nly a handful of movies have had as deep and lasting an influence as The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece is the inspiration behind the Opera Godfather, a high watchmaking timepiece that Jacob & Co. designed and crafted as a tribute to the movie’s unique status in both popular and cinema culture. “The Godfather is not just a great movie because of the way it was shot and directed. It also contains some of the greatest scenes and dialogue in movie history,” says Benjamin Arabov, Jacob & Co. CEO.
The Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary incorporates thirteen of these scenes, in the same narrative order as in the movie. This graphic synopsis is laser-etched onto the white gold case with an unprecedented level of vividness and quality. The piece also features the movie’s thirteen most famous quotes, some of which are firmly anchored in popular culture, the most famous being “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
The Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary is much more than a project within the Jacob & Co. catalog. This one takes pride of place in the hearts and minds of founder Jacob Arabo and CEO Benjamin Arabov. It carries a special meaning, one that comes from the heart.
The movie’s very first bit of dialog is “I believe in America,” a phrase uttered by the undertaker Bonasera who comes to Don Vito Corleone, The Godfather, asking for a favor. To the teenager whose family had left a Central Asia Republic of the Soviet Union and who was sitting right there in the dark watching the story unfold, those words resonated in a unique way.
“When I first came to the USA from Uzbekistan in 1979, I was 14 years old, didn’t speak the language and my family didn’t have a penny to its name, says Jacob Arabo. So we went to work really hard. It took me two years to earn the time and money to go to the movies. The Godfather was being released again; it was the first movie I saw in a theater.”
This 50-piece limited series is housed in a 49-mm white gold case whose sides are decorated with thirteen emblematic scenes from the movie. Each scene is etched on the case using ground-breaking high-intensity, high-precision femtolaser technology that allows an unparalleled level of realism and vividness.
The etching process creates an almost imperceptible texture, so that just as you see the scene, you actually feel the frame from The Godfather’s movie reel. Chief among them, particularly visible while wearing the watch, is the image of Don Vito Corleone, etched between the lugs at 6 o’clock. “Achieving this level of physical realism is simply breathtaking and it evokes a strong emotional response,” says Benjamin Arabov.
The set of symbols intertwined with the movement reaches a new level of actual storytelling. In the middle of caliber JCFM04, The Godfather’s emblematic red rose, rendered with incredible realism and quality, rests between the two musical barrels. They power the two-part music box mechanism that plays The Godfather’s main theme, one of the foundational features of the collection.
In this instance, these barrels have been crafted out of solid rose gold, and each engraved with a total of thirteen cult quotes from the movie. The pieces that cover the blades which create the melody have also been designed especially for this limited edition. One, in the shape of a piano, bears the image of Don Corleone and the other the puppeteer’s strings from the original movie poster. The last symbol of The Godfather movie contained in the Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary is not housed within the watch, but within time and space. It was launched during a large-scale event in Sicily with VIP guests from all over the world, retracing the steps of Coppola and his film crew, visiting the locations where the actual shooting took place, in the area surrounding Taormina.
By incorporating a new set of literal symbols and key elements of the movie’s imagery into the Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary, Jacob & Co. delivers a unique concept. It is based in craftsmanship, watchmaking but also in a profound personal meaning and admiration. As the movie celebrates the 50th anniversary of its release, Jacob & Co. takes this tribute to a higher level, one that comes from the heart.
The Godfather imprinted its most memorable scenes in the minds of several generations of viewers. One of them is Santa Laura, a famous watch collector that owns, among many others, an Opera Godfather Minute Repeater timepiece. “This part of The Godfather that takes place in the old country, where Michael met Appolonia, stayed with me for a long time. To me, it’s an expression of what love should be, says Santa Laura. The Opera Godfather is different, it has presence and that is attractive. Any other brand, doing a piece like this, they would have made five or ten, and sold it for millions. Not Jacob & Co.”
“In June of 2021, we were on a call with Paramount Pictures, from whom we had acquired the rights to The Godfather movie, and we started discussing how to rise to the occasion of the movie’s 50th anniversary,” says Benjamin Arabov, CEO Jacob & Co. “The Opera Godfather was already a success, far beyond anything we could have hoped for. By the end of October 2022, we’d already sold more than 140 pieces.”
The Opera Godfather is both a symbolic timepiece, and a high complication timepiece. In watchmaking terms, it’s a triple-axis tourbillon with incorporates twin music boxes, complete with combs and barrels. They play The Godfather’s main theme, composed by Nino Rota, from the movie’s score. As the music plays, the entire movement spins as if in a dance while the off-centered dial turns in the opposite direction so as to remain upright.
In symbolic terms, it is a shrine dedicated to the celebration of certain artifacts from The Godfather which have become part of pop and cinematic culture: the rose Vito Corleone wears on his lapel at his daughter’s wedding; the puppeteer strings originally featured on Mario Puzo’s original novel cover, which later became the movie’s poster; Marlon Brando himself, featured on one of the piano covers. Like every edition of the Opera Godfather before it, the 50th Anniversary version reads like a book. “The only problem is that it doesn’t have as many pages as Jacob & Co. wished it did,” adds Ben Arabov.
“From the very beginning of the Opera Godfather, I wanted to go further, to celebrate the importance of this movie by showing actual scenes from it, says Jacob Arabo. It wanted it to be a literal tribute to everything the film stands for. But there is so little room. The entire piece is filled with components, and details and symbols. So for the Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary I came up with the idea of inscribing the movie’s key moments on the case, which seemed like a canvas waiting to be brought to life.”
This was the beginning of a year-long quest for a solution to achieve that vision. Jacob & Co’s supplier, DM Surfaces, came up with the technology. “Laser quickly turned out to be our only option, and it was a challenge because our supplier had never met such a level of detail and complexity, says Nicolas Debaud, head of development at Jacob & Co.. They succeeded in meeting the exacting standards of quality and realism Jacob & Co. insists on. “We went through countless prototypes, each one slightly different, each one better, more precise. We wanted a true cinematic effect that triggers emotion,” recalls Benjamin Arabov.
At the root of that emotional response lies another, on an individual level. The Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary project was also a personal matter for several key players and partners. “I’m tasked with matching a vision and the means to accomplish it, to interpret Jacob’s level of quality and end up with the best product possible,” says Nicolas Debaud, head of watchmaking development at Jacob & Co. “It’s not just about technique. The Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary case is a perfect example of something that can only be done with feeling.” It so happens that Andrea De Luca, founder and CEO of DM Surfaces, who created the caseband engravings, is a die-hard fan of all things The Godfather “That movie is a piece of my life. I must have seen it fifty times,” he says. An emotional bond he shares with Jacob Arabo.
“All five people from my team involved in the Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary project saw the movie again before getting started on the development phase,” adds De Luca. That and a unique level of laser technology are responsible for the vividness of the case engraving. “Our FLET, short for Femto-Laser Etching Technology, is a tool that makes our clients dreams come true.” And a dream it has been from the beginning. “We use a combination of nanolaser and femtolaser to craft the caseband, and each Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary requires 30 hours under the laser.”
‘Nanolaser’ and ‘femtolaser’ refer to the duration of each laser blast, measured respectively in nanoseconds and femtoseconds – the former is a billionth of a second, the latter one quadrillionth of a second. The shorter the blast, the higher its accuracy and intensity and the lower its temperature. At those levels, the beam does not just remove matter; it alters its very structure. By using this advanced laser-engraving technology, Jacob & Co. created a caseband that is entirely dedicated to the retelling of The Godfather’s story.
It features thirteen scenes from the movie with unprecedented realism and vividness. The doors to the Corleone compound. The car Sonny Corleone gets shot in. Michael and his first wife Apollonia walking after their wedding. Moe Green’s glasses with a bullet hole in them. These thirteen frames are laid out in a literal, cinematic way and in the same order as in the movie. They look like they’ve been taken from a celluloid reel, complete with its notches. All these images were provided to DM Surfaces, coming from the original film reel. “The quality level of these images, when we received them, was incompatible with our process,” remembers De Luca. “We had to completely recraft them while staying true to the original image.”
The level of rendering is unheard of in its accuracy and the choice of subject. And yet, the case feels smooth to the touch. “That was a requirement from the beginning, adds De Luca. “The engraved parts had to be smooth so as not to damage any cloth. So we added several phases of smoothing, which is like laser polishing.” Which goes to show the technological advance DM Surfaces has in laser etching. By using different angles, powers and blast lengths, the laser beams not only remove white gold from the case but also alter its chemical composition.
Selective and mastered oxidation creates a wide array of shading effects, a total of 256 tones, that give the engraving photo-realistic properties. “When we started the project, we were using flat surfaces. Then we moved on to a three-dimensional object,” says De Luca. “We spent months reaching the right level of detail, especially where images overlap to avoid blurring.”
As The Godfather is also famous for some of its quotes, they logically made their way into the Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary. “We had one space that was perfect to inscribe them on. One that was already dedicated to sound: the two barrels of the music box mechanism,” says Benjamin Arabov. Those cylinders bear a total of 120 pins. They activate the 30 blades spread over two combs that join in creating The Godfather’s main theme.
On the Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary, they carry thirteen famous lines such as the iconic “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes” or “Never ask me about my business.” The barrels are crafted from rose gold, engraved and polished. “Each barrel is sent to a small workshop in Sainte-Croix, the Swiss capital of music boxes, explains Alain Schiesser, CEO at Le Cercle des Horlogers, which manufactures the exclusive Jacob & Co. movement. “Each pin is plugged into the barrel and then its length is adjusted with painstaking precision. That determines the melody’s rhythm and clarity. And it has to be done one pin at a time, one barrel after the other.”
From a pure watchmaking perspective, the Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary is similar to the previous series. What makes it a horological achievement is that it incorporates a triple-axis tourbillon, a high watchmaking specialty only a handful of the best watchmakers can offer. What’s more, it doesn’t have an upper bridge, making it a flying triple-axis tourbillon, of which less than a handful have ever been created. In total, caliber JCMF04 consists of 634 components. While this is not an end in itself but merely the means of the watchmaking movement, it’s an indication of overall sophistication.
“The movement is infinitely more complex than it seems,” explains Alain Schiesser. “When Jacob approached us, he wanted a musical movement. And then the idea of making a rotating movement came up. It requires a level of coordination between the combs, a perfect adjustment of the barrels, which are tilted by some 20 degrees, plus the management of the rotation in the entire movement...” As a result, the component mechanism is built on a two-level platform.
But since the movement is musical, this rotation created another series of challenges. “In order for the melody to sound outside the case, the movement’s upper and lower parts had to be connected. We managed that with a central axis and several special screws, which propagate the sound,” says Alain Schiesser. “And it all had to be secured to protect it from shocks. To reach the final, working movement, we had to go through at least 30 prototypes.”
The Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary holds a special place in the Jacob & Co. collections. Its unique, strategic, innovative, emotional and graphic position is further consolidated by the package built around the timepiece. Each one of the 50 pieces of the limited series comes in its special wood case, lined with red velvet.
It contains a crystal decanter with a high-resolution print of Marlon Brando and The Godfather main logo. It also contains an all-new version of The Godfather Pen, which is an integral part of the Jacob & Co. Godfather universe. This black celluloid fountain pen features an ample rose resting at the top of the cap, rendered in red and green enamel.
- Caliber: exclusive manufacture Jacob&Co hand-wound JCFM04
- Diameter: 43 mm
- Height: 17.2 mm
- Material: steel, brass, platinum and titanium
- Components: 658
- Power reserve: 42 hours
- Frequency: 21’600 vph (3 Hz)
- Jewels: 58
- System: triple-axis flying tourbillon, music box with double comb
- Finishings: bridges and plates shot-blasted and black-PVD; barrels: circular graining; screws: beveled and mirror-polished
- Subsidiary hour and minute rotating dial with differential
- Triple-axis flying tourbillon (97 components; 1.79g). 1st axis: rotation in 24 seconds. 2nd axis: rotation in 48 seconds. 3rd axis: rotation in 180 seconds
- The Godfather main theme melody activated by pusher at 10 o’clock
- Rotation of 2 cylinders against 2 combs (36 teeth in total) playing a melody of 120 notes
- Miniature rose figurine at the center of the movement
- Black-DLC pianos with rose gold decor
- Movement rotation of 120° in 30 seconds
- Diameter: 49 mm
- Height: 20 mm
- Material: 18K white gold
- Case back: 18K white gold
- Caseband: 18K white gold, laser-etched with 13 scenes from The Godfather
- Time-setting: 18K rose gold bow on case back
- Winding: 18K rose gold violin-shaped crank-handle
- Crystal: domed sapphire with double anti-reflective treatment
- Water resistance: 30 m (100ft/3 atm)
DIAL & HANDS
- Dial: black mat polish and 18K rose gold applique Index
- Hands: blued Jacob&Co-designed hands
STRAP & CLASP
- Strap: black alligator leather
- Clasp: 18K rose gold folding clasp
- 500’000 USD (wo. Tax)
- Limited edition of 50 pieces in 18k white gold
- 2-year international warranty