This Jacob & Co. X ‘La Aurora 1903’ Collab Blends Luxury Watches & Fine Cigars

Time for a smoke.

(Jacob & Co./La Aurora)

Fine watches and premium cigars are beloved by the prosperous, which seems to be all that these items have in common. Some may have been puzzled, then, by the announcement of a partnership between upscale watchmaker Jacob & Co. and premier Dominican cigar manufacturer La Aurora—a partnership that was minted in January 2024 with the release of the Epic X “La Aurora 1903” capsule seen here. But upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that these two brands were forged under similarly trying circumstances.

Today, acquisition of one of Jacob & Co.’s proudly ostentatious timepieces is practically a rite of passage for well-heeled celebrities and serious collectors alike. But the brand’s masterminding founder, Jacob Arabo, had the odds stacked against him when he emigrated from Soviet Uzbekistan as a teenager and set up shop in New York City’s Diamond District shortly thereafter.

“I opened a store when I was 21 years old, in 1986. I displayed these designs in the showcase, which made people think I was crazy,” Arabo told Highsnobiety. “They would say, ‘You can’t make money on these things. It’s nice to look at, but the bread and butter is engagement rings and wedding bands.’ There were another 25 jewelers around me, basically laughing at me. And then the celebrities started coming in.”

(Jacob & Co./La Aurora)

Arabo’s penchant for designing the blingiest of bling made him a sensation in the hip-hop community in the 2000s, with his “Jacob the Jeweler” moniker being mentioned in a remarkable number of tracks from A-list artists like Kanye “Ye” West, Jay-Z, Ice Cube and Nas. But Arabo didn’t just want to be “Jacob the Jeweler;” he wanted to establish the heritage watch brand that Jacob & Co. is today.

“It was difficult to try to break into the Swiss watchmaking community at first. They’re a very small industry and they don’t accept strangers easily,” Arabo continued. “You have to really prove yourself, and they either have to love you or your designs. They don’t really care about the money, but it worked for me. It took me time to earn their respect, and I did.”

There’s no shortage of strife and perseverance in La Aurora’s story, either. Third-generation tobacco grower Eduardo León Jimenes founded the label in 1903 with dreams of global distribution and acclaim, according to stogie wholesaler JR Cigars. With a humble team of six cigar rollers and a donkey to haul tobacco, Jimenes had breakthrough success early as La Aurora’s tapered, perfecto-shaped Preferido cigars gained popularity throughout the Dominican Republic, necessitating the movement of production to Santiago de los Caballeros, the country’s second-largest city.

(Jacob & Co./La Aurora)

But in 1930, notoriously brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo began a 31-year-long reign, which brought with it taxes, regulations, trade bans and targeted laws that hampered the growth of the country’s tobacco business. During this period, Jimenes also died, and the torch was passed to his son, Fernando León Asensio, who not only kept La Aurora alive and well under Trujillo’s despotic regime but spearheaded the brand’s growth after the tyrant’s fall. Experiments in growing Dominican wrapper tobacco were conducted under Asensio’s leadership, and the results were used to create revered products, including a centenary-celebrating La Aurora 100 Años cigar that was named the Dominican Republic’s best cigar by “Cigar Aficionado” in 2004.

Today, Jimenes’s grandson and Asensio’s son, Guillermo León Herbert, helms La Aurora. With products available in 90 countries across five continents and a stellar reputation for quality, Jimenes’s global vision has been fully realized under Herbert’s headship. That’s exactly what the Jacob & Co. Epic X “La Aurora 1903” is celebrating—the fruition of dreams despite long odds.

“This brand collaboration has developed naturally from the origin stories of both brands,” Herbert says of the partnership. “Both brands started with modest beginnings, but through perseverance, expertise, creativity and integrity, we have sought to change the way the world interacts with seemingly common products and turn them into luxury goods. We’re excited about the incredible product that we’re creating together.”

(Jacob & Co./La Aurora)

Limited to 10 examples priced at $48,000 each, the capsule is headlined by a La Aurora–ized Epic X watch, featuring an 18K rose gold and stainless-steel 44mm case, a manually wound JCAM45 caliber movement and a skeletonized dial replete with La Aurora branding. The most eye-catching details are the company’s name, its majestic lion logo at 12 o’clock and a glistening relief of a perfecto cigar.

Completing the capsule is a humidor filled with 10 La Aurora 120 Anniversary Limited Editions, a full Dominican puro blend wrapped in a beautiful Habana 92 seed leaf and shaped as a No. 1 perfecto, Jimenes’s favorite format. The exclusive cigars were unveiled on October 3, 2023—the exact date that Jimenes founded La Aurora back in 1903. Maxim has learned that only three of the Epic X “La Aurora 1903” capsules remain at various Jacob & Co. boutiques, so if you’re interested, there’s no time like the present.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Maxim magazine.