One of the most delightful booths to visit during Baselworld is that of Jacob & Co., which is an environment in dramatic contrast to most of the others found at the fair. While exhibitors’ booths tend to be either rather dourly horological or extravagantly gem-strewn (it’s a watch and jewelry show, but with very few exceptions, exhibitors are showing one or the other), at Jacob & Co. you not only get vitrine after vitrine groaning under the carat weight of absurdly oversized diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds, but also vitrine after vitrine groaning under the horological weight of some of the most extroverted, mechanically complex wrist-mounted entertainments ever to come down the pike. Jacob & Co. seems to have the positive cash flow to more or less do whatever they want, and boy, do they do whatever they want. One example of their almost relentlessly exuberant approach to watchmaking is this year’s Twin Turbo Furious.
The Jacob & Co. Twin Turbo Furious is a (take a deep breath) double, triple-axis sequential high-speed flying tourbillon, decimal minute repeater and monopusher chronograph with reference time differential indication, and indication of the power reserve. The two triple-axis tourbillons are connected by a differential, which averages the rates of each oscillator – this, theoretically, should produce a single average rate more stable than that of either oscillator in isolation, although even a cursory glance at the Jacob & Co. Twin Turbo Furious should make it abundantly clear that it’s sheer wow factor, not an obsession with chronometry, that motivated the design of this magnificent bug-eyed monster. The tourbillons, from innermost to outermost, rotate once every 24 seconds, eight seconds, and 30 seconds, and watching them in action is both unsettling and weirdly exhilarating, like eating fugu, or inhaling nitrous oxide.
For most of us the most mysterious complication will be the so-called reference time differential. This is a function of the chronograph; the reference time differential allows you to determine whether an elapsed time period is greater or less than a chosen reference time. You use the crown (in its second position) to set the reference time, which is shown with arabic numerals at the six o’clock position on the dial (in the top image, the chosen reference time is three minutes and ten seconds. This also changes the position of the outer, “Pit Board” (a term taken from motorsports) scale. You’ll notice that zero on the Pit Board is at ten seconds. When you stop the chronograph, therefore, you will be able to immediately read how many seconds faster or slower than the reference time the elapsed time period was; in racing, you’d use this function to evaluate whether you’d lapped faster or slower than a given reference time for a particular course. I don’t know whether this is the first time anyone’s ever specifically created this sort of functionality in a chronograph, but I’m pretty damned sure I’ve personally never seen it before.
A decimal minute repeater is a variation on the traditional repeater, in which the hours, quarter hours, and minutes chime successively. The decimal repeater is a modern invention, in which the hours chime, then the number of ten minute intervals past the hour, and then the minutes. The complication was invented by Kari Voutilainen, whose decimal repeating wristwatch debuted in 2005 (it is probably my sole meaningful contribution to horology to have coined the term “decimal repeater” for this complication, which is a fact I never fail to mention when an opportunity presents itself, which is less often than I’d like). To prevent damage to the repeater works, time-setting is blocked if the chiming sequence is in progress.
Winding 50 hours of power reserve into the Jacob & Co. Twin Turbo Furious watch is done via a folding crank, whose operation’s very reminiscent of the film rewind levers set into the knobs of film cameras. The front of the Jacob & Co. Twin Turbo Furious may be classic, pre-financial crisis horological boldness, but all this complexity is obviously supported by an extremely intricate mechanism. Given the my-other-car-is-also-a-McLaren vibe of the dial side, it’s surprising and very interesting to see that the movement – Jacob & Co. caliber JCFM05 – is, while in some respects very contemporary, also finished with a rather lavish deployment of classic finishing techniques. The movement is more or less in three levels – at the top, we have the hammers for the repeater mechanism; in the center, we have the chronograph gears, column wheel, and levers; and at the bottom we have the intricately skeletonized driving wheels for the twin triple-axis tourbillons, and the tourbillons themselves. While the architecture is decidedly unconventional (given the complications, it could hardly be anything else) a lot of the steelwork is very traditionally handled, with a large helping of black polishing, and mirror bright countersinks for the train jewels.
The actuating levers for the chronograph (whose heads you can see bearing on the column wheel to the left in the image above) could have come straight out of a Richard Mille or AP concept watch, and they contrast vividly with the absolutely classically handled repeater hammers.