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.
EXCLUSIVE FOR WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND AND MAYORS.

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.
EXCLUSIVE FOR WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND AND MAYORS.

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.

JACOB & CO. EPIC X CHRONO SKY BLUE

EXCLUSIVE FOR WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND AND MAYORS. $48,000 USD available at:
Watches of Switzerland (1.844.4USAWOS – 1.844.487.2967)
Mayors (1.844.4MAYORS – 1.800.462.9677)


For Your Eyes Only

The name James Taffin de Givenchy carries a lot of weight. Not only is he the nephew of Hubert de Givenchy, the famous French couturier who outfitted screen siren Audrey Hepburn in most of her landmark films, he’s also amassed a loyal following of starlets, all of whom shimmer on the red carpet with his jewels that he seldom loans.

By appointment only, the Jimmy watch, first created over a decade ago by jeweler James de Givenchy as a wristwatch for himself. Photo by Cooper Naitove.

In an age when movie premieres and award shows are the purviews of behemoth jewelry brands, with their hefty marketing dollars, de Givenchy’s company, Taffin, has garnered renown through stealth, accruing a loyal base of customers through word of mouth. He lets his inimitable designs—from intricate clusters to vibrant solitaire stones—shine through. Scarlett Johansson’s engagement ring, comprised of a yellow pear-shaped diamond on a black ceramic setting, is just one example of his discerning taste. The way the juxtaposition of stones and materials play off each other, resulting in a design that is equal parts bold and effervescent, leaves little doubt why his reputation precedes him in certain circles.  

These qualities also apply to the under-the-radar watches that he offers to select clients in his salon on Madison Avenue. Titled the Jimmy, de Givenchy first created the timepiece over a decade ago strictly for himself. But after learning about the mechanics behind watchmaking, and the incredible—if painstaking—process it takes to get one made, he decided to debut a collection that would appeal to the men who would visit his appointment-only showroom. To whit, it follows the same attention to detail and one-of-a-kind mindset that was practiced by his uncle. 

Each numbered and personalized for the wearer, the Jimmy is an automatic chronograph that features a pronounced rounded case that bubbles up top. Whether it is made of gold, rose gold, titanium, or steel, every watch is water-resistant and has a scratch-proof crystal. The goal for de Givenchy was to create a timepiece that can be worn every day, that is, utilitarian in make but sleek and striking in look. For him, a great watch is akin to automobiles—machines that need to perform, while also having an exterior that turns heads. Indeed, with sensibilities such as this, it’s no wonder why he was once dubbed “the James Bond of the jewelry world.”  

Here, de Givenchy explains why his reputation and that of the Jimmy is as close to 007 status as it gets. 

Variations of the Jimmy watch, James de Givenchy's passion project
Variations fo the Jimmy watch, James de Givenchy’s timepiece passion project.

When did you first create the Jimmy Watch?

What I mostly do is woman’s jewelry. Watches are a whole different world, but I was curious. In 2005, maybe in 2004, I started working with a friend of mine in France and asked him what it takes to make a man’s watch. He then offered to help with the CAD work. But little did we know there was so much more behind it. 

How so?

Well, it’s not just about doing a shape of a watch that you want. We did a wax form first, and I brought the wax with me to Switzerland to the Basel watch fair. There, I realized what it takes. You have to pick a movement to go into a watch.  It’s like building your own car. Putting the outside drawing of the design is one thing, but the next step was putting an engine in there. Initially, I thought I was going to make just one—not to sell, but a watch for me. Ultimately, I decided that the best solution, rather than building my own movement, was to work with a company.

Who built your movement?

It’s an ETA movement. And at that time, ETA was just about to be purchased by Swatch. Now, it’s owned by Swatch Group. But when I was starting to look at ETA, it was still a small Swiss company that offered different models of movements that were available for purchase. The idea at that time was to buy one and do a chronograph. I always wanted to do a chronograph. I loved the Bubble Back from Rolex, and I wanted to make a slightly larger version with the same function, but with a bubble top instead of a back. I wanted something that I would wear every day that felt like a modern, practical watch with a very good movement.

Did you find what you were looking for? 

Not at first. Every watch that was in the market at that time was those one-inch, thick, complicated movements for men. It was the biggest watches you could find in the 1980s, and everybody was going away from flat watches, which now, apparently, is making a comeback. I didn’t want to have something too big, especially because the watch, the design itself, was supposed to fit the wrist, and be a comfortable, flat watch with a complicated movement. So, after looking at a few, I came across this chronograph movement. We took it and built a CAD model that actually worked for that movement. So everything is done around that single movement.

What makes it elegant? The shape, the material?

It’s really about the balance and the proportions. I wanted to keep the face not too big. When clients come into the shop and they see the watch, they’ll buy it. I have a very small amount, and I’m limited to the number of watches that we made. One of my favorites, actually, is the rose gold with the black dial. It’s a great watch with a deploying buckle. Another favorite is the lizard bands that we have. The band we made can only fit the watch, so we have other bands made specifically in France. That was a complicated thing to actually have a comfortable band with an insert that was not built out of metal but built out of a soft rubber that goes into the watches. It keeps the aerodynamic feeling.

James de Givenchy working with signature coral
Threading signature coral, James de Givenchy working behind the scenes.

You’re known to create pieces with bold color and material, so how does the design of the Jimmy tie into the Taffin brand? 

As a man, I don’t wear jewelry. I only wear a watch and a signet ring. Most of the jewelry I design, though large in size, has a purity and simplicity in their forms. And the watches were made with the same idea. I didn’t want anything else than a shape that was pretty, functional, but also masculine. The only thing that jazzes it up a little bit is the ring around each watch. Now, we can offer a personalized color on the rim of any size with a ceramic. Without wanting to be commercial, I always felt that the guy was just gipped at the moment he came into my store. We’ve had cufflinks for a long time, but it is nice to have something else to offer when women asked me if I have something for their husbands.  

It just makes sense that you keep these watches rare, and not make more.

I think it was never intended to be a commercial venture. I lost more money in making the watch, but it was never about that. We probably broke even today, but it’s never really about making money. It was really about making something and just enjoying the fact that I have some clients who live with this watch. They just wear them all the time. God forbid something happens to the watch and they bring it back. Though, I have so many movements left that if there’s an issue with a watch, I just put in a brand new movement. I don’t go through trying to fix and to send it to Switzerland. I don’t want them to wait.

So it’s really a passion project?

Yeah, it was about making my own watch. I think over time, in 30 or 40 years, it’ll become a collectible because there were just a few made. That’s good enough for me. I think that’s a great achievement.

A look at the inner workings of The Jimmy watch by James de Givenchy for Taffin
The Jimmy watch by James de Givenchy for Taffin.

Flying High

UPDATE! “Pilots Steve Boultbee Brooks and Matt Jones have made aviation history after completing the first-ever round-the-world flight in the Spitfire. Boultbee Brooks and Jones landed just in time for Christmas to a rapturous welcome at Goodwood on the 5th of December, exactly four months after they set off on their epic expedition.”— IWC

When you first lay eyes on the Silver Spitfire, it looks wrong. 

Here, we have one of the most recognizable aviation silhouettes ever, the star of innumerable historic photos and newsreels, untold numbers of model airplane kits, countless museum exhibits, and vintage airshows. But in all those, the Spitfire appears wearing camouflage, spotted in squadron markings, usually with Browning machine guns on each wing. The WWII fighter plane, while iconic, remains synonymous with the deadliest conflict in human history.

But the Silver Spitfire isn’t like other Spitfires. No, this is a special “demilitarized” model, meaning it’s bereft of livery or armament. Washed of war paint, stripped of lethal power, you’re allowed to appreciate it as a technical design object, a functional sculpture. It’s no longer a relic of our capacity to destroy, but a towering monument to our ability to create. 

IWC's restored polished aluminum Silver Spitfire
IWC’s restored polished aluminum Silver Spitfire. Photo courtesy IWC.

Seen this way, the plane looks totally and utterly correct. Especially in the context of the SIHH watch fair in Geneva, where the Silver Spitfire made its debut at the IWC Schaffhausen booth. There, the aircraft was flanked by the Swiss brand’s Pilot’s Watch Spitfire collection. The common thread? Engineering elevated to high art. 

Consider the new collection’s smallest piece, a handsome 39mm two-hand automatic, which packs a 72-hour power reserve. There’s a precision chronograph variant, upsized to 41mm with triple sub-banks, as well as a Big Pilot’s Watch version. The latter features a unique green dial, bronze case, brown calfskin strap, perpetual calendar function, and moon-phase for both northern and southern hemispheres.

SIHH showgoers flocked to the IWC area, eager to snap photos of the new watches alongside an aeronautical legend. Developed during the 1930s, the Spitfire is often cited among the finest aviation designs of all-time. The short-range, high-performance aircraft helped pioneer the elliptical-wing configuration, using sunken rivets to achieve a super-thin cross-section, increasing top speed without sacrificing stability or safety. (R.J. Mitchell, the principal engineer, cut his teeth on racing seaplanes. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he also held a pilot’s license and flew regularly.) 

A newly restored 1943 Super Marine Spitfire MK.IX
A newly restored 1943 Super Marine Spitfire MK.IX currently heading through Asia towards the Middle East before returning home to the United Kingdom. Photo courtesy IWC.

During the famed Battle of Britain, in 1940, Mitchell’s machine took center stage, as British and Canadian pilots fended off a monthslong German and Italian onslaught. The fast, agile Spitfire became the darling of Allied airmen. It curried favor with military brass, too, thanks to its robustness and adaptability. This allowed the British to forgo a clean-sheet redesign for the entirety of the war; instead, they simply updated the trusty Spitfire, creating more than two dozen iterations, suitable for everything from ground attacks to photo-reconnaissance. In total, more than 20,000 examples rolled off the assembly lines between 1938 and 1950. Remarkably, less than 60 remain flightworthy today.

So spotting one always feels special. But coming nose-to-propeller with the Silver Spitfire is a bonafide event. This is a true one-off, born of a partnership between IWC and Britain’s prestigious Boultbee Flight Academy. Using the plane’s historic designation, MJ271, historians were able to trace its lineage and pedigree. Records indicate this particular plane was built in 1943 at a shadow factory in Castle Bromwich, the heart of Britain’s industrial Midlands. It was then flown by Australian, Canadian, Norwegian, Trinidadian, and British pilots, logging more than 50 combat missions before retiring in 1945.

But that was a past life. MJ271 earned the Silver Spitfire moniker after an intensive two-year restoration, during which its body panels were polished to silver-chrome perfection. This bespoke finish only makes the exterior lines more striking. The blister-shaped cockpit, gently swept elliptical wings, oblong tailfin—all intersect gracefully, creating a harmonious whole. It’s a far cry from the jutting, angular look of supersonic aircraft. Modern fighter jets blend into the background of Michael Bay films. The Silver Spitfire could star in an Ezra Stoller photograph. 

The Pilot's Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition "The Longest Flight"
The Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Edition “The Longest Flight” a limited edition of 250 pieces. A simple rotation of the bezel sets the watch to a different time zone.

Aviation buffs will note that the Silver Spitfire is an Mk IX variant, meaning it carries the famed Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 piston engine. Equipped with a trick two-stage supercharger, this 12-cylinder marvel was 30 percent smaller than the Nazi’s BMW radial motor but still produced more horsepower. Outstanding high-altitude performance afforded enormous tactical advantages—so much so that the United States licensed Rolls-Royce’s design, then put it into production stateside. Some historians refer to the Merlin as “the engine that won WWII.”

Which is to say: There’s a workhorse behind the Silver Spitfire’s show pony shell. Good thing, since IWC and Boultbee Flight Academy weren’t contented with the static display at SIHH. Instead, the two brands decided to take this special machine on an unprecedented, four-month-long, round-the-globe flight. Covering some 27,000 miles, the route map includes more than 100 individual legs, stopping in 30 countries. Boultbee Academy aces Steve Brooks and Matt Jones jumped at the opportunity to pilot the expedition.

Their journey commenced in early August when the Silver Spitfire flew west from the Goodwood Aerodrome, a former Royal Air Force base on Britain’s southern coast. At press time, the aircraft was flying over northern Japan, with Brooks and Jones having already logged an incredible 13,000 miles. Along the way, they’ve amassed a serious following: IWC’s plane has more than 75,000 fans across Facebook, Instagram (@thesilverspitfire), and Twitter (@longestflight). 

The evening before the Super Marine Spitfire's initial take off from Chichester/Goodwood Airport
The evening before the initial take off from Chichester/Goodwood Airport. Photo courtesy IWC.

Connect with any of those accounts, and you’ll be rewarded with a constant stream of live updates, plus stunning video and photo content. Look closely at Brooks and Jones—or, more specifically, their wrists—and you’ll also see the crown jewel of the new IWC collection: The Pilot’s Watch Timezoner Spitfire Longest Flight. 

Hewn from stainless steel, this 46mm timepiece brings legibility (high-contrast black dial, lumed markers), and functionality (60 hours power reserve, 60 meters watch resistance) in equal measure. Crucially, it features IWC’s clever worldtime setup; adjust the timezone via bezel rotation, and the hour hand, 24-hour display, and date all synchronize automatically. This watch looks the part, too, with an oversized diamond-style crown, orientation triangle at the 12 o’clock position, and military-green textile strap.

It’s sure to pique the interest of IWC collectors, as the Spitfire Longest Flight is limited to just 250 pieces. But those enthusiasts with an appreciation for aviation will appreciate this watch most. Not only as a special edition that commemorates the Silver Spitfire, and the historic Brooks and Jones expedition, but as a symbolic object. Together, the plane and watch stand as great technical triumphs over two of mankind’s enduring obsessions: taking flight and comprehending time.

Pilots Steve Boultbee Brooks and Matt Jones
Pilots Steve Boultbee Brooks and Matt Jones attending the celebration of the official start of the “Silver Spitfire – The Longest Flight” expedition in Goodwood. (Photo by Remy Steiner/Getty Images for IWC).

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.

Crazy Rich Collectors


What’s the best way to please your existing fan base while also attracting a new generation of watch collectors? Patek Philippe arrives in Singapore to show us how it’s done. 

As the last family-owned independent watch manufacturer in Geneva, Patek Philippe maintains a special place in the world of fine watchmaking. The brand’s singularly elegant and artistic design language has always defined its products; centuries of experience mean the technical know-how is innate, a tradition of innovation represented by more than 100 patents. 

Put simply: Nobody does it quite like Patek. 

Patek Philippe Watches (R to L) Ref. 5531 World Time Minute Repeater, Ref. 7234 Calatrava Pilot Travel Time, Ref. 5930 World Time Chronograph, all Singapore 2019 Special Editions.
(R to L) Ref. 5531 World Time Minute Repeater, Ref. 7234 Calatrava Pilot Travel Time, Ref. 5930 World Time Chronograph, all Singapore 2019 Special Editions.

All that history and grandeur goes on display at the Watch Art Exhibition. This traveling show, which began in Dubai in 2012, and has since visited Munich, London, and New York, offers free public admission and an opportunity to view some of the rarest and most iconic pieces from Patek’s archives. This year, the exhibition rolled into Singapore, and Watch Journal was on the ground to experience it firsthand. 

According to Patek, this was the ideal location for the 2019 show. For starters, it’s the Singaporean bicentennial—an important event in what’s become one of Patek’s most important retail markets. But the brand didn’t just grow here overnight. In fact, the relationship between Singapore and the watchmaker goes back to 1965, when the city-state first became a sovereign independent republic separate of Malaysia. Mr. Philippe Stern, the current ownership group’s third-generation patriarch, arrived on the scene to start a new sales network. The watches were a hit, Singapore grew into a booming financial hub, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, the bonds between country and brand is stronger than ever before. This much was clear inside the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel, which served as the base of operations for the Watch Art Exhibition. Inside, the venue’s 24,000-square-foot performance space was transformed into an extension of the watchmaker’s legendary museum and the grand salons of its Lake Geneva store. Important historical pieces were brought in from Switzerland; the accomplishments of scientists, metallurgists, and astronomers were proudly on display. There was even a live show presenting rare handcrafts, with master artisans practicing age-old crafts of enameling and engraving and marquetry. 

The Marina Bay Sands, site of the "Watch Art Grand Exhibition Singapore 2019."
The Marina Bay Sands, site of the “Watch Art Grand Exhibition Singapore 2019.”

In terms of programming, this resembled the previous events in London or New York. But the local flavor at this year’s Watch Art Exhibition was next-level. The entrance at Marina Bay Sands paid tribute to the spirit of Singapore, with hundreds of colorful paper flowers, called Majulah Singapura, installed for the occasion. (“Majulah Singapura” means “onwards Singapore,” the opening refrain of the national anthem.) Beautiful papercraft continued in the lobby windows, which were filled with artistic representations of birds and flowers. Also on display were new and rare pieces from the Patek Philippe Museum collection, along with unique timepieces created for Southeast Asian collectors in the past. 

There were treats for the region’s current—and emerging—crop of brand aficionados as well. At the show, Patek unveiled a smattering of exclusive pieces, including six limited-edition watches created specially for Singapore. (Among them: Ref.5930G-011, a red-dial Worldtime Chronograph; Ref.5167A-012, a steel Aquanaut with bold red coloring; Ref.5067A-027, a red Aquanaut Luce with a diamond bezel; and Ref.7234A-001, a stunning blue Calatrava Pilot World Time.) More exclusive debuts, which ranged from dome table clocks to pocket watches and chronographs, offered a selection of rare handcrafts inspired by cultural and artistic expressions of Southeast Asia. 

The Patek Philippe Ref. 5303 Minute Repeater Tourbillon, a world premiere Singapore 2019 Special Edition
A limited-edition of twelve pieces, Patek Philippe Ref. 5303 Minute Repeater Tourbillon, a world premiere Singapore 2019 Special Edition.

But in terms of high-watchmaking, the new Minute Repeater Ref. 5303R-010 managed to steal the show. Limited to a total of 12 pieces, this grand complication debuted an exceptional manually wound caliber; it displays the gong hammers on the dial side, exposing the entire repeater mechanism and tourbillon. The rose gold case and matching gilded baseplate are contrasted by a minute track running along the exterior, and a black leather strap with matching red stitching.

Predictably, all of these new designs kicked off a frenzy, with collectors and enthusiasts flying in from all points of the globe. But the ultra-desirable pieces (including the #trending red Aquanaut) were available exclusively to the residents of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Which is to say: Best of luck getting your hands on any of them.

Still, western collectors—and, really, anybody who cares about craftsmanship, design, or horology—could appreciate the Watch Art Exhibition. Patek’s history and products offer a unique perspective on humanity’s creative pursuits, and a small company that’s spent centuries honing its trade. Amid the monuments to that pursuit, the brand’s current patriarch, Thierry Stern, paused to reflect on the Patek Philippe magic. 

The steel Aquanaut in red, Patek Philippe Ref. 5167
The steel Aquanaut in red, Patek Philippe Ref. 5167, symbolizing good fortune (especially for the lucky 500 able to get their hands on one).

“It’s a family taking care of the business,” he said. “I have two people who know how to design. So we talk. Knowing them so well, and them knowing me so well, the image appears in front of us. After all these years, you simply know how to do it.”

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