Jacob & Co. The Invisible Hand Of Artistic Crafts At Jacob & Co.
Most visible for their out-of-this-world tourbillons, Jacob & Co. timepieces also display an extraordinary mastery of decorative crafts.
It was 2014 when Jacob & Co. caused a major seismic event in watchmaking by releasing the Astronomia Tourbillon, a tour de force of cinematic horology from a brand that had previously been known primarily for their highly gem-set pieces. Under a sapphire crystal dome, a multi-axis tourbillon, a spinning three-dimensional representation of the Earth, a spherical-cut diamond with 288 facets and an hours-and-minutes dial rotate around a central pinion once every 20 minutes.
Astronomia Tourbillon © Jacob & Co.
Within the confines of this captivating mechanical dance, Jacob & Co. have further enhanced their repertoire by enlisting the skills of various artisans, from engravers to micro-painters. Some of the clearest examples of this combination of exuberant haute horlogerie with métiers d’art are the Astronomia timepieces that are adorned with a menagerie of animals both real and mythical engraved in 3D.
Engraving is one of the oldest categories of watch decoration, appearing in fairly elaborate form on timepieces that trace back to the courts of 15th-century Europe. Its presence in even the earliest known personal timepieces is probably due to the fact that it’s one of the most accessible decorative techniques in terms of tools, requiring nothing more sophisticated than a sharp implement to remove material from the surface to be decorated.
Astronomia Phoenix © Jacob & Co.
There are two commonly seen types of engraving. The first is intaglio, a simpler form of engraving in which the hollows left by the tool comprise the image, as seen in most examples of engraved script, logos or heraldic symbols. The second is known as relief engraving, which is when a desired image is formed by the raised metal that remains, like most examples of engraved scenery or designs that require some variation in depth — as demonstrated by the Astronomia Tourbillon Tiger. Accomplished engravers are equally proficient in either technique, and the most experienced among them have been known to work freehand or with no other guide than a printed reference image.
Astronomia Tourbillon Tiger © Jacob & Co.
The rarest form of engraving, which also happens to be the most complex and time-consuming, is 3D engraving. Although classified under the category of engraving and utilising more or less the same skillset, 3D engraving is much closer to the art of sculpture in terms of approach. This is the type of engraving that is seen in several of the Jacob & Co. Astronomia timepieces, such as the Astronomia Dragon, the Astronomia Cobra, the Astronomia Phoenix and the stunning Astronomia Flawless Imperial Dragon, which combines 3D engraving with miniature painting in a full sapphire crystal case.
Astronomia Flawless Imperial Dragon © Jacob & Co.
Incorporating such elaborate works of micro-sculpture within a timepiece begins with casting the engraved element in 18k gold. This gives the overall shape and geometry of the element, although finer details have to be created by hand. Once the rough form is complete, the engraver gets to work with a set of engraving tools, or burins, each designed to remove and shape the gold in specific ways. The time required to hand-engrave the entire surface varies according to the size and complexity of each micro-sculpture, but can range from hundreds to thousands of hours — the dragon of the Astronomia Tourbillon Dragon takes three months of continuous work from a dedicated artisan to finish.
Astronomia Octopus © Jacob & Co.
If animals are not your thing but you still appreciate the extraordinary craftsmanship that goes into such pieces, Jacob & Co. have recently ventured into a series of unique city-centric Astronomia Tourbillon models. Each edition showcases key landmarks associated with its eponymous city; the Astronomia Tourbillon Moscow for instance features 3D-engraved miniature versions of Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Bolshoi Theatre, and the iconic Hotel Ukraina. While the very first Jacob & Co. Astronomia referenced the vastness of the cosmos, these city models of the Astronomia Tourbillon encapsulate the richness of the world’s greatest metropolises.
Astronomia Tourbillon Moscow © Jacob & Co.
Jacob & Co. is an artistic visionary Maison that displays boundless creative freedom. Setting a completely new tone, both in terms of design and complications, it celebrates being different.Find out more >
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