Watchmaker Max Finkel adopts blockchain certification

In an attempt to fight counterfeiting, luxury watchmaker Max Finkel Moment has started using a blockchain-based certification scheme for its timepieces.

The platform – known as Watch Certificate and launched by French entrepreneurs Guillaume Kuntz and Marc Ambrus last year – can be used for any luxury watch brand and is intended as a digital replacement for the archaic approach of using warranty cards and paper certificates to authenticate watches.

For a fee of between €99 and €299 – depending on the watch's value – an owner can get their item authenticated by an expert.

They receive a physical steel card with a QR code – linked to a digital certificate secured in the blockchain – that can be used to show the watch is genuine for the purposes of transfer of ownership, insurance, or theft reporting.

Max Finkel is among a growing list of watchmakers that have opted to bundle Watch Certificate with the sale of new timepieces, starting with its newly-launched Inaugural Collection, which costs around $1,700.

The company was founded as a Swiss corporation in 1937 and was recently re-established in the US, although manufacturing remains in Switzerland.

"Watch and jewellery counterfeits and the second-hand market have plagued the luxury sector since the eighteenth century," said the company in a statement.

"According to estimates by the Swiss Customs Service, some 30 to 40 million counterfeit watches are put into circulation each year." Max Finkel reckons that these counterfeits cost €1.9bn ($2.25bn) per year in related losses, with European producers particularly hard hit.

"The worst nightmare of an online watch buyer is that his purchase turns out to be a counterfeit," said Watch Certificate in a recent blog post. " In this case he will lose his time and a large sum of money, and will have difficulty in getting his money back without a certificate of counterfeit."

If a purchaser can be reassured that every part of a watch is genuine then they will be more likely to buy a second-hand watch, according to the company.

"By assuring your buyer that the watch is real he will be willing to make the purchase at a better price and negotiate less on the starting price."

There are other blockchain-based certification services available for luxury watches, including Woleet, another French startup whose technology is being used by Kering Group for its Ulysse Nardin brand, and Arianee, which is being deployed on some Vacheron Constantin vintage watches.

Some other producers, such as LVMH, are meanwhile working on developing their own blockchain platforms.

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