A Commander-Worthy Watch

When it comes to brands, James Bond can be as fickle as he is with women. Over his 56-year tenure as 007, the legendary super-spy has changed everything from cars and tailors to vodka and caviar.

His watch allegiance, however, has been a bit more steadfast. At least since Pierce Brosnan first donned an Omega Seamaster for 1995’s Goldeneye. Before that, there were Rolexes and even (gasp!) a digital Seiko, but in the last quarter-century, Bond hasn’t gone into action (nor set foot in a casino, luxury hotel, private jet, or sports car) without the iconic dial of Omega’s most famous diving watch strapped to his wrist. When Daniel Craig hits the big screen this spring in No Time to Die for his final outing as Bond—wearing a Seamaster Diver 300M with a “tropical” aluminum dial evoking the aged brown hue of vintage timepieces—it’ll mark the ninth film in which the character has relied on Omega to keep him punctual. 

“The materials and mechanics of our watches are truly innovative, just like Q’s lab,” says Omega president and CEO Raynald Aeschlimann. “And of course, an Omega is simply a beautiful timepiece to own. 007 likes to look his best on assignment, and he has therefore chosen a truly appropriate watch.”

The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-Axial Master Chronometer 007 Edition. omegawatches.com Photo courtesy of Omega.

Marketing speak aside, all this should come as no surprise to watch aficionados and collectors. Bond is, after all, the type of guy who would wear a handsome timepiece, one that’s both masculine and debonaire without ever being too flashy. Ian Fleming, Bond’s literary creator, was a Rolex man himself, and when it came time to put 007 up on the silver screen, it was producer Cubby Broccoli who—according to Bond lore—lent Sean Connery his Submariner while on the set of 1962’s Dr. No.

These days, things are done a bit more officially, with Bond becoming a poster boy for product placement. Tomorrow Never Dies had so many corporate partners, in fact, that its entire production budget was covered well before anyone yelled “action,” and the Craig-era films have kept ticking thanks to a slew of lucrative tie-ins, from Sony to Heineken. 

Surprisingly, this isn’t the case when it comes to Omega. Rather than pay for play, as it were, the Swiss watch brand’s relationship with the Bond series is much more organic; one that’s deeply rooted in the rugged character of 007. However, if it wasn’t for the keen insight of a costume designer, Bond might never have clasped a Seamaster to his wrist to begin with. 

“While working with Omega, we decided that a lightweight watch would be key for a military man like 007. I also suggested some vintage touches and colors to give the watch a unique edge. The final piece looks incredible.” says star Daniel Craig. James Bond (Daniel Craig) prepares to shoot in NO TIME TO DIE an EON Productions and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Back in the early 1990s, the Bond producers had reached an impasse. The previous film, 1989’s License to Kill, had been clobbered at the box-office (everything from Batman to Fletch Lives beat it), the Cold War had finally ended, and Timothy Dalton relinquished the reins to the role. For the first time in the series’ storied history, the Bond brass faced a scary question: Had audiences outgrown the character? The answer, thankfully, was no. All it would take was the casting of Brosnan, then a slick-looking Irishman known for his role on TV’s Remington Steele, and a slightly updated, more P.C.-image to revive the series. Gone were Bond’s beloved cigarettes, in was a female boss (one that called him a “misogynistic dinosaur”), and Q Branch rolled out a German car made in America. But while the producers fussed with the 007 formula to keep their character current, it was costume designer Lindy Hemming who looked backward when determining Bond’s new watch of choice.

“[Lindy] knew about Omega’s real military history and decided that it was the most realistic watch for a stylish commander to wear,” says Aeschlimann, referring to the fact that Fleming had made his most famous creation a veteran of the Royal Naval Reserve. “Just look at history! Omega was the biggest supplier of Swiss watches to the allied forces during World War II. We have also been chosen by numerous military units around the world. So, if Commander James Bond was a real character, then Omega is the watch he most probably would have been issued.” 

That’s all well and good, but why specifically the Seamaster? After all, Omega has outfitted numerous men of action, from Elvis Presley to JFK to Buzz Aldrin, all of whom wore other models. 

Lasting and lightweight, the 007 Seamaster is made from Grade 2 titanium, with a “tropical” aluminum bezel ring and dial. The anti-magnetic 007-edition diver is powered by OMEGA’s Co-Axial Master Chronometer 8806. Photo courtesy of Omega.

“The Seamaster was the evolution of those early military watches,” Aeschlimann continues. “It’s robust, it’s reliable, it’s a divers’, and it performs just as beautifully in a casino as at the bottom of the ocean.”

Indeed it does. For all four of his outings as 007, Brosnan wore his Seamaster everywhere, from the baccarat tables of Monte Carlo to the depths of the South China Sea to the off-piste ski slopes of Azerbaijan.

By the time Daniel Craig slipped into the tux, the world had changed yet again, and once more 007 needed to be reinvented. In contrast to Brosnan’s glib take, as well as the over-bloated action of the films in which he starred, Craig’s time as 007 has been marked by a grittier, darker sensibility. It’s one that adheres more closely to Fleming’s original vision, in which Bond can—at times—be a coldhearted killer. 

Built Bond Tough. Photo courtesy of Omega.

Over the past 14 years, the style of 007’s Seamaster has been adjusted accordingly to the new films’ stripped-down aesthetic.  

“When Daniel Craig stepped into the role, he definitely wanted his “own” Omega to define the character,” says Aeschlimann. “Like the character, the watches have become darker, often including materials such as black ceramic. We’ve also diversified what [Bond] wears. For example, a Planet Ocean for the adventurous side, and an Aqua Terra for the sophisticated, charming side. And, of course, we’ve made the watches grittier and tougher for a military man, incorporating NATO straps and, in the latest watch, the use of tough titanium and a titanium mesh bracelet.”

The work of a close collaboration with Craig (a man who’s known to tinker with Bond scripts, and even recruit punch-up writers like Emmy-award winning Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge), the latest Seamaster is a stunning, slimmed-down 42 mm timepiece that’s as stylish as it is lightweight. And while it doesn’t feature a detonator or a laser, it is imbued with a sense of Bond history.

“[Daniel is] also a vintage watch collector and has a real passion for classic watches, so we integrated a few touches from history into the design,” says Aeschlimann. “Really, it was about sharing ideas and having discussions, and everyone is so pleased with the result. The producers…are great friends to Omega and after 25 years together, the conversations flow so naturally.” 

With “No Time to Die” delayed until November 2020, the Bond franchise continues to rock on. Photo courtesy of Omega.

Style & Substance

For all his devotion to timekeeping, the 18th-century master watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet created watches best known for their timelessness. Between pocket watches built in the late 1700s by Breguet himself, wristwatches manufactured 50 years ago by the company he founded, and contemporary dress styles bearing the name of the brand that is furthering his legacy, timepieces produced by Breguet are synonymous with elegant models for the sophisticated gentleman.

And yet when the French horologist opened his shop on the Quai de l’Horloge in Paris in 1775, he was considered a maverick.

“Breguet was not only a watchmaker and inventor who revolutionized watchmaking, he was also an artist who introduced a style that ended the tradition of baroque exuberance of the 18th century,” says historian Emmanuel Breguet, a seventh-generation descendant of the Breguet founder and the head of patrimony for Montres Breguet. “At the time this design was seen as completely new and disruptive. Today we could call it ‘minimalist’ and ‘functional,’ and also timeless and iconic. Every element of it was chosen not only for its beauty, but also to better serve the readability of the watch, its reliability and the comfort of the owner.”

ABOVE: The extra-thin Classique wristwatch in yellow gold, Ref. 5157, a clear descendant to the Phillips reference sold in November. Photo courtesy of Breguet.

More remarkable than Breguet’s unconventional ideas about 18th-century watchmaking is the fact that his inimitable style has endured nearly 250 years of trends, fads, and fickle tastes. The visual continuity that links Breguet timepieces past and present is a testament to the watchmaker’s monumental reputation as history’s finest watchmaker.

Consider the yellow gold Breguet wristwatch (Ref. 3229), manufactured in 1957, that sold in November, at Phillips’ Geneva Watch Auction X, for $40,500. Not counting its dainty (for modern wrists) 34 mm case or its seductive yellow gold dial, the piece has a doppelgänger in the current collection: the 38 mm Classique 5157, an extra-thin yellow gold dress watch with a silvered gold guilloché dial that retails for $17,800.

“The similarities are very clearly visible,” says Emmanuel Breguet. “The main difference would be that today we equip our watches with escapements using the latest silicon technology that makes them anti-magnetic, and we introduced sapphire crystal casebacks to showcase the beautifully crafted movements. We also tend to use white or rose gold for the cases and silvered gold dials instead of yellow gold dials.”

ABOVE: A portrait of Abraham Louis Breguet. Image courtesy of Breguet.

Besides these modern-day flourishes, the 1957 piece—which, according to the auction notes, was sold in 1962 “to a French gentleman for the sum of 1,600 new French Francs,” and returned to Breguet in 1970, when its owner, Monsieur Combescot, wanted to replace the silver guilloché dial originally fitted to the watch, with a flashier gold guilloché version—has all the hallmarks of a Breguet original: an engine-turned dial, satin-brushed hour chapters with Roman numerals, a fluted case, and hollowed out hands made of gold or blued steel (arguably the watchmaker’s most recognizable and widely borrowed feature).

Not visible but equally as important are all the features that distinguish the interior of a Breguet timepiece, such as a balance spring endowed with what’s known as a “Breguet overcoil,” a 1795 innovation that continues to be used today. (A.L. Breguet was responsible for no fewer than ten horological inventions, from the gong springs that give striking watches their harmonious tones to the showy tourbillon mechanism, a staple of high-end watchmaking.)

Alex Ghotbi, head of watches for Continental Europe and the Middle East at Phillips, says the Ref. 3229 is unusual for two reasons: One, it was manufactured at a time when Breguet was still a French firm (the Biel, Switzerland-based Swatch Group acquired the watchmaker in 1999), lending the watch “a very cool, Parisian design,” he says. And two: “It has an amazing Peseux observatory movement: It’s like having a Formula 1 engine in your car. The best, most accurate movement you could hope for.”

ABOVE: A rare gold Breguet pocketwatch, part of Breguet’s historical collection acquired for their museum in 2014. Photo courtesy of Breguet.

The vintage wristwatch also boasts another, harder-to-pinpoint allure: “It’s the rarity,” says Ghotbi. “They were hardly making any wristwatches around that time, just a few handfuls every year. They were mostly doing repair work on older pocket watches. So Breguet wristwatches from the 1920s to the ’60s are ultra-rare. When they pop up, you have to pay the price.”

Guilloche, engined-turned decorative finishing, first used in watchmaking in 1786 by Abraham Louis Breguet, has become a signature trademark of the house. All roads lead to Breguet, some of the most essential and lasting watchmaking innovations are traceable to Breguet’s remarkable ingenuity. Photo courtesy of Breguet.

Shock & Awe

Here’s the story: A leading manufacturer releases a new stainless-steel variant of a basic tool watch that has existed for decades. Demand vastly outstrips supply, leading to the immediate creation of a secondary market in which examples trade hands at triple the original MSRP. The manufacturer then releases a new variant in a rare metal that sells for even more. You’ve heard this story before, usually with Rolex as the protagonist—but in this case, the watchmaker in question is Casio, and the watch in question is… a G-Shock? 

The original idea was simple enough, though it was as inherently Japanese in concept and expression as a kendo match: “Triple 10.” Create a digital watch that could endure a ten-meter drop and ten bars of water pressure—while also offering a ten-year battery life. Casio’s Kikuo Ibe developed nearly 200 prototypes that didn’t meet the requirements. The one that did had a unique construction in which the quartz module floated in a urethane cradle. It went into production in 1983 as the square-bodied screwback DW-5000C, labeled “G-Shock”. 

In the 35 years since, Casio has greatly expanded the G-Shock line into hundreds of models. The diversity of shapes, sizes, and display types defies any but the most patient accounting. G-Shocks are made in Japan, China, and Thailand. They are priced between $30 and $70,000. The brand’s exclusive boutiques can be found in Singapore (a short walk from the Marina Bay Hotel) and Soho (don’t miss the mini-museum on the second floor), while the more upscale models are now sharing space with the heavy-hitter Swiss brands both online and in Beverly Hills jewelers. 

ABOVE: The 20th Anniversary limited-edition model of the Casio G-Shock MT-G, the sold-out MTG-B1000RB inspired by a lunar rainbow, a rainbow formed by the light of the moon. Collage Illustrations by Adam Brierley.

A fervent subculture of G-Shock collectors has appeared in recent years, and although there are fans of every variant from the “Baby-G” ladies’ models to the oversized analog-digital “MT-G” flagship efforts, it is the square-bodied descendants of the original DW-5000C that evoke the greatest passions. To be blunt, the “squares” are Casio’s Submariner, or perhaps its GMT-Master. You can join the club for 30 or 40 dollars with a plain plastic-bodied DW-5600, which meets the “Triple 10” requirements—but very few enthusiasts stop there.

In the past few years, square-mania hit an all-time peak with the release of the limited-edition GMWB5000TFG-9. This stainless-steel reimagination of the DW-5000 was ion-plated in gold and offered a laundry list of features: Bluetooth pairing, solar power, instant time synchronization from global radio signals. Retail was $600. It sold out immediately and now trades online between $1500 and $2500 depending on condition. Buoyed by this reception, Casio released a broad range of stainless-steel models, some of which also sold out immediately. An attempt to calm the waters by releasing a more modestly priced variant, the GM5600, only sent those same buyers scurrying back to their authorized dealers with cash in hand. At the same time, the firm went full-throttle with a solid-gold G-D5000-9JR. Thirty-five were made; price was 70,000 dollars. Two were sold to American customers. 

ABOVE: Marking the 35th anniversary and inspired by the first iconic G-Shock model, Casio released the G-Shock GMB5000FTG-9, the Full Metal 5000, an upgraded all-metal timepiece. Collage Illustrations by Adam Brierley.

Even today, Kikuo Ibe claims the “squares” as his favorite watch: “It’s like my son, the first model.” And while he admires the Swiss manufactures, he remains steadfast in his own beliefs: “G-Shock is kind of…to forge your own path. You should be trying to do the things that only you can do.” Which perhaps explains Casio’s creation of a very different G-Shock that is currently fetching well over retail in the secondary market: the analog-faced GA2100-1A1. Dubbed “Casioak” by collectors for its Genta-esque octagonal case, it features new “Carbon Core” construction that takes water resistance to 200 meters while decreasing weight and thickness to negligible levels. The price: 99 bucks. Well-heeled watch collectors who are dipping their toes in the G-Shock waters have any number of desirable choices available, from the attention-getting rainbow-ion-hued MTG-B1000RB-2A to the newly-released titanium-and-sapphire-glass GMW-B5000TB, which retails for a robust $1,550. The connoisseur’s choice, however, is arguably the GW-5000-1JF  square. It offers all the modern features in a traditional resin square case with a DLC-coated screwback, and it’s made in Japan. Unfortunately, it’s also mostly sold in Japan, a difficulty that is easily remedied by a few online sources. Think of it as a brand-new manual-wind Speedmaster; the old wine in a new bottle. Which is a rare thing for a brand, and a concept, that generally shies away from focusing on the past too much. As Kikuo Ibe says, “I want to tell the customers… that we will never stop evolving.

Rhapsody In Blue

Cast an eye over the history of popular music and you’ll find one color cropping up again and again, a wonderful leitmotiv. There’s Ella Fitzgerald under a blanket of blue, Elvis Presley wearing blue suede shoes. Miles Davis feeling kind of blue, Bob Dylan tangled up in blue, Joni Mitchell too blue for you. KRS-One lays out the original blueprint; JAY-Z takes note, then gives us three more. 

Jacob Arabo knows a thing or two about that history. After all, the iconoclastic diamond designer has been supplying Grammy winners with custom watches and jewelry for more than three decades. He’s also carved out an enviable (and lucrative) niche as hip-hop’s finest purveyor of all things bling. His roster of clients, past and present, reads like a rundown of rap demigods: LL Cool J, Biggie Smalls, Diddy, Pharrell, Ludacris, Drake—and yes, Mr. Blueprint himself, the inimitable Sean Carter. 

The Epic X Chrono Sky Blue by Jacob & Co. exclusively available at the WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND & MAYORS. The Hudson Yards installation is seen here. Photo by Watchonista/Liam O’Donnell.

Along the way, Arabo has grown his namesake timepiece and jewelry label, Jacob & Co., into an international haute horlogerie powerhouse. The brand’s latest creation is a special edition within the Epic X collection, a line representing Arabo’s unique takes on the super-modern skeleton watch. But instead of his usual flourishes—diamond settings, multi-axis tourbillons, thematic automatons—this new piece gets redesigned with a bold original color scheme, one that echoes the skies and seas. At the age of 56, Arabo, it seems, has entered his Blue Period. 

It didn’t happen overnight. Long before the Epic X debuted, before Jacob & Co. went global, before he was on a first-name basis with the hip-hop vanguard, Arabo was just a New York kid with caviar aspirations and an entrepreneurial bent. Born in Uzbekistan and raised in Queens, he dropped out of high school to enroll in a jewelry design course; by the age of 21, he had a stall at Kaplan Jewelry Exchange, in Manhattan’s famed Diamond District. Even then, he recognized the value of going big, carefully honing his jet-set persona: tailored suits, expensive haircuts, and, of course, a flashy watch. 

The Epic X Chrono Sky Blue by Jacob & Co. Innovation in design gets met with respect for the time-honored practices and traditions of the company’s Swiss watchmakers.

Arabo knew the market. He felt the groundswell of hip-hop culture, too. In a prescient move, he launched Jacob & Co. in 1986, branding his diamond market expertise. From there, his aesthetic sensibilities only got more extravagant. If Dapper Dan was rap’s original high-end haberdasher, Arabo soon became the community’s own fine jeweler. The two men took a similar approach: bespoke products, seven-league-boots swagger, less-is-a-bore design philosophy. Word spread, customers flocked. He picked up a nickname: Jacob the Jeweler. 

So it was written. Throughout the 1990s, if you had a platinum record but wanted a diamond watch—or a gold chain, or gem-set cross, or anything else iced-out and custom-made—you called Jacob. Lenny Kravitz called him. Bono and Jennifer Lopez did, too. After Arabo launched a dedicated Swiss watchmaking division, in 2002, Elton John reportedly purchased two dozen timepieces as gifts for family and friends.  

Still, Jacob & Co. remained synonymous with hip-hop fashion culture. The brand and its founder became lyrical shorthand, a status symbol name-checked alongside Maybach and Dom Perignon. Arabo’s clashes with authority only burnished his credibility, further mythologizing his work. Ask anybody from Faith Evans to Fat Joe, and they’ll tell you: Jacob the Jeweler’s O.G. status is beyond repute. 

The exclusive skeleton Bi-Compax Chronograph self-winding Jacob & Co. movement JACC05 featuring 260 components. Water-resistant to 200 meters, the anti-shock system holds a power reserve of 48 hours.

Not that he’s rested on those laurels. Jacob & Co. has continued pushing further into the realm of high watchmaking with horological blockbusters like the Quenttin, widely cited as the first watch with a 31-day power reserve. The brand’s Manhattan flagship store recently reopened, helping initiate the next generation of hip-hop tastemakers—Migos, Lil’ Yachty, Lil’ Uzi Vert—to Arabo’s VIP experience. Last year, he released the Millionaire Yellow Diamond, an 18-karat gold watch bedecked with 276 vivid canary stones, that got the glitterati buzzing.

Which brings us to the new Epic X Chrono Sky Blue. While Jacob & Co. products are always a flex, this latest special edition shows off a different muscle group. Bereft of diamonds, it exudes a naked confidence: The technical prowess and colorful design stand front-and-center, sporty ethos on proud display. Subtle? Hardly. But if the Millionnaire Yellow Diamond was a full-fledged rock opera, the Epic X Chrono Sky Blue is a perfect 808 drum beat.

Less bling means greater focus on the mechanicals. Good thing Jacob & Co.’s self-winding, anti-shock, column-wheel chronograph calibre is a miniature marvel: The Sky Blue’s movement comprises more than 250 components and boasts a full two days of power reserve. Under close inspection, the detailing absolutely shines. Check the polished bridges, the angled and drawn column wheels, the anthracite rotor with “Jacob & Co Genève” red-lacquered engraving. 

The man himself, Jacob Arabo, Founder and Chairman of Jacob & Co.

These are the surefire signs of Swiss artistry. And they’re all cleverly integrated into the semi-transparent, blue mineral crystal dial. The result strikes a neat balance on the scales of form and function: This watch offers the benefits of movement exhibition, plus the modern charms of suspended chronograph sub-banks, without the visual aggression of a full-open-work treatment. 

There’s plenty going on outside, too. Measuring 47mm, the Sky Blue’s case is hewn from super-durable Grade 5 titanium and polished 18-karat rose gold. Like the movement it houses, this a technically complex design—Jacob & Co. says it’s made up of 60 unique parts—and executed beautifully. Each of the four end lugs taper over the bezel, pointing inward, as if they might converge and criss-cross. Visually, it evokes a large—or, some might say, epic—letter X. (Get it?) 

Ergonomics are another highlight. Small seconds are shown at the 9 o’clock position, displayed opposite the minute counter at 3 o’clock. Elapsed seconds are read off the crimson central chronograph hand, activated by the rubber-coated pusher at 2 o’clock. Meanwhile, an ancillary crown at 10 o’clock, also clad in rubber, controls the rotating inner bezel and sets a countdown timer. 

The 47mm case consists of Titanium Grade 5 and 18K rose gold with blue rubber pushers, and openworked blue rubber strap with 18K rose gold deployment clasp. The caseback is sapphire glass and blue mineral crystal, the sapphire with an anti-reflective treatment. EXCLUSIVE FOR WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND AND MAYORS.

On the flanks, the blue rubber-coated main crown and color-matched chronograph pushers bring pops of contrast to a polished exterior finish. Once turned over, the sapphire and blue mineral crystal caseback allows glimpses of the watch’s inner workings. Water-resistance is rated up to 200 meters, because even JAY-Z goes to the beach. A unique blue rubber strap, replete with rose gold deployment strap, cinches the look. 

It also brings a healthy dose of personality, something the high-end collector market desperately needs, and Arabo’s brand is uniquely qualified to provide. To wit, watches of the Epic X ilk often skew achromatic, drawing from a super-technical palette—carbon composites, DLC coatings, matte ceramics—giving off tactical vibes. At this level of craftsmanship, where each component is a chorus unto itself, those designs risk hiding light under a bushel. 

The watch seen on these pages is a better bet. A limited-edition exclusive to Watches of Switzerland, it’s both an exclusive proposition and a reminder that serious watchmaking can be delivered with exuberance. It’s the skies and seas, and ready to be worn everywhere in between, something like a new blueprint for boutique chronograph breed. It might just be Arabo’s magnum opus.

A close-up of the exclusive Jacob & Co Epic X Chrono Sky Blue installation at Watches of Switzerland Hudson Yards. Photo by Watchonista/Liam O’Donnell.


Watches of Switzerland (1.844.4USAWOS – 1.844.487.2967)
Mayors (1.844.4MAYORS – 1.800.462.9677)

The Purest Art

Installation view of "Magnificent Emeralds: Fura’s Tears" exhibit at Wilensky Exquisite Mineral Gallery

There’s a glistening metallic sculpture displayed on a stand that grabs my attention the minute I walk into the Wilensky Gallery in Manhattan. The Cubist style piece contains striated light gold boxes of varying size and direction so nuanced, I’m beguiled by its complex structure. The work, perhaps done by a contemporary sculptor, looks like a glam rock asteroid that’s fallen to earth.

641-K-4T x 2 1-4W - Aquamarine on Feldspar Nyet-Bruk, Shigar Valley Skardu Dist N Area Pakistan
In his Chelsea gallery, Stuart Wilensky unearths some of nature’s most exquisite minerals from all over the world.

“People will walk in here and ask, “So who’s the artist?” explains Stuart Wilensky, president of Wilensky Fine Minerals and owner of the gallery. “They always look perplexed when we say, ‘Well, nature is the artist.’” 

Indeed, the piece is really not a modern sculpture made with human hands, but a fine example of Pyrite, otherwise known as “Fools Gold,” a mineral that formed deep in the earth for thousands, perhaps millions of years.

The mistake is an easy one to make, says Wilensky. “After all, great artists have always been inspired by nature.” For 35 years, the dealer of the finest stone minerals on earth has been a proponent of recognizing their rightful place in the art world. His specialty is aesthetic minerals, meaning that they are attractive, colorful, and sculptural, like this one.

472-12T x 6W - Chrysocolla on Malachite Stalactite Kolwezi Dist Katanga Dem Rep Congo-EVAN
Chrysocolla on malachite stalactite; Katanga, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Like fine art, the beauty of these works please the eye and ignite the senses. Sometimes their allure is obvious, like a rose-red Rhodochrosite or an aqua green Indicolite Tourmaline. For others, the attributes are more subtle, and advanced collectors admire its rarity or crystal quality, form, and definition.

“We feel like we fit in here as an art gallery, we just sell a different kind of art.” 

Stuart Wilensky

Not surprisingly, collecting these natural masterpieces requires a significant financial commitment. Wilensky’s pieces start at $10,000 and ascend into the six-figure range. His most expensive specimen sold for about $6 million—though he demurs at sharing any specifics, as details may easily identify the piece or compromise the privacy of his clients. He takes these relationships seriously, as almost all of these clients are dedicated collectors who have worked with Wilensky for decades. They trust him to guide them towards exceptional acquisitions.

7.3 t x 3.1 w - Wilensky - Emerald in Quartz Muzo Mine Muzo Boyaca Colombia EVAN
From the current exhibition on the natural formation of emeralds, quartz with emerald inclusion; Muzo Mine, Columbia. 7.3 cm tall x 3.1 cm wide. Private collection.

“We don’t sell things that people are going to use for decoration in their homes,” says Wilensky. 

“People are not going to come here and spend a million dollars on a mineral to put it on their dining room table.” His work involves locating the specimen, negotiating the deal, and then helping the buyer curate and display the prized pieces, often in showcases.

The dealer’s own appreciation for rare art and beautiful objects began at a young age, as his parents owned an art and antique business. At around age eight, he started helping his father gather pieces, visiting museums, castles, and ancient sites in Spain, the former Yugoslavia, and the Netherlands for weeks at a time. “I think back on it and I think, ‘My God, if my mother knew what we were doing, she would not have approved sometimes of where my father was taking me,’” he says with a laugh.

The Brooklyn native worked in his father’s business until he and his wife Donna discovered an Arkansas Quartz specimen at a flea market in Long Island. He was instantly captivated. Soon, the couple built their collection by scouring the Yellow Pages for dealers in New York City. “What is often the case with collectors, and it doesn’t matter what you collect, you start out as a collector and you become a dealer to support your habit,” Wilensky notes with a smile.

For more than three decades Wilensky operated his rare and fine mineral business out of his Hudson Valley home before his sons Troy and Connor joined him. They decided to venture to Manhattan two years ago to reach new audiences. Wilensky also wanted to offer a place other than a museum where people could see sublime minerals and better appreciate them.

Installation view of "Magnificent Emeralds: Fura’s Tears" exhibit at Wilensky Exquisite Mineral Gallery
Wilensky Exquisite Minerals located in New York City’s Chelsea Gallery District.

By design, they chose a prime downtown spot in Chelsea’s Gallery District, perched on the corner of 20th Street and 10th Avenue. The 2,200 square-foot space is nestled amid contemporary art heavies like David Zwirner Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, and Pace Gallery. 

Like many of the galleries in the area, Wilensky curates new shows every 60-90 days. The current one, Magnificent Emeralds: Fura’s Tears, showcases 30 of the most spectacular emeralds from around the world in one place, like a masterworks exhibition. It is named after an ancient Colombian origin myth that describes the birth of the gemstone from the goddess Fura’s tears of mourning. 

“How else would you explain such beauty and perfection?” he asks.

“Magnificent Emeralds: Fura’s Tears” is the current exhibition featured at Wilensky Gallery through December 30, 2019.

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