Interview: Jacob Arabo & Stephan Winkelmann

Jacob Arabo – Founder and CEO of Jacob & Co

Stephan Winkelmann – CEO Bugatti

« There are many similarities between our two fields. »

This is your first collaboration with a car brand, how did you come to choose Bugatti ?

Jacob Arabo : Since I was a kid I have loved cars ; I like to smell the leather, hear their engines, touch their coachwork. For about ten years, I had been wondering which car manufacturer we could choose to partner with, because there are many similarities between our two worlds. For example, we also spend a lot of time and resources on R&D for movements, and it takes us years to design and launch a new model. It turned out that Bugatti was likewise looking for a watchmaking partner, and a common acquaintance introduced us. It was a fantastic opportunity because for me Bugatti represents the top of the automotive pyramid. Everything then happened very quickly because I got along well with Stephan and we immediately shared a common vision.

Stephan Winkelmann : That’s also what I liked about Jacob & Co. When considering a partnership, it’s important to be on the same wavelength and to move at the same speed. As Bugatti is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year and we are planning many events, it seemed essential to us to involve our watchmaking partner in this commemoration. It turned out that Jacob was prepared to shift into high gear in order to meet our deadlines. Moreover, design, quality as well as craftsmanship also matter a lot to us and these are qualities we greatly appreciated at Jacob & Co.

How did you define and create the products within such a short timeframe ?

Jacob Arabo : We had actually been working for a year on a new Epic X case entirely forged in carbon, including the reverse side, and decided to dedicate it exclusively to the Bugatti line. We are therefore offering a limited series of 110 Bugatti Epic X carbon chronographs in Bugatti’s colors, fitted with a strap reminiscent of the famous Chiron rear hood. Their designers contributed to the project. In parallel, we have customized our Twin Turbo Furious double triple-axis tourbillon with Bugatti’s own design elements. Moreover, the Chiron’s engine also uses a two-stage sequential turbocharging system. This haute horlogerie model launched at Baselworld 2018 is so complex that we only produce two per month, and this year we are devoting the entire production of this model to the Bugatti version.

Stephan Winkelmann : The two limited series are presented at our head office and during our events, giving priority access to our customers. From a personal standpoint, I mostly collect chronographs, especially those with a technical and innovative look, so I am delighted with this first collaboration !


«We also invest a great deal in R&D, and it takes years to launch a new model. »

You build the most expensive cars in the world and your customers can afford anything they want, so why do you need a watchmaker partner ?

Stephan Winkelmann : It’s above all about Bugatti, not diluting the brand image, and the most important thing is that all our customers love watches and collect them. We bring them exclusivity with Jacob & Co. We had to find a top-of-the-range brand, relevant in terms of image and values as well as open-minded, and the brand’s desire to create a watch exclusively for Bugatti was bound to satisfy our clients. Especially since carbon, high-tech materials and innovation are very important to us, being granted exclusive rights to their first carbon chronograph is a real advantage.

Which products are expected in the longer term ?

Jacob Arabo : We are indeed also working on a longer-term basis and we have a joint program for the coming years, especially in the field of design. When visiting their factory, I came with a whole team, so that they could immerse themselves in the atmosphere, the Bugatti way of working right down to the smallest details – and then come back with the most creative possible idea. The next watch must be as special as the car, both aesthetically and technically. I launch new projects every year and I love the development side of the business ; we have to bring something new to this field and create world firsts, not just generate income – and Bugatti is the perfect choice.

On your new Opera Godfather model, a miniaturized godfather appears in his armchair in the middle of the movement ; would you for example consider introducing a mini-Bugatti around the tourbillon carriage ?

Jacob Arabo : Anything is possible, I love challenges ! But since I only present reliable finalized models and not prototypes, I’ll see you in two years’ time at Baselworld.

Do you plan to organize joint events ?

Stephan Winkelmann : We have several types of happenings, always for the benefit of customers and with a view to celebrating alongside them. Jacob & Co. is welcome to attend all our events, of which there will be many within the context of the 110th anniversary celebrations !

Jacob Arabo : We will participate in all Bugatti events, and I hope they will also join in with ours.

Brice Lechevalier is editor-in-chief of GMT and Skippers, which he co-founded in 2000 and 2001 respectively. He has also been CEO of WorldTempus since it joined the GMT Publishing stable, of which he is director and joint shareholder. In 2012 he created the Geneva Watch Tour, and he has been an advisor to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève since 2011. Also closely involved in sailing, he has published the magazine of the Société Nautique de Genève since 2003, and was one of the founders of the SUI Sailing Awards in 2009 and the Concours d’Elégance for motor boats at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2015.

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