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Review: High Stakes – The Jacob & Co. Astronomia Casino

by Frank Chuo on October 2, 2019

Jacob & Co. Astronomia Casino

Jacob & Co. was a brand predominantly known for its high jewellery and jewellery watches. This was the prevailing notion until Baselworld 2014, when the company launched the Astronomia Tourbillon timepiece. While the Astronomia Tourbillon wasn’t Jacob & Co.’s first complicated watch, it certainly was – at the time – the brand’s most spectacular, design-wise. It took the world by storm with its exhibitionist nature and complex, original movement. Since then, dozens of creative variations have been introduced – each more bombastic than before – and the watch continues to be a talking point in every watch show that it has appeared in. In this year’s Baselworld, yet another addition to the burgeoning Astronomia family was presented, and this one is perhaps the most inventive one yet. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the roulette-themed Astronomia Casino.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The Astronomia Casino comes in the standard Astronomia case, which is reminiscent of an aquarium. Of note is how the case band is a continuous piece of sapphire crystal and how the lugs are skeletonised to enable this design. Naturally, with a movement and displays so stunning, you’d want maximum visibility of what’s within the case. And what’s within the case is massive by watchmaking standards. So much so that the rose gold case is crafted to be 47 mm in diameter and 27.9 mm (no, that’s not a typo) in height. At these measurements, the Astronomia Casino is clearly not meant – or able – to be hidden under a sleeve. And wearing the watch demands heightened caution lest it be caught by a ledge at full force. The only thing that really saves the watch from being completely unwieldy on the wrist is it’s sharply down-turned, short lugs. What we’ve always liked about the Astronomia case is its lack of a crown, which would have knocked the balance of the watch off-kilter. Instead, the winding and setting of the Astronomia is done via two keys on the solid case back.

The case is designed like a showcase to provide maximum visibility of the movement and displays.

But as impressive as the case is, what’s inside it is even more mind-blowing. Full credit goes to the designer(s) of the Astronomia Casino for noticing how the four-armed movement of the Astronomia fits the roulette wheel theme. A gorgeously crafted spoked turret in rose gold is placed onto the centre of the movement which, by itself, already looks like a turret with a four pronged spoke. As such, the centrepiece does become somewhat redundant. In fact, doing without it would’ve noticeably reduced the height of the watch significantly.

The Astronomia Casino’s roulette wheel, rendered in a spectacular array of green, red, and black enamel with mahogany inlays, is set in motion by a button at 8 o’clock (which also winds the movement).

On each of the four arms of the movement are the signature Astronomia displays: a 1 carat, 288-facet diamond, a magnesium lacquered globe, an hours and minutes sub-dial, and of course, the bi-axial flying tourbillon. Underneath the arms is the roulette wheel complication. Also crafted in rose gold, the roulette wheel can be spun at the press of the pusher located at 8 o’clock on the case. The ceramic ball will then be sent frolicking before eventually landing into one of numerous coloured and numbered pockets. These pockets are rendered in green, black or red enamel.

The Movement

Driving the Astronomia Casino is the in-house manufactured, manually wound Calibre JCAM29A. The 395-part, 42-jewel movement measures 41.40 mm in diameter and 20.50 mm in thickness. It boasts a respectable 60 hours of power reserve in spite of a power hungry movement, and operates at a stately 3 Hz beat rate. The Astronomia Casino has a solid case back, so the movement can’t be seen through it. Fortunately, most of the calibre can be seen through the front, and evidently, it is gorgeously finished. The plates, bridges, and tourbillon cage are adorned with polished bevels, the wheels feature circular graining, and the screws are polished along with a host of other decorative techniques applied on parts seen or unseen.

Two keys for winding and time-setting respectively can be found on the solid case back.

The Competitive Landscape

Like the watch or not, the truth remains that Astronomia Casino is a truly unique timepiece born of sublime creativity and craftsmanship. Outside of the Astronomia circle, there is nothing quite like it. It is the ultimate form of opulence in watchmaking, and its pricing reflects that notion. Limited to only 18 pieces, the Astronomia Casino retails at an eye-watering USD620,000.

The Astronomia Casino sticks out like a sore thumb on the wrist, like a miniaturised monument.

Now, while the concept of the Astronomia timepiece is extremely distinct, the watch isn’t the only one with an “out-of-this-world” design and execution. Take for instance, the avant-garde Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision. While the Freak Vision isn’t nearly as flashy as the Astronomia Casino, it is jam-packed with industry-leading innovations. Time on the Freak Vision is still indicated the Freak way, that is by the baguette movement itself, a “flying carrousel” rotating around its own axis. What’s new is its super-light silicium balance wheel with nickel mass elements and stabilizing micro-blades, and the Grinder automatic winding system, which completely revolutionizes energy transmission, surpassing existing systems for efficiency by a factor of two. The Freak Vision is priced at CHF95,000, which is a lot of money but is also a fair price for a watch that is on the cutting edge of mechanical watchmaking technology. It is also costs six times less than the Astronomia Casino, making it perfect for the value-hunting connoisseur who doesn’t necessarily want all the attention but craves an unorthodox, ultra-modern timepiece.

The Freak Vision’s only function is time-telling but its true value lies in its space age construction and design.

For the collector that wants something less modest than the Freak and with pragmatic complications, the Greubel Forsey GMT Earth is in line for prime consideration. There is so much going on for it that we have to defer you to our original article on it here. But to summarise, apart from the time, the watch has a power reserve, GMT and world time function. It also features a 24-second tourbillon that is inclined at a 25 degree angle. All that said, our favourite part of the GMT Earth remains the three-dimensional titanium globe, which makes a full rotation once a day. Its beauty can be fully admired thanks to the shaped sapphire crystal window on the side, bezel, and case back. Greubel Forsey timepieces effectively sit on top of the food chain when it comes to finissage, and this holds true for the GMT Earth as well. Of the three timepieces featured here, the GMT Earth has the highest level of finishing. Limited to only 33 pieces, it is priced virtually identically to the Astronomia Casino, at CHF610,000.

The tourbillon in the GMT Earth is inclined at 25 degrees and completes a rotation in just 24 seconds. The cage is made of titanium, while the bridge is black polished steel.

Final Thoughts

Ever wished you could own a fully operational, miniature roulette wheel that doubles as a timepiece? Well, now you can with the Astronomia Casino. The watch, with its crazy aesthetics, design, and size, is sure to attract detractors. But one thing that nobody can take away from the Astronomia Casino is the fact that it is a thoroughly fun watch. That, and the level of craftsmanship poured into making the watch a reality.

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