One of the most searched words on Google in 2021 was metaverse. It was also shortlisted by Collins Dictionary for its Word of the Year in 2021 – one of 10 words selected from the previous year’s ever-expanding English lexicon. When Facebook announced its rebranding, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, announced that the company would be moving towards the metaverse.
So, what exactly is the metaverse, and what has it got to do with watches? Simply put, the metaverse is a virtual world in which people live, work, shop, and interact with others — all from the comfort of their home in the physical world. Brands like Meta and Microsoft are already creating their own ecosystem in the metaverse. Dolce & Gabbana shifted its 9-piece ‘Collezione Genesi’ debut NFT collection for $5.7 million, while Tommy Hilfiger is working on a ‘v-commerce’.
Watch brands are already making some noise as well. In the spring of 2021, Jacob & Co. launched an NFT version of its SF24 Tourbillon. This digital piece sold at auction for $100,000, marking the beginning of a new era of virtual watch ownership. The limited edition Epic SF24 Tourbillon was inspired by the split-flap timetable displays at airports, its patented World Time Display comprises 163 individual components, allowing the time to flip between different cities at the press of a button. The NFT interpretation displays cryptocurrency names like Bitcoin, Ether, and Fantomas a 10-second animation in place of the city name display on the physical watch.
Their 2022 Astronomia Metaverso collection, inspired by the solar system’s planets, was launched on the premium NFT marketplace UNXD. The owners of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter NFTs got a physical version of the watch, while the NFT owners of the Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune designs were only going to get the digital assets along with signed sketches. The NFTs had a one-of-a-kind feature adding to their exclusivity. According to UNXD, “Each NFT functions as an exclusive membership pass, unlocking physical, digital, and experiential privileges.”
And how are watch brands leveraging NFTs? There is no playbook for companies to follow, pushing them to be creative. Louis Moinet has collaborated with 3D digital creator Tafi to create 1,000 limited-edition digital timepieces inspired by its Space Revolution model that can be worn by characters on gaming platforms. Businessman and avid watch collector Kevin O’Leary, one of the Sharks on Shark Tank, is funding a white paper to standardise a watch NFT protocol. These encrypted dial scans, he says, will sit alongside the physical product and act as digital authentication certificates, beneficial for transactions and insurance and for brands and retailers wanting to keep track of their watches.
Breitling’s chief digital and technology officer Antonio Carriero believes NFTs can offer previously unavailable security and provenance, adding, “For Breitling, NFT watches aren’t [simply] fancy pixelated versions of physical timepieces made for the metaverse.”
Images: Jacob & Co.