Rarely has a watch been so deserving of its name.
Jacob & Co. stunned the world’s watch collectors, press, and other assorted onlookers when it revealed its latest Billionaire Watch—the new US$20 million (HK$157 million) Billionaire Timeless Treasure—in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday night. The piece, unveiled during the annual Watches & Wonders exhibition, quickly became the talk of the tradeshow. That’s not just because it’ll take pockets deeper than the Earth’s mantle to afford, but also due to the slow and painstaking process of sourcing rare yellow diamonds, cutting them, and setting them within an intricate gold bracelet. Oh, and, you know, engineering a skeletonized tourbillon watch that will actually tell the owner what time it is.
The timepiece has been in the works for three and a half years, with much of that time dedicated just to finding enough yellow diamonds of the same color and quality to decorate the bracelet, bezel, dial, and crown of the watch. Jacob & Co.—which assembled a special team of 10 people to find, sort, and cut the gems—claims that it nearly emptied the world’s existing supply of these ultra-rare stones.
“With white diamonds, we receive lots with dozens or hundreds of gems, Seraina Wicht, the company’s head of gemology watch production, said in a statement. “For Billionaire Timeless Treasure, we were receiving stones one by one, two by two, three at the most. It happened several times that we spent several weeks without receiving a single one that was worthy of the piece.”
When it found all the necessary rocks (about 880 carats of stones in the rough), Jacob & Co’s gem cutters in Geneva trimmed them all down to the correct size, producing 425 fancy yellow and fancy intense yellow Asscher-cut diamonds weighing just shy of 217 carats. The company’s gem-setters produced a gold lattice that allowed all of the stones to be invisibly set—at a quick glance, they don’t appear to be held together by anything other than what they have in common—and combined them with the 76 bright green, emerald-cut and kite-cut tsavorites that surround the watch’s movement. (It’s the same rare version of garnet that sparkles all over Cristiano Ronaldo’s latest Jacob & Co. acquisition, the one-of-one Caviar Flying Tourbillon “Tsavorites”.)
But perhaps the coolest detail of the watch is its least obvious: If you flip it over to view the movement through the sapphire caseback, you’ll notice that the word “billionaire” is engraved with a smiley face in the letter “o”—proving that even though this is a pretty serious watch, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
If you’re not a diamond guy, you might think the watch might be a hard sell. But some of the world’s best-known men have already bought—and actually wear—previous examples of the Billionaire watch, which has been produced in understandably limited quantities since 2014. DJ Khaled and boxing legend Floyd Mayweather both own one set with white diamonds—Mayweather has said on Instagram that he paid about US$18 million (HK$141.3 million) for his.
All that’s to say that if you’re betting this outlandish work of jewellery and horological mastery won’t find a home anytime soon, you might just lose.