Benjamin Arabov On His First Year as CEO of Jacob & Co. and The Future
Sitting down with the recently-appointed CEO of the most extroverted watchmaker
2022 is a meaningful date for Jacob & Co. as the brand founded by Jacob Arabo expanded its business to luxury watchmaking just 20 years ago. Since then, Jacob & Co. has come a long way, creating some of the most extroverted and mind-bogglingly complex watches. About a year ago, Benjamin Arabov, Jacob’s son, has been named CEO of the brand. The opening of their new boutique on the prestigious Rue du Rhône in Geneva was the perfect opportunity to interview him.
Xavier Markl, MONOCHROME – How was your first year as CEO of Jacob & Co?
Benjamin Arabov, CEO of Jacob & Co. – It’s been exciting. I come from a marketing and data background. When I started my business back in 2014, I was running a marketing agency for seven years where we focused on numbers and data. Working here allows me to use the creative side of my brain. It has helped me to realize how lucky I am that I inherited the creativity of my father. It also gives me the opportunity to work with my family. No business is easy, especially when you talk about family businesses, but over the course of the past year, my father and I have been able to find a working relationship that is effective and help grow the business. In 2021, we doubled our sales over the prior year, which was our best year. I was able to come in improve operations & expand our marketing efforts.
It has been great, but we still have a lot to overcome. Even with this progress, we have just grazed our possibilities. I would say we are working at 10 to 15 percent of our potential. So, there’s a lot more to go in terms of growth but we have set a very solid foundation to do this.
What is the split between watches and jewelry in your business?
The division is about 80% for watches and 20% for jewelry.
How do you interact with your father?
We basically split the business. I focus on marketing and operations, and he focuses on design and production. Over the past few months, I’ve been working with him, presenting my thoughts and opinions in terms of new products. His creative process is based on his gut, his feeling, his reactions to a design he is creating. It’s very emotion-driven which is positive and healthy for a creative designer. My creative approach is also emotional, but it also is more data-driven, trying to understand what consumers are interested in today, understanding the movements, the design, the size, and the retail price that is appropriate for a product. Adding these small components provides a more data-driven approach to how we design our products in the future. This is the best way for me to express how we work together planning products.
If we talk about marketing, what are your focuses?
Something that works well for us is digital exposure. We have a big focus on social media. We work hard on the type of content we are creating. For example, we create very ‘studio-focused’ content for our own pages, but when we distribute content to influencers we have a more organic approach, which allows them to be more interactive and responsive. In its simplest forms, we are talking about the wrist rolls and unboxing that you see on Instagram. These simple strategies work up about five to six times better than studio videos or images.
In the end, the more eyeballs we get with our content, the more inquiries we will get, the more we will grow. The other area of content is technical. We are working to further enter the conversation when it comes to movements, complications, and high watchmaking forums by explaining our timepieces in a very detailed and technical way to continue winning the respect of collectors.
You are also involved in a number of partnerships?
We love partnerships because it allows us to combine our creativity with those who are accomplished in other activities. And it allows us to reach new audiences. We love to partner with individuals or companies that are risk-takers. Those who basically believe our slogan ‘inspired by the impossible’. For instance, we have a partnership with Bugatti where we create hyper sports car-themed timepieces with the DNA of both of our companies. We have ‘The Godfather’ collection, which is a partnership with paramount. We were able to take the concept of the movie and interpret it with an integrated music box that plays the melody of the movie theme and combines it with a tourbillon.
We have the Batman partnership that is launching soon. It is a beauty; you’ll love it.
Talking about your distribution, how are your watches retailed today.
We have our five branded boutiques and about 70 retail partners around the world. We just moved our Geneva boutique to a beautiful two-story location. Our top markets are New York, Dubai, Geneva, and China.
We are going to launch eCommerce this quarter. First, it is going to be focused on jewelry and then we’ll sell watches. Our vision is to use eCommerce to sell watches that retail below USD 15,000.
How is this new boutique a milestone for the brand?
Geneva is an international hub and the epicenter of the watch industry. You might say it’s heaven for watch lovers. It is a huge accomplishment to not only open a boutique in Geneva but to do so in one of the most prestigious blocks on the Rue du Rhone. A huge percentage of our clients are international, and it allows them to go to Geneva to see our watches and jewels in person, try them on and really get the Jacob & Co. experience. We want them to have an experience they will never forget. Trying on watches they’ve never seen before and that are truly out of this world. Again, our slogan is ‘Inspired by the impossible’.
How do you deal with special orders? I suppose it is a significant part of your business?
It is not a significant part of our business; I would say amounts to about 10 to 15 percent of our business. It is interesting for us. I don’t think there are many brands that do the customization the way we do. We like giving people the opportunity to customize. But as we grow the company I don’t know if we’d like to exceed our current numbers. In terms of a long-term strategy, it is not a key component of ours. We don’t do it for everybody. We are selective. We do it for people who have been with us for a long time. It disrupts the supply chain; it takes a lot of time and resources.
What are the next challenges for Jacob and Co?
We have been creating watches for 20 years. Only 10 years ago, we started developing high complication watches. We developed groundbreaking complications and filed numerous patents for our innovative movements. We’ve been able to secure unprecedented partnerships with companies like Bugatti. The only way we were able to do this while gaining the respect of our peers is with a clear vision and stubborn execution. The biggest challenge for us is to continue to prove ourselves in the industry.
During this short time, we’ve proven that we are here to stay, and we work to continue this path for generations to come. There are companies that have been around for decades, even centuries, that haven’t produced the innovations we have. We’ve created an amazing platform and foundation to continue innovating and disrupting the watch industry. The challenge is that even if we are going at a speed that is uncommon in the industry, it does not mean we should not get the recognition.
Please select a few watches in your collection that you believe are the most extraordinary and that you wear daily.
The Chiron and the Godfather are two of my favorites. But daily, I often wear a very thin Palatial watch.
For more information, please visit jacobandco.com