Watches and NFTs, the new frontier for verifying authenticity?

October 1, 2022By Bonetto Cinturini

We are used to thinking about watches and timepieces as physical instruments of both monetary and sentimental value because of the complex mechanisms they hold and the unique distinctive traits and details of their crowns, dials, cases and straps made by hand or industrially.
Today, with the advent of the digital era, even watches do not seem to be exempt from the phenomena that are taking everything into the virtual age. For example, an emerging brand with NFT called Rødex has appeared, a brand that sells its watches on the OpenSea platform at prices that are high but competitive for the luxury timepiece market.

Those who are not familiar with NFTs, or who have touched the subject only partially or in passing, are probably tempted to give a relative weight to this situation. In reality, famous and confirmed sector brands like Bulgari and Breitling are beginning to focus on NFTs for their new creations and timepieces, even if under a demonstrative aspect rather than for authenticity and ownership purposes. The bond between NFTs and watches can therefore be seen under a technical and functional aspect, as better explained in this article.

NFTs and wrist watches: what does the future hold?

Various brands are investing in this technology. Czapek, a famous wrist watch producer, declared through its CEO Xavier de Roquemaurel that the company will begin investing in not just classic but also digital certificates, so as to be perfectly in line with current times. Today, this practice is opposed because people who buy watches are still more trustful of products with a certificate of origin in the box. These watches cost more, however, in part because of the higher production and fabrication costs of the paper, and naturally also the environmental impact. Mr. de Roquemaurel also said that as that the purpose of a certificate of authenticity is to guarantee timepiece ownership and origin, there is no difference between a paper version and a digital version. 

NFT stands for Non Fungible Token, more simply a unique digital identifier that cannot be copied, substituted, or subdivided. As a result, every NFT is unique. The company Czapek, through its computer directors, said that NFTs are safe because each one is saved on a blockchain and cannot deteriorate, be counterfeited or reproduced. An NFT can only be exchanged. In substance, collectors would find it easier to recognise wrist watches, in particular those of a certain value and price, with an NFT certificate of authentication, and those same watches could then be sold without the risk of losing part of their value.

Are NFTs and blockchains safer than safety deposit boxes for watches?

Those who are not technology experts are probably wondering what a blockchain is and why it is needed in order to ratify the certificate of ownership of a watch. In substance (and without being too technical), a blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions in which the NFTs are recorded, making them valid and authenticated. The data saved on a blockchain can be distributed to multiple users, and as such certain and verifiable.

According to Mathew Chittazhathu from the Czapek computer department, NTF digital certificates have various advantages for protecting the most precious and luxurious watches.
First of all, each transaction recorded in a blockchain cannot be mutated, so if it is the certificate of ownership of a timepiece, nobody can lie about being the owner.
Secondly, each NFT has a complete list of transactions that fully document the various previous owners. All this evidently and clearly prevents any type of forgery. No datum on the blockchain can be falsified.
As such, brands are investing in NFT watches to guarantee that purchasers have maximum protection. In this manner, each timepiece can maintain its unaltered and certifiable value much more surely than with a paper certificate, which is easier to falsify and less accountable because of loss or deterioration.

Panerai and NFT watches

The Italian brand Panerai – even though belonging to the Swiss company Richemont – has also decided to use NFT as a way to expand its horizons and business possibilities. In particular, Panerai will soon launch the new Radiomir Eilean Experience Edition: it is a steel timepiece with special decorations – launched in a limited series of just 50 pieces – that will be delivered together with a digital portfolio that holds an NFT created by an artist whose identity is still unknown but whose pedigree regarding NFT works of art is famous.

Panerai’s initiative is not unexpected, however. In reality, the approach towards mechanisms that have increased the value of its watches, rendering them more digital and as such more modern, had already started in 2019 with the launch of some virtual experiences, which could not follow their natural path because of the pandemic. The Radiomir Eilean Experience watch is the company’s true step towards web3.
Those who purchase a Rediomir Eilean Experience Edition can be considered as true precursors of a new way of understanding watchmaking where NFT and timepieces will probably be connected.