The evolution of Jay-Z’s watch collection: 99 problems but a bare wrist ain’t one The evolution of Jay-Z’s watch collection: 99 problems but a bare wrist ain’t one

The evolution of Jay-Z’s watch collection: 99 problems but a bare wrist ain’t one

Ricardo Sime

Most of us have a dream of making it big. Even when such heights seem impossible, seeing that achievement in others provides the extra boost you need to keep striving for your own goals. Which is how I felt watching Jay-Z get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I happily watched his acceptance speech, thinking about all the things I’ve yet to accomplish. But alas, my thoughts were interrupted by that horological voice in my head: What is that watch he’s wearing? That voice has interrupted many a movie, and now Hall of Fame Induction Speech can be added to the list. Thus started my journey into exploring the evolution of Jay-Z’s watch collection.

Reasonable Doubt (1996)

(Photographer Jonathan Mannion)

The Brooklynite hits the industry with a thunderous opening. Hits like Can’t Knock the Hustle and Dead Presidents II let you know a star has arrived on the scene. And should you question that, the diamond-encrusted Rolex Day-Date seen above during the album’s cover photoshoot is a constant reminder. It’s a watch we’ll see again on the cover of his next album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1.

The Blueprint (2001)

Jay-Z wearing a Franck Muller during photoshoot
(Photographer – Jonathan Mannion)

Jay-Z drops the first in what many consider the greatest rap trilogy of all time. He’s now a little wiser and a little older, boldly staking his claim as fellow rappers are lined up to come for his throne. His watch choice for this assignment? Franck Muller. Wildly popular at the time, with their recognizable Tourneau shape, this piece marked a transition point for Jay-Z. This is where his watch choices started to tone down. Less flashy and more refined.

The Black Album (2003)

Jay-Z signing sneakers while wearing a Jacob & Co Five Time Zone
(Image via Reebok)

Oops. Did I say less flashy? Well, that’s a difficult thing to accomplish when you become buddy buddy with Jacob Arabo. A man the rap universe knew as Jacob “The Jeweler”. A man the horological universe knows as Jacob & Co. As Jay-Z scared fans with the announcement of retirement, while releasing an amazing swan-song album to boot, he was caught wearing many of Jacob & Co’s pieces. This includes the diamond-encrusted Five Time Zone pictured above.

American Gangster (2007)

Jay-Z wearing an AP Tourbillon
(Martin Schoeller – Jay-Z with cat)

The soundtrack to a movie that wasn’t the soundtrack to the movie but should have been.

Clearly retirement didn’t suit Jay-Z as he released two albums in short order, with the critically acclaimed American Gangster delving deep into his time as a hustler on the streets. At the same time, we saw him slowly transition away from the baggy apparel of his early years to more suits and tailored clothing. He also grew an affinity for Audemars Piquet watches, like the one he is wearing above. It’s the Audemars Piguet Platinum Jules Minute Repeater Audemars Tourbillon.

Watch The Throne (2011)

Jay-Z wearing a Hublot during Otis music video
Watch The Throne – Otis (Music Video)

Jay-Z’s watch story continues with this collaborative album made with long-time producer and friend Kanye West. One of the highlights of this effort was the music video for single Otis, where both men wreak havoc to a Maybach 57. Throughout the video, a Hublot Classic Fusion can be seen on his wrist. This choice makes sense as during those years the brand had reached an amazing level of success under the reigns of Jean-Claude Biver.

4:44 (2017)

Jay-Z wearing a Patek at Grammy Awards
59th Annual Grammy Music Award

What do you do when you’re an artist and your creativity wakes you up in the middle of the night? Well, you record a song and name it after the time you woke up.

When Jay released 4:44, it was perhaps one of his most introspective and soul-baring albums created to date. Marriage. Adultery. Fatherhood. Nothing was too private to rap about. During this trying and complicated time, it seems Jay-Z found comfort in a complicated brand; Patek Philippe. He can be seen here sporting their beautiful Sky Moon Celestial Ref. 6102P.

Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Induction

Jay-Z Wearing a JLC Reverso at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction
(Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

Throughout the years, Jay-Z has been spotted wearing multiple brands and references; many more than I listed today. It reads like a who’s who of some of the biggest names in horology, with his success affording him the opportunity to own some pretty amazing timepieces. That success is something I admire and listening to his speech, it definitely wasn’t easy to come by (like some of the unobtanium watches we lust after today). But what was most telling about Jay-Z’s watch story as well as his music, is that he constantly experimented, trying to find what he liked and didn’t liked. That is something many of us can relate to.


Oh yeah. Have to answer that voice my head. The watch in question was a beautiful Jaeger-LeCoultre Grand Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931 with an engraving of Carnegie Hall on the back. This harkens to the fact that he is one of only two hip-hop acts to perform at the venue, truly one of the defining moments of his career.