafted and conceived, there are fewer contemporary watches with as much of a mixture of boldness and elegance as the Astronomia Tourbillon.
The concept of the movement is not per se to be an authentic astronomical complication – meaning that despite the appearance of showcasing the heavenly bodies, the design of the mechanism isn’t meant to really track the actual motion of various planetary bodies and their relationship to one other. There are other watches for that (like, say, this Geo.Graham Orrery Tourbillon Astronomical watch), and for those who have one – may you have a good assistant helping you when the need comes to adjust the planetarium complication should the movement not be wound for a few days.
The Jacob & Co. Astronomia Black and Astronomia Clarity – which are both featured in this article – have similar but slightly different movements, but they each do the exact same thing. The Jacob & Co. Astronomia Black has a caliber JCAM10 movement while the Clarity has a caliber JCAM12. These are manually wound movements made from 365 pieces operating at 3Hz with a power reserve of 60 hours. The movement is adjusted and wound via a fold-out crown on the rear of the case.
Most of the movement is made from titanium which is given a range of finishes. The movement branches out into four arms which are set on an axis point and move around the dial continuously making one full revolution each 20 minutes. On the arms are a dial for the hours and minutes (which always remains upright so that you can easily read the time), across from which is a multi-axis tourbillon-based regulation system, and then a small but wonderfully rendered representation of the Earth (which rotates each 24 hours) that sits opposite a 288 facet “Jacob Cut” spherical diamond which spins fully once each minute. I like to refer to this latter element as the “Jacob & Co. disco ball.”
The entire movement is all about visual splendor and animated movement. What is so interesting about the Jacob & Co. Astronomia watches is that they are equally interesting and tantalizing to a toddler as they are a seasoned horologer. It is a timepiece and movement that delights on multiple levels. Just pray you don’t drop it on the floor if you are the owner of one.
One of Jacob Arabo’s dreams has been to produce a version of the Astronomia with a full sapphire crystal case. Right now, most of the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon’s 50mm-wide case is sapphire crystal, with the rest being various alloys of gold. For 2017, Jacob & Co. succeeded in producing a full sapphire crystal version of the Astronomia in all sapphire crystal. I’ve seen it, but have not yet taken pictures. Even with a skeleton case in gold, the structure is produced with a series of sapphire crystal windows in addition to the large domed top. The Jacob & Co. Astronomia Clarity adds an additional piece of sapphire crystal as the caseback and is the second clearest Astronomia model around.
This particular version of the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Clarity is the Clarity Baguette, which has 80 baguette-cut diamonds set into the lugs. That is a nice addition of about 6.1 carats of stones, but there are non-diamond-decorated versions of the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Clarity for about $240,000 less in price for the more frugal shoppers.
It would be entirely logical to imagine that these 25.45mm-thick watches would be uncomfortable to wear. There is no getting around the 50mm-wide case that is half as thick, but it would be inaccurate to call them uncomfortable. For all their avant-garde qualities, I find that the majority of even the strangest Jacob & Co. watches are designed to be quite comfortable on the wrist, wrapping around your wrist ergonomically and offering a secure fit with the strap. Thanks to a healthy slathering of AR-coating on both sides of the sapphire crystal, there is a decently clear and non-glared view of the sights to be seen within the bubble-style case. This would make a hell of a diving watch if Mr. Arabo ever set his mind to it… For now, the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon is only water resistant to 30 meters.