For many watch enthusiasts, one of the biggest reasons for not dipping a toe into the vintage market – no matter how tempting a vintage Patek or Rolex might be – is the sheer amount of counterfeits out there. Aside from the looming spectre of fakes, another downside to preowned watches is that one never knows whether they have been serviced by unauthorised parties who may have replaced their original parts with those from other movements.
Showing that they aren’t the old-school tech-phobes that they are often made out to be, some luxury brands are jumping on the blockchain bandwagon. Blockchain, essentially, is a digital distributed ledger system that shows where a product came from and where it has been. Interestingly, one of the players leading the charge is 264-year-old storied watchmaker Vacheron Constantin. Serving as the pilot maison for the Richemont Group, Vacheron Constantin is trying out this new digital-certification process on its Les Collectionneurs watches – vintage timepieces that have been sourced by the brand’s heritage specialists.
There are still many questions swirling around blockchain technology. Sceptics have asked, for instance, how the legitimacy of data added to a blockchain can be proven, or how a physical product can be linked to its digital record (yes, every watch has a unique serial number, but savvy counterfeiters use them on their products too). Nonetheless, if new technologies are the vehicle through which the famously secretive watch industry is looking to offer clients greater transparency and a safer experience on the resale market, it can only be a positive development.