Every year for decades, I traverse the globe to attend the exciting watch shows taking place in Switzerland. I recently returned from 10 days in Geneva where I got to try on, examine and enjoy some of the newest and most exceptional watches that will make their way to the market this year. Easily a highlight: the Jacob & Co. $20 million Billionaire Timeless Treasure Yellow Diamond watch.
A complex tourbillon timepiece, the watch (or piece of jewelry that tells time) is totally ensconced in 425 Asscher-Cut Fancy Yellow and Intense Yellow diamonds. The feat of simply collecting and cutting all of the highest color and quality of matching diamonds alone was three-and-a-half years.
This is not the first Billionaire watch the brand has built. In fact, in 2015 it released its first Billionaire watch bedecked with 260 carats of white diamonds. Three years later, in 2018, Floyd Mayweather bought a Billionaire watch (only 21 have been made since 2015, with all of them selling except for one) for $18 million. The brand then unveiled, also in 2018, its $6 million yellow diamond Millionaire watch with 127 carats of intense yellow diamonds. But that wasn’t enough for this independently owned and operated jewelry and watch brand. Thee needed to take each of those renditions to new heights.
When it was determined that the brand would move forward with this timepiece, ten top-notch gemologists scoured the Earth for enough perfectly matched rare diamonds. In the end, the brand purchased 880 carats of rough yellow diamonds and had them cut over the course of several years into what would end up being individual Asscher-cut stones weighing 216.89 carats total. Just the studying of the rough diamonds and the cutting and polishing took thousands of hours.
The Asscher cut is a square case with angled corners – creating an almost octagonal shape. It boasts 57 facets and so more rough stone is needed than for, say, a brilliant-cut stone. As such, there was often diamond-waste, according to the brand. However, that waste could most likely be cut into smaller yellow diamonds.
Yellow diamonds occur in earth about once in every 10,000 diamonds – making them one of the rarest colors in the world. Finding enough in large sizes was a challenge. According to Seraina Wicht, head of gemology watch production at Jacob & Co., “For the 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.”
Once the diamonds were all perfectly cut and matched, 15 of the finest gemsetters spent months and months preparing the yellow gold that would serve as the case and bracelet – turning to a lattice-like bracelet motif. Because the stones were of minutely different sizes, each stone had to be measured and each gold prong carved exactly to accept the stone.
Because larger stones were needed for the case – 46 of them exactly, weighing 55.15 carats, the brand turned to equally as large stones for the first links of the 159-carat bracelet – where the bracelet meets the case. They then gradually decline in size as they reach the clasp – simply because finding hundreds of larger sized stones was nearly impossible.
The 76 gems immediately surrounding the movement, on the inner flange are green tsavorites that are cut longer and thinner in order to fit into the inner ring between the case and the movement. As if that isn’t enough, the tourbillon escapement of the JCAM39 skeletonized movement is further set with 57 yellow baguette-cut diamonds.
(Portions of this article by Roberta Naas first appeared on Forbes.com.)