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Tue, Mar 28, 2023
It is museum worthy; it's a work of art that took more than three years in the making. At $20 million a piece, Billionaire Timeless Treasure from Jacob & Co is one of the most expensive watches ever crafted.
The timepiece is backed by impeccable quality, skill and the unyielding will that comes from being “Inspired by the impossible”, says Jacob & Co.
During a three-and-a-half year treasure hunt across the globe, Jacob & Co has almost dried up the market for exceptionally large and high quality yellow diamonds to complete Billionaire Timeless Treasure, it says detailing the amazing story behind the watch.
The first-ever colored Billionaire demanded absolute colour uniformity, perfect quality consistence and the brightest of lights.
880 carats of rough yellow diamonds have become 216.89 after thousands of hours of cutting to the demanding Asscher cut.
These 425 gems are laid out individually as a mosaic of small dimensions and yet, unprecedented scale. Their Fancy Yellow and Fancy Intense Yellow colours are enhanced by the unique green glow of tsavorites.
The Billionaire skeleton tourbillon movement is adorned with another 57 yellow baguette-cut diamonds.
"Billionaire Timeless Treasure is an unprecedented achievement in the history of high jewelry watchmaking. Never before has there been a timepiece so lavishly set, with so many high quality and large yellow diamonds," says the maison.
"Never before has the gathering of such gemstones been as long, patient and resolute in its quest for quality and color consistence. Never before have said stones been cut at such a high level of complexity as the Asscher cut in such large quantities for a single piece. Three and a half years in the making, this Billionaire timepiece of 425 Asscher-cut, Fancy Yellow and Fancy Intense Yellow diamonds is an undertaking of Olympus-like proportions, and a divine result," it continues.
“We've browsed the entire world for three and a half years in search of an unprecedented number of perfect gems," says CEO Benjamin Arabov. "We've gathered them here, in our Geneva headquarters, where each one was scrutinised at rough stage, at cut stage, before and after setting.
"The incredible work done by our gemsetters happened entirely here, in Geneva. We've combined our expertise in high jewelry with our skills in high watchmaking and used our drive to achieve what has never been done before. So we've created a unique piece that outshines every other high jewelry timepiece in opulence, exclusivity and diamond quality.”
Rarest, most opulent
The joint effort required by the manufacturing of Billionaire Timeless Treasure has gathered 10 staff to search, sort and cut the gems. Fifteen more to craft the yellow gold lattice structure, set it and encase the movement. Under the expert and uncompromising eye of Seraina Wicht, head of gemology watch production at Jacob & Co., 880 carats of the rarest and most opulent rough yellow diamonds, some of them reaching 2.50 ct, have contributed to this masterpiece.
“It all seemed impossible," says Wicht. "One, to lay our hands on so many gems of so rare a colour and so large. Two, to have all gems meet our demands at the rough, pre-cut stage. Three, to maintain colour consistence after cutting. And four, to cut every single one of them so they would fit into their designated place, their little bed of yellow gold. Jacob&Co challenged itself like never before.”
Colour and clarity
Yellow diamonds are nothing like white diamonds. A 10,000 to 1 occurrence, they're infinitely more expensive. Especially so in the past 12 months. Especially at the size Billionaire Timeless Treasure requires. To reach the final 216.89 carats, Jacob & Co. started with 880 carats of rough diamonds. Not a single gem was rejected because of price. Only because its colour and clarity wouldn't make the cut.
“With white diamonds, we receive lots with dozens or hundreds of gems," says Seraina Wicht. 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.”
The process of their Asscher-cutting was another challenge. The square shape with inclining corners, which is actually more of an octagon, requires 57 facets and demands much larger roughs than the typical brilliant cut.
Crafting Billionaire Timeless Treasure was not only a game of patience, but also a game of skills and colour. In the overall scheme of this new type of Billionaire, each gem has a designated place. The larger ones are meant for the case, which comprises 46 of them for a total of 55.15 ct. The first rows of the 159 ct-bracelet also demand hefty gems, with their individual size diminishing in perfectly regular increments as they near the clasp. But the gems are not placed according to their original size. Only colour matters here. So several large stones have been cut with massive waste of matter.
Billionaire Timeless Treasure is a mosaic where each yellow diamond has a specific part to play, a specific cut, a specific function. These are not interchangeable brilliants on a bezel. Billionaire Timeless Treasure is an artful composition. As in any composition, the underlying canvas is of paramount importance, although it doesn't always show. Such is the case for the yellow gold structure that offers its support to Billionaire Timeless Treasure's gems. This highly complex lattice is crafted to measure, link by link, prong by prong and fine-tuned for each of the gems it's destined to receive.
Maintaining colour intensity
In art, mastering colour means expanding beyond the monochromatic. Especially when the paintbrush is actually a rare mineral, there are constraints to be considered. For instance, the gems surrounding the movement on the flange have specific requirements. They're to be longer and thinner so as to fit into the inner ring that connects case and movement.
Since it was impossible to maintain colour intensity with yellow diamonds of those dimensions, Jacob & Co. used one of its favourite gems, one that has now become a signature of the brand's highest-end creations: tsavorite. This rare green garnet provides Billionaire Timeless Treasure with extra life, extra relief and unrivaled gem composition. 76 of them have been selected, emerald-cut and kite-cut, to surround calibre JCAM39. The skeleton movement Jacob & Co uses in all its Billionaires is regulated by a tourbillon so thin, so fine it might go unnoticed at first sight.
The nature of all Billionaires is to combine the demands of high jewelry with those of high watchmaking. Which is why the extremely fine skeleton is enhanced with 57 baguette-cut yellow diamonds.
A legacy of astonishment
Launched in 2015 as a unique piece, Billionaire, first of the name, was an unheard-of timepiece. Created as a bespoke project, it had taken several years to craft. Finding, sorting, cutting, prepping its 239 emerald-cut diamonds was an enterprise of incredible proportions, as was its price of $18 million. Setting them on the case, crown and bracelet in an array so tight they became sheer light set Jacob & Co in a class of its own. Its signature skeleton tourbillon movement of extremely fine proportions gave it a special place at the very top of the watchmaking foodchain. Billionaire garnered immense international esteem, prompting Jacob & Co to make a second unique piece.
With 424 diamonds totaling 161 ct, Billionaire II took the initial concept even further by showing Jacob & Co.'s unique expertise in selecting and telling a story with gem-setting language. Its movement ended up under a particular spotlight as its filigree structure was set with 57 baguette-cut diamonds, another unprecedented feat. This paved the way for Billionaire III, whose 714 white baguette-cut diamonds gave way to a limited edition of 18 pieces. Billionaire III Diamonds and Rubies opened yet another door in the collection's repertoire with a flange, movement and crown set with a total of 134 rubies. This unique piece introduced a hint of colour in the hugely successful series.
Jacob & Co. then explored the vast possibilities offered by the most prestigious cuts available. In 2021, Billionaire Ashoka introduced the esoteric namesake cut to a wide audience, which discovered how demanding this cut actually is, the larger size of diamonds it requires and the incredible light it emits. After this unique piece, Jacob & Co created the Billionaire Ashoka Smaller, a limited edition of 18 with a more diminutive case and bracelet, 480 Ashoka-cut diamonds for a total of over 100 ct.
One of the particularities of all the Billionaires is the cream-of-the-crop quality of the diamonds Jacob & Co has been using from day one. All of them, in all Billionaire models, are white, IF-VVS/G+ and without fluorescence. Finding more than 2,000 such gems was yet another accomplishment of immense proportions. All the more so as they are large, always baguette-cut, emerald-cut or Ashoka-cut, all of which demand larger roughs to begin with.
The immaculate appearance and design of the Billionaires also lies in the special setting technique Jacob & Co has been using, its signature way to attach the gems onto an underlying gold lattice: the very rare and demanding invisible setting. As of February 2023, a total of 21 Billionaire timepieces had been crafted and all of them sold either directly to their owners or to the most high-end watch retailers on the planet, with the exception of one.
Now comes the Billionaire Timeless Treasure, setting a new bar for Jacob & Co.
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