How are watch brands leveraging NFTs and the metaverse?

How are watch brands leveraging NFTs and the metaverse? Vacheron Constantin uses blockchain technology to prove authenticity while Panerai enhances the retail experience with Web3

  • At Watches and Wonders 2022 in Geneva, IWC Schaffhausen CEO Chris Grainger-Herr spoke about how blockchain helps watch owners feel like they are part of a brand’s history
  • Hublot successfully launched two artwork NFTs by Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami while Panerai released a set to go with its limited edition watches

Early attempts by watch brands to enter the world of NFTs generally got off to a shaky start. The very first watch NFT – a digital photograph of the prototype of Hublot’s Bigger Bang All Black Tourbillon Chronograph – didn’t meet its reserve price, and the second – a three-dimensional animation of Jacob & Co.’s Epic SF24 – had to be restarted two days later after the initial auction process crashed.

But those first forays in March and April 2021 into blockchain and the metaverse are distant memories now. Since then, several luxury watch brands have successfully launched their own metaverse and NFT creations. Panerai released a set of NFTs to go with its limited edition (50 pieces) Radiomir Eilean Experience Edition, which authenticate ownership and offer access to a digital world of Italian-themed experiences and artwork. Hublot launched two artwork NFTs by Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami to go with the watches the two launched together in early 2021: the Hublot Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black and the Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami Sapphire Rainbow. These NFTs were made free to existing owners of the watches, who could then trade them on the open market.

For Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué, the pandemic-struck last two years gave him and his team a chance to think and to re-evaluate. Their new retail store in Geneva reinterprets the retail experience with huge video screens and the ability to handle watches, and it was a similar experientially-focused mindset that encouraged their NFT creations. “It’s about enriching and surprising our communities,” he said. “It’s a digital passport for your watches, a way to personalise the relationship with our customers and give them regular information about events and products in a dedicated spot.”

Of course, there is value in NFTs beyond a handy digital information space, and even beyond your sandbox avatar wearing a digital watch. Vacheron Constantin was one of the early brands to use blockchain technology to combat fraud in the physical world in 2019. The watches in its Les Collectionneurs collection came with a forgery-proof digital certificate of authenticity which has now been extended to all its timepieces. And for an industry whose customers don’t always keep their purchases themselves but give them as gifts, NFTs and promises of superior service through an NFT or metaverse experience can be a way to connect with those end users.

“Blockchain gives the ability to have that full experience of the brand, to be registered as the new owner, be part of its history, and to have the same service experience as a brand new owner. This really upgrades how the life cycle is seen,” said Chris Grainger-Herr, CEO at IWC Schaffhausen, at a panel at Watches And Wonders 2022 on digital technologies.

Blockchain gives the ability to have that full experience of the brand … be part of its historyChris Grainger-Herr, CEO at IWC Schaffhausen

You only have to observe the kinds of companies emerging in parallel to understand that this is no fad. Companies like Arianee promise to help luxury brands create, distribute and leverage their NFT assets, and has done so for several brands to date, while non-profits like Aura – established by LVMH, Prada Group, Cartier, part of Richemont and OTB Group – have been set up to help luxury brands communicate their authenticity, responsible sourcing and sustainability efforts.

Indeed, while some doubt the ability of Web3 to improve on that personal connection with consumers – luxury is a relationship business in many regards after all – few doubt its ability to provide some much-needed transparency.

“Brands react to consumers and the younger generation is very concerned about sustainability and environmental factors,” said Edouard Meylan, CEO at H. Moser & Cie. “And the metaverse is a way to be better and faster and have an optimised supply chain, and transparent sourcing, not only the consumer experience. It’s less about growing the top line and more about developing trust.”

Published By : Style

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