n April 2021, Jacob & Co. launched an NFT version of its Epic SF24 Tourbillon, a digital piece-unique that sold at auction for $100,000. It was to be known as the world’s first ever luxury watch digital artwork to hit the NFT market. A year later, Chief Executive Benjamin Arabov – son of company founder Jacob Arabo – revealed his most creative project to date: the “Astronomia Metaverso” collection. Five of the eight Metaverso NFT artworks will be made into unique physical pieces with the NFT serving as a VIP pass to unlock digital and real life (IRL) experiential perks. The concept is unlike any other brands’ offerings “because it has never been done before,” says Arabov.
The project started life in the digital realm. Arabov wanted to take watch enthusiasts and crypto collectors on a journey to indulge their imagination using custom comics and a cinematic movie to present the collection’s story. It was only later in the development process that the idea for a physical watch came about. “The digital [materialisation] was just not enough for us. We wanted to create it,” says Arabov. While the digital-only design could be no-holds-barred, it was only when trying to execute the vision IRL that the constraints of the physical world presented unforeseen challenges. “The physical form is a piece of art in itself. It’s a tangible item. So, we did what we do best. We went into the unknown and created it,” says Arabov.
- Two generations at the helm of Jacob & Co: Benjamin Arabov and Jacob Arabo
“This project for me is a natural evolution from the innovation and creativity of how my father started.”
A timeline of innovation
Entering uncharted waters is not unknown for Jacob & Co. – in fact it is the common denominator of all the company’s collections. “This project for me is a natural evolution from the innovation and creativity of how my father started. If you look at the timeline, first it was jewellery – doing jewellery the way he did. Unknown. Then it was the Five Time Zone quartz watch that went crazy [among A-list celebrities] – we didn’t know if it would work. Unknown. After that, it was the high complications starting with the Astronomia that had never been done before. Unknown. So, this is the next phase to add to that timeline.”
NFT art may be new to watchmaking, but the community is far from unknown to crypto enthusiast Arabov. “Yes, I am in the space. I invest in the space. I wanted to be the first to create a path to educate our peers and show a way of doing this type of project. Not only for others to learn from but also to do as well,” says Arabov with a sense of purpose.
Outside Jacob & Co., Arabov has been running his own digital marketing agency for the education sector for the past eight years. Being an impact-driven founder also earned him recognition as one of Forbes magazine’s ’30 Under 30’ in 2021 as an agent for change in the education field. Back in 2017, he lent his digital expertise to turn Jacob & Co. into a social media sensation overnight. No watch enthusiast with a social feed would be unfamiliar with Jacob & Co.’s scroll-stopping statement pieces.
Finding that mark of distinction
Since becoming CEO, Arabov has set about marrying his business acumen with his father’s creative mind. He initiated the Metaverso project to both test new ground and inspire traditional customers to own NFT art. “How big this part will be in the strategy for the business, it is unknown now. That’s the beauty of creating something that’s never been done before. The ‘not knowing’ is the exciting part. Because once we start to see that it’s working, we start investing more into it, and we build a team around it. Then we could basically build out a separate division for it, like a separate business.”
In time, Arabov also wants a Jacob & Co. watch to have certain design codes that will distinguish it at first glance, much like a Rolex, Patek Philippe, or Audemars Piguet. “Because our watches are so diverse, it’s a little bit trickier. It’s something we have been studying. I think one element is this dome that we have on a lot of the watches. And there may be two or three others. Over the next five to ten years, one of my personal goals is to hone the collections to have more distinctive traits, so when somebody sees the watch, they know right away it’s a Jacob & Co.”
- Five of the eight Jacob & Co. Metaverso NFT artworks will be made into unique physical pieces with the NFT serving as a VIP pass to unlock digital and real-life experiential perks.
The custom dome over the dial of the Metaverso NFT watch is a step closer to achieving this ambition. “It is one of the most creative projects I have worked on,” says Arabov. “We wanted to execute it because we see a future in doing more dome-concept watches like that. Over the course of the next few years, people are definitely going to see more designs related to the dome.”
With the physical edition of the Astronomia Metaverso Venus having been nominated as a finalist in the Jewellery Watch Category at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) awards, Arabov has made a statement to those who questioned whether NFT art has any place in the real world of watches. The current crypto crash may have put launch plans on hold for now, but he remains characteristically upbeat: “We are looking forward to the rebound to ride on the momentum.”