NFT Watches: Virtual Timepieces Provide Investment Value and Bragging Rights
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are becoming increasingly popular as digital assets and collectibles. Music, art, tweets or watches are sold as digital originals for a lot of money. Especially when it comes to watches, the market seems to be insatiable - even in Switzerland, a country that has long been famous for the quality of its watch industry and (non-virtual) watches.
They've been around since about 2014 and as with the cryptocurrency boom, experts still disagree on whether NFTs are a modern-day tulip mania[i] or a great investment opportunity. However, many investors have long since answered the question for themselves: The NFT market was already worth 5.70 billion U.S. dollars (15 billion Swiss francs) last year and is expected to reach 122 billion dollars by 2028.
A non-fungible token is a digital asset that represents an object that exists or could exist in real life. NFTs are traded online, most often paid for with crypto-money, and usually encrypted with the same software as cryptocurrencies. A famous example is provided by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who last year sold his very first tweet from March 21, 2006 as an NFT - for more than 2.9 million dollars. True, we can all look at this tweet on Jack's Twitter feed at any time ("just setting up my twttr"). But the buyer of the NFT can rightfully claim to own the original of this tweet.
Traditional and virtual: NFTs from Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse
Today, even in Switzerland, the most typical of watchmaking countries, NFTs are made and sold. The 260-year-old Zurich watch company Beyer Chronometrie launched a unique NFT watch collection this spring, which sold out in a flash[ii]. Various designers took their inspiration from the fashion, gaming, and virtual worlds and created fascinating, imaginative, and playful virtual one-offs for Beyer. Among the creatives are prominent names, for example Simon Husslein, professor of interior design at the Geneva School of Art and Design, who has already designed watches for brands such as Braun, Nomos Glashütte, and Ventura, and Niklaus Hodel, who also develops shoes and sneakers for the fashion houses Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Maison Margiela. When selling the NFT collection, emphasis was placed on appealing to more than just a crypto-savvy target group. Therefore, the first, limited edition could be purchased both with crypto-money and quite traditionally by credit card. The concept worked brilliantly: The first 100 virtual timepieces in the Time Warp Collection were sold out in seven minutes. By now, the next 30 models in the form of 382 NFTs are being sold[iii].
A real watch - and its NFT counterpart
Of course, there is also absolute luxury in the NFT watch segment - in other words, very expensive pieces. This is what the American jeweler Jacob & Co. stands for, among others. This spring, the company launched a collection of eight watches inspired by and named after the planets of the solar system[iv]. Some of the models were produced as one-off physical timepieces with associated NFTs, others exclusively as NFTs. All physical and digital watches are sold on UNXD.com. Back in April 2021, Jacob & Co. became the first luxury watch brand to launch an NFT timepiece. It was auctioned off for 100,000 dollars.
One of the most prolific NFT watch designers, according to watch magazine Chrono24[v], is Jesus Calderon from Chicago, who offers digital watches on the OpenSea platform - the largest NFT marketplace in the world. Calderon draws inspiration from famous watch models like the Rolex Daytona or Submariner. His goal is to create and sell 1000 NFT watches.
Invest, collect, brag, belong
What moves people to spend a lot of money on a virtual watch that can neither be worn nor otherwise touched? NFT watches represent an investment for collectors. According to fashion magazine Tatler, NFT watches, which serve as digital substitutes for real watches, give collectors bragging rights[vi]. For innovative watchmakers, however, they can also serve as a vehicle to revive the hype around extremely rare collectibles that are otherwise unattainable or serve as wearables in the metaverse. NFT watches can also be used as digital memberships or tickets to exclusive benefits and events - which is how most exclusive manufacturers handle them.
Those who want to participate in the NFT boom need (in most cases) not only money, but also a digital wallet to store cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Besides, it requires a speculative streak. Because, as Forbes business magazine writes, the value of an NFT depends entirely on what someone else is willing to pay for it[vii].
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[ii]Time Warp Collection - the first Beyer NFT Collection
[iii]Time Warp Collection | BEYER X FTSY8
[iv]Jacob & Co. Launches NFT Collection Of Digital And Physical Watches
[v]Is it a bubble or an investment? - Chrono24 Magazin
[vi]What Are NFT Watches? Here's What You Should Know | Tatler Asia
[vii]Non-Fungible Tokens Explained – Forbes Advisor