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Jacob Arabo And Luca Soprana On The Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon, A Tiny, Glittering Cosmos For Your Wrist (VIDEO)

Not for nothing is Jacob Arabo, founder of Jacob & Co., known for his jewelry and also for his diamond-set high jewelry watches. He's also famous for having been the first to mine the intersection between high luxury and pop culture, and though celebrities have been an appendage to luxury marketing for as long as there have been celebrities, it was really Jacob who was responsible for making luxury replica watches aspirational for pop music celebrities and their fans ?as well as for film stars, supermodels, and other major media figures. Over the last 10 years, however, he's also moved into horology in a more technical way, making mechanical timepieces featuring unusual complications that really do manage to be dramatically different from what anyone else is doing.

The Astronomia Tourbillon is a 50mm wide wristwatch showing the Earth and Moon, as well as a triple axis tourbillon.

The first major mechanical complication from Jacob & Co. was the Quenttin Tourbillon, which set a record at the time for the longest power reserve in a wristwatch: 31 days. Subsequent complications have included the SF24, a 24 time zone fake watch with a split-flap display for the second time zone, based on information boards once ubiquitous at train stations and airports. His most spectacular release in the last few years, however, has been the Astronomia Tourbillon.

The Moon is represented by a 288 facet, 1 carat diamond.

The Astronomia Tourbillon debuted in 2013 at Baselworld, where, to put it mildly, it caused a stir. The fake watch is enormous: 50mm in diameter, with a 25mm-high domed sapphire crystal. Under the sky-like vault of the dome is a four-armed carrier. At the end of one arm is a triple-axis tourbillon, and opposite the tourbillon are the motion works (for moving the hour and minute hand) and an openworked dial. The other two arms carry an enamel-decorated globe representing the Earth, and a 288-facet, one carat diamond representing the moon. The idea is not to make an astronomically accurate representation of the Earth's orbit, or the Moon's, but rather, to create a visual display that evokes the same sense of wonder as looking up at the night sky. The backdrop for the whole show is aventurine.


The cut of the diamond is so unusual that a patent has been granted to Jacob&Co for the technique.

There is obviously quite a lot going on visually (to put it mildly) and the watch, unsurprisingly, was exceedingly technically challenging to make. The development took place at Studio 7h38, an horological design house based in Neuchatel, under the supervision of founder Luca Soprana. The two biggest problems were power and balance. Tourbillons are always problematic when it comes to delivering enough energy for good balance amplitude, and thus, good timekeeping as the mainspring has to move, not only the balance, but also the entire tourbillon cage as well as the escape wheel, lever, balance, and balance spring every time the escapement unlocks. In the case of the Astronomia Tourbillon, the problem was compounded by the additional mass of the four armed carrier, plus all the other decorative and functional components mounted on it. The solution chosen was to make the mainspring the diameter of the entire watch, and to place it under the aventurine disk that forms the backdrop to the carrier.

The backdrop to all the elements on the rotating four-armed carrier consists of panels of aventurine.

The second challenge ?balance ?is more properly referred to as poise. For good timekeeping it's important that the balance of an ordinary fake watch have no heavy spots; it should be perfectly poised. Likewise, a tourbillon cage needs to be poised as well. In the Astronomia Tourbillon, not only was it necessary to poise the balance and tourbillon cage, it was also necessary to make sure that each of the elements on the four arms of the carrier balanced one another as well.

The speed of rotation of each element of the Astronomia Tourbillon was chosen so as to give the fake watch a constantly changing appearance.

Because the fake watch isn't intended to be astronomically correct, it was possible to have a fast enough time of rotation for each element to keep the whole thing visually compelling (Arabo says he wants the fake watch to look different every time the wearer looks at it). The Earth and Moon each rotate on their axes once per minute, and, from innermost to outermost axis, the tourbillon rotates once every 60 seconds, 5 minutes, and 20 minutes (the outermost axis for the tourbillon is of course the carrier itself, which takes 20 minutes to make a single revolution). The time display is mounted on a differential gear system so that 12 o'clock on the time-telling dial is always oriented towards 12 o'clock on the fake watch as a whole (that is, it's always "right side up").

The flanks of the case are made from panels of synthetic sapphire.

On the wrist, the Astronomia Tourbillon is surprisingly light and comfortable.

Now, you get a fake watch like this in to shoot, and, naturally, you try it on. Weirdly enough though, it's a rather comfortable fake watch to wear. The fact is that despite the size, a lot of the fake watch is empty space, so it's quite a bit lighter on the wrist than you would expect from the numbers, and while the Astronomia Tourbillon is not going to kick anyone's no-date Sub off the wrist as a daily wear watch, you could actually put it on at the beginning of a big night out and still find it comfortable 12 hours later (or longer, depending on how interesting your big night out ends up being). It is also, much to my surprise, water resistant to 30 meters, which I guess means you could take a shower with it on if you really wanted to (not that you should, but you could).


The entire display of the Astronomia Tourbillon rotates once every 20 minutes.

On a personal note, I have to say that while the Astronomia Tourbillon is, in just about every respect, the absolute antithesis of everything I usually find appealing in a wristwatch, it is so utterly over the top and so strongly projects the strength of its convictions that I end up finding the whole thing irresistible.

The Astronomia Tourbillon is a fake watch you can be sure of not seeing on someone else's wrist at your average fake watch enthusiast get-together.

There was a time in the period from, say, 2000 to around 2010 ?bookmarked at one end by the release of the Ulysse Nardin Freak, and at the other end by the financial crisis ?when the supernova-paced expansion of the luxury fake watch industry and rush of cash into R&D combined with a seemingly methamphetamine-fueled product development cycle to produce an almost unheard of wealth of innovative watchmaking. Now, a lot of that was pure novelty-mongering, and much of it turned out to be very forgettable, and the fallout was, in some cases, ugly. And, certainly, nobody can really regret the fact that the industry seems to be settling into a groove where making solid, reliable, well-styled more-or-less classic wristwatch designs that a normal person might actually be able to afford, is becoming the new normal. But there's a part of me that misses the good clean (and not so clean) fun of going to Baselworld and seeing one wacky thing after another. That's why I'm glad that Jacob & Co. is still out there, fighting the good fight to make replica watches that are really out there, and that aren't afraid to follow a crazy idea to its wonderful conclusion.

See the Astronomia Tourbillon at JacobandCo.com. The Astronomia Tourbillon is 50mm x 25mm, water resistant to 30m; three-axis tourbillon; four-armed carrier on which are mounted a magnesium globe representing the Earth, a one carat diamond with 288 facets (patented Jacob&Co. cut) the display of the time, and the tourbillon. Back-wound and back-set. Sapphire case panels; aventurine panels set below the carrier. Price on request.

Video/photos: Will Holloway

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