It’s 5:30 pm, August 30th. We meet Benjamin Arabov in the upper floor of the Jacob & Co boutique in Rue du Rhône, Geneva. The city (and the store) is filled with people from all over the world – eager to see what their favorite luxury watch brands are about to present during Geneva Watch Days 2023.
Chrono24: Benjamin, you joined the family business when you were 19 years old but eventually vented to gain experience and carve your own path first. For three years, you have been the CEO of Jacob & Co., stepping into your father’s footsteps and carrying on his legacy. How was this time for you so far?
Benjamin: How has it been so far? (Benjamin laughs) It’s been very exciting. When I joined the business, I knew the potential that it had and I took it – the responsibility – upon myself to make sure to reach that full potential. Even after these years I think that right now we are at 20 percent of our full potential with a lot more room to grow.
Since I joined we made a lot of progress with expanding our global footprint, opening stores all around the world. This year we opened up in Saudi Arabia, we are opening up Mumbai next month, Hong Kong in November. We opened up in Turkey, we reopened our Dubai store. Next year we plan to expand to other physical locations. So… yeah it’s been exciting.
Chrono24: Have there been some learnings regarding the industry, the brand or yourself that marked your three years in this position?
Benjamin: Yeah absolutely. I came from the digital marketing industry. This industry and this whole market were new to me. So first, I had to learn the in’s and out’s. I had to understand how things are done: the timing of things, when products are launched, how to communicate certain things. And with time I began to understand.
Chrono24: Was it necessary to change some things or finetune to fit your leading style better?
Benjamin: Yeah, we had to change the inner organization to learn how to grow at the scale we wanted to. We did that the last couple of years. We had to change our whole operational structure: hire more people, put processes in place as well as processes in protocols for things to run smooth, consistent and to allow us to grow. Those processes and protocols were not in place before. It was constant back and forth between leadership and the team regarding the direction, next steps and all that. That why when I came to the business I wanted to know everything that was going on in order to start fixing problems. one by one, to help the team to move together and us to grow the business.
Chrono24: Probably a lot of marketing as well, since you came from that area.
Benjamin: Oh yes. We doubled or tripled our marketing and within that most of our advertising is focused on digital marketing. This is where we see the highest opportunity and this is where we see the most instant results. I come from an analytical background and I think, if we invest in digital marketing to receive data we analyze that to figure out best what the next steps are.
Chrono24: Speaking of change: Looking at the industry, we see more and more young faces amongst the leaders and executives of various brands. Take Frédéric and Jean Arnault, Pierre Biver, or yourself as an example. Eventually, young mindsets, new technologies and digital media, will affect the otherwise traditional luxury watch industry. Do you think this revitalization of the watch industry was needed?
Benjamin: I think the youth is exciting – for the young players as well. It has been a traditionally shaped industry, but it is good to see some youth in the industry. And I think with the youth it allows the industry to think outside the box – a little bit outside of the traditional way of doing things. And we are seeing some great innovators with people like Biver, the Arnaults and a few others. I am happy to work alongside them and continue building this industry. Because if nobody does it the just industry dies out. (Benjamin laughs)
Chrono24: Some changes are indeed visible. It seems like the watch industry is getting younger and, thus, more agile. We see this in Omega’s successful collaboration with Swatch, creating a hype around the MoonSwatch or Tissot with their PRX collection.
There is a desire among the young generation to invest in exquisite timepieces. However, Jacob & Co. watches are in a different price segment. What are the plans to connect Jacob & Co. to the Gen Y and Z crowd? Especially considering the shifting landscape and the fresh perspectives within the industry.
Benjamin: When I joined, one of the first things I did was implement a strategy for TikTok. And just yesterday we reached 1 billion views on our account since the time we started. And it’s funny because I have meetings with the sales team or our retail partners and they always tell me that there are so many times that the kids are dragging their fathers to the stores and telling them about Jacob & Co. They are 12, 13, 14 year old kids, but they taking their parents there and tell them to get this this or that watch and so on.
It is so exciting to see and it also shows the power of executing a good strategy on TikTok. Because the TikTok platform – that’s the youth. I know a lot of brands don’t focus on TikTok, because the demographics is so low. But the way we see it is that: A) They could potentially bring their parents and B) I am betting that in 10 years they will have the brand so ingrained in them that when they make their own money they are going to purchase something. This is what I am looking forward to see, how further it develops.
Chrono24: Yes, to approach or speak to young audiences, you must understand their interests, like pop culture, fashion, or sports. And when it comes to sports, you have the most iconic soccer player of our ages joining forces with you to create the CR7 line. Cristiano Ronaldo and your father go way back, don’t they? And last year, they announced their collaboration. For the company, this must have been an exciting move. Wasn’t it?
Benjamin: Yes, they know each other about 20 years. And it was very exciting. It was interesting to see what happens when you do a post on Instagram with somebody who has 600 million followers.
Chrono24: And Cristiano is a true watch enthusiast. We know this because he happens to be an investor in Chrono24. CEO Tim met him in Lisbon in July and organizing this meeting was quite a project as Cristiano is extremely busy even in the off-season.
Since you guys do not exactly live in one place – not even the same continent – I believe there must have been tricky sometimes. You all have probably quite a lot on your plates. How did you make it work?
Benjamin: Jacob has a personal relationship with him for 20 years. So, I think they saw each other somewhere. They were just talking and Jacob was like: “We should do a watch together.” And that’s how the idea was born. Then they went back and forth to design it together and he enjoyed that.
Chrono24: Towards the end I would like to circle back to what we talked about before: You are carrying your father’s legacy. It is pretty fitting that you incorporated this into the novelty you present during these days. You went back to the watch that started it all. This Dual Time Zone watch is a tribute to your family’s heirloom and it was inspired by the watch your father received at the age of 13. According to your dad, this sparkled his idea to get into watches one day. Did you have a similar moment when you were around this age?
Benjamin: (Benjamin laughs). No, not really.
Chrono24: But to get into marketing maybe?
Benjamin: Yeah. I was always good and interested in sales. What I did not like – and still don’t like about it – is this face-to-face or the traditional way of doing sales. I don’t like doing it, personally. So I sat down thinking: “Okay, when I like doing sales and I am good at it. How can I scale that by sitting behind a computer? Because this I enjoy.” Then I did some research and came up with the idea to learn how to do digital advertising. Then it was just a matter of being the absolute expert in that. Once you are an expert in that, you can advertise any product you want by coming up with the right strategy. So that’s what I did.
What this industry is giving me is the opportunity to express the creative side of my brain. Whereas digital marketing is all about being analytical – it is all about data. With the job that I am doing now, I am still analytical, but it also contains design and creative elements. And I like it very much.
Chrono24: Talking about the novelty. You decided to name it “The World is Yours”. What’s the meaning behind it?
|The timepiece has a double time zone with independent hours and minutes, central small seconds and a power reserve of 42 hours. The case measures a diameter of 43 mm, it is 14 mm thick and consists out of 18K rose gold. On the blue lacquered dial we see stamped continents – one half of the globe, the other half is on the case back – with a rose gold finish. There is a compass in the center and rose gold plated hands are moving. This watch is limited to 999 pieces.
Benjamin: The meaning behind it is that no matter where you start in life. Even from absolute zero – like Jacob did – if you put your mind to it, your determination, if you are persistent and you execute, anything is possible.
The world is yours if you want it to be.
Chrono24: So, this is clearly an homage to your father’s humble beginnings, but also his and your grandfathers relationship. Given the fact that this watch represents the generations of your family. Where do you see yourself in this watch?
Benjamin: That’s a good question (Benjamin laughs). I feel a sense of responsibility to continue that story and that legacy. That’s the burden on my shoulders.
Chrono24: But as you said, if you put your mind to it and if you are determined you can achieve anything. And I am positive that you will succeed.
Thank you for your time.