Let me start with a simple statement: the Jacob & Co. Oil Pump watch is NOT the tackiest watch big money can buy. Richard Mille sells some hideously expensive (and plain hideous) day-glow and diamond encrusted timepieces.They make the Oil Pump seem like a two-hand Patek Philippe Calatrava. In fact, I’d place the Oil Pump into an entirely different category: kitsch. Wikipedia defines the term thus:
Kitsch (/kɪtʃ/ KITCH; loanword from German) is art or other objects that, generally speaking, appeal to popular rather than “high art” tastes. Such objects are sometimes appreciated in a knowingly ironic or humorous way.
According to Walter Benjamin, kitsch is, unlike art, a utilitarian object lacking all critical distance between object and observer; it “offers instantaneous emotional gratification without intellectual effort, without the requirement of distance, without sublimation”.
Setting aside the Jacob & Co. Oil Pump’s extreme craftsmanship, the watch is what it is. It’s literal to the max, perfectly imitating an oil pump pumping oil. It’s a mesmerizing process, both in the field and on a wrist. And it’s the defining technology of the industrial revolution. What’s not to love?
I’d like the Oil Pump to operate continuously, to give the impression that its movement provides the watch’s mechanical motivation. Which it doesn’t; power limitations require push activation pumping. I’d also like to see this watch in a quartz version (shock! horror!), so that oil workers – rather than their tax-deducting overlords – could afford one.
Never mind. If I were an oil man, a very rich oil man, I’d have to have the $350k Jacob & Co. Oil Pumpon my wrist. As it is, it’s an amusement. A very expensive amusement. But sometimes those are the best kind.
Props to Jacob & Co. for pushing the envelope – in terms of watches that make no sense to anyone who doesn’t want to flaunt their wealth. Although the CALIGULA Tourbillon Baguette (above) needs a little more, um, explanation. “As is the tradition with Caligula timepieces, an erotic scene reveals itself as time passes.” C’mon guys! Since when have you been so shy and retiring?