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Jacob & Co. - Luxury And Philanthropy In One Watch

Jacob & Co. Luxury And Philanthropy In One Watch

Raising awareness of environmental issues with the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Everest.

The Jacob & Co. Astronomia, when it was first launched in 2014, evoked the whirling cosmos. Countless versions later, this exceptional and cinematic piece of watchmaking evokes the greatest show on Earth — Earth itself.

Jacob & Co. Astronomia Everest

Astronomia Everest © Jacob & Co.

The Astronomia Everest throws the spotlight onto environmental awareness, highlighting the two geographic poles as well as the world’s highest point with unique natural elements incorporated within the watch. Jacob & Co partnered with Swedish adventurer and environmental activist Johan Ernst Nilson to create this 24-piece limited edition (in two versions of 12 pieces each), which will include in the purchase price a special experience: to travel by helicopter with Nilson to see first-hand the impact of climate change and understand the need for action.

Nilson was already a fan and client of Jacob & Co before they began collaborating, and actually wore an Astronomia Tourbillon on his wrist during his last Himalayan expedition to demonstrate how robust this complex work of watchmaking could be. The pieces of rock at the centre of each Astronomia Everest were divided from a larger piece that Nilson personally collected on Mount Everest. At the 12 and 6 o’clock positions are transparent capsules containing water that Nilson brought back from the North and South Poles.

Jacob & Co. Astronomia Everest

There is a piece of rock from Mount Everest at the centre of each Astronomia Everest © Jacob & Co.

The price of the watch is USD 884,800, reflecting the height of Mount Everest at 8,848m, and 10 percent of each sale will go directly to charity. In the longer run, however, it’s the experience of being up Mount Everest with Nilson that can make a bigger difference, allowing deep-pocketed watch buyers to understand the immediate need to fund environmental preservation efforts. WorldTempus had the chance to speak with Nilson when he stopped by Geneva in October, and to learn more about the story behind the creation of the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Everest.

Jacob & Co. Astronomia Everest

Transparent capsules hold water from the North and South Poles © Jacob & Co.

WorldTempus (WT): Can you tell us more about how this collaboration began?
Johan Ernst Nilson (JEN): Yes of course. Jacob [Arabo, founder of Jacob & Co] had been asking me for years to do a watch together with him, and we had discussed different areas and ideas. We already met a lot of times before, since I'm a watch collector and because I do all these adventures — he says they sound impossible to him and he is inspired by the impossible. I've also been inspired by him in terms of the watchmaking at Jacob & Co. So you could say that this mutual respect and admiration is what drove this collaboration, not to mention the desire to give back to various philanthropy projects.

Jacob & Co. Astronomia Everest

Jacob Arabo and Johan Ernst Nilson © Jacob & Co.

WT: Why did you choose to focus on the poles and Mount Everest?
JEN: I've been going to the Himalayas for 25 years now, I go there a few times a year, building schools and monasteries — I was there for months during the earthquake rebuilding schools that had collapsed. I have a very strong connection to this place. When Jacob and I first started talking, I came up with the idea of referencing the Three Poles [the North Pole, the South Pole and the summit of Mount Everest] in a watch that glows in the dark — it’s the first luminous Astronomia, actually. Then followed the idea to bring the people who buy the watch to the Himalayas, to inspire them to give back after they see what it’s like there. The Three Poles are called that because you find the most glaciers there, and it’s where you can really see the impact of climate change.

WT: You wore the Astronomia Tourbillon on one of your Himalayan climbs before going ahead with the Astronomia Everest. What were your observations about wearing this watch in that kind of extreme environment?
JEN: I really wanted to see how it performs while I was ice-climbing, how well it endures in low temperatures and at high altitude. I thought it was going to be totally scratched, but it turned out to be amazingly strong, even though I was banging it around, against the ice, against the wall — it came back flawless. I thought it was a good way to find out what needed strengthening and improving, but in the end it still looked great, like I hadn’t even done anything to it.

Jacob & Co. Astronomia Everest

Johan Ernst Nilson © Jacob & Co.

WT: We’re not expert mountaineers like you, but our understanding is that you try not to bring a lot of extra stuff with you on extreme expeditions like this. How did it feel, wearing a half-a-million-dollar watch on your wrist during the climb?
JEN: I didn't think about that, actually. I was thinking about how we could use this watch project from a philanthropic angle. I completely lost the feeling that I was climbing with this very expensive watch. I started seeing it as a tool, a way to help me bring awareness and start conversations about environmental protection.

WT: What’s your message to those who think that the luxury industry and environmental activism are fundamentally quite incompatible?
JEN: I don’t think they are. You didn’t see this so much 10 or 15 years ago, but now a lot of premium brands are driving charity efforts. For me, I’ll be wearing the Astronomia Everest to a number of big charity galas, and that’s very important, meeting people who may not know about this watch or this project, to spread the message about what we are trying to do and get some support.


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