Last week, I was supposed to be in Sicily for the unveiling a very unusual timepiece: the Jacob & Co. Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary Watch. When the movie, The Godfather, made its debut in 1972, it was met with critical acclaim. The famous film, which holds high ranks in “best movies ever” listings, had a largely B-grade cast and most thought the film would be a flop. It turned into an epic trilogy that impacted culture and changed cinema, particularly the portrayal of brutal events and Italian families. Now celebrating the 50th anniversary of a masterful movie, Jacob & Co. joins forces yet again with Paramount Pictures to release the half-million-dollar Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary watch.
The watch, its incredible packaging and even a writing instrument, deftly recall the famed movie in an almost scene-by-scene reality. In the movie, Marlon Bando masterfully portrayed Don Vito Corleone (although he declined acceptance of the Oscar he was rewarded for his role). The young director, Frances Ford Coppola, didn’t have the larger-than-life reputation he now has and turned to actors and actresses of the time who were not so well known: Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton — all of whom went on to A-grade stardom. The Godfather went on to win three Oscars and five Golden Globes.
“The Godfather is not just a great movie because of the way it was shot and directed, it also contains some of the greatest scenes and dialogue in movie history,” says Benjamin Arabov, CEO of the family-owned Jacob & Co.
The Jacob & Co. Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary watch blends horology, cinema and history in a celebration that would make even the large Italian families of the movie envious. The launch of the watch took place in Sicily, high on the mountains of Taormina, with guests exploring the area, churches and streets where scenes were shot during the filming of the original Godfather movie.
While this is not the first Godfather watch Jacob & Co. has made (the Opera Godfather Minute Repeater was the first), it is the most elaborate in terms of craftsmanship, artistic prowess and high horology. The watch boasts a triple-axis flying tourbillon that is constantly in motion, as well as a music box complication (complete with combs and barrels) that, when activated, plays the main theme music from The Godfather. As the music plays, the entire movement spins.
Created in a limited edition of just 50 pieces, the symbolic watch incorporates 13 scenes from the movie in chronological order corresponding to the film – all laser-etched onto the white gold case. The laser engraving, done in increments of billionth-of-a-second blasts and a quadrillionth of a second blast, creates images so precise that it offers depth, texture and uncanny reality. Easily one of the most important images is of Don Vito Corleone at 6:00 on the case side.
The story telling of this movie doesn’t end with phrases, music and precision etching. It continues in the three-dimensional mechanical movement, Caliber JCFM04, inside and rising up into the domed crystal – just like a play acted out on stage. The highly complicated caliber consists of 634 individual parts. Additionally, artistic elements include the Godfather’s signature red rose, which he wore on his lapel at his daughter’s wedding, that sits between the two tiny solid gold music barrels. Each barrel is engraved with quotes from the movie that are still iconic today, half a century later. In total, there are 13 famous quotes, including, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
Covering the music blades are specially created shapes: a piano that boasts an image of Don Corleone, and the puppeteer’s strings that were originally found on the novel by Mario Puzo and later became an important part of the original movie poster.
The 49mm Opera Godfather 50th Anniversary watch, with its cinematic tale of culture and cult, was first conceived of in June of 2021 as the Jacob & Co. father-and-son duo worked to find a proper tribute to the movie’s 50th anniversary. Each $500,000 watch is sold in a specially made wood box lined with red velvet. The box also contains a crystal whiskey decanter with an image of Marlon Brando and The Godfather logo on it, and a specially made The Godfather writing instrument – a black celluloid fountain pen with a rose in red and green enamel.
According to Jacob & Co. founder, Jacob Arabo, creating The Godfather watches has been a highly personal journey. “When I first came to the USA from Uzbekistan in 1979, I was 14 years old, didn’t speak the language and my family didn’t have a penny to its name,” says Jacob Arabo. “So, we went to work really hard. It took me two years to earn the time and money to go to the movies. The Godfather was being released again; it was the first movie I saw in a theater.”
He recalls the impact the phrase “I believe in America” (spoken by an undertaker who asks The Godfather for a favor) had on him after escaping with his family from the Soviet Union. That phrase is also one of the 13 found on the watch.
(This article by Roberta Naas first appeared on her column on Forbes.com.)