his is the new stage of the digital revolution, the one that should finally set humans free from all intermediaries in their daily transactions. What if currencies, private data or commercial exchanges could be secured in a fully encrypted and decentralized space, where information is so split that it becomes forgery-proof?
This is the promise of the “Blockchain”, the new gold standard of the fourth industrial revolution, this digital disruption that sees the gradual disappearance of all intermediaries and the creation click by click of a Business to Consumer world (the Consumer to Consumer being gradually brought back into line), free of any “friction” between the issuer of a service or product and its receiver - watch retailers know something about it...
The Blockchain is also a real revolution in contemporary dogmas, thus fulfilling the libertarian dream: a system that is both confidential at the micro level (ensuring individual anonymity) and transparent at the macro level (with the traceability of all transactions)... whereas today, individuals are subject to transparency, notably through the (voluntary) display of their private life on social networks, while companies, banking institutions and States can still (for how long?) drape themselves into a form of confidentiality. Tomorrow, will we be spying on the NSA instead of the other way around?
We are increasingly moving towards a Business to Consumer world (the Consumer to Consumer being gradually brought back on the right track), free of any “friction” between the issuer of a service or a product and its receiver - watch retailers know something about it...
The Bitcoin Outbreak
The most famous incarnation today of the potential of the Blockchain is the “Bitcoin”, a crypto-currency introduced in 2009 and which experienced a speculative surge last December taking it to a unit value close to 20’000 dollars... The mysterious “inventor” of Bitcoin and of the first “chain of blocks” calls himself Satoshi Nakamoto, but he is probably a figurehead, covering an individual or a group of individuals. Every Bitcoin holder keeps his currency through a code in a digital wallet - and it’s better not to lose or have your account key stolen, because no insurance will come to the rescue!
The virtual currency remains controversial, accused by many economists (and even by the “Wolf of Wall Street” Jordan Belfort...) of being a speculation constantly about to burst, and of being used, just like the Dark Web, for illicit activities, far from the eyes of the State. In addition, several crypto-currency thefts have been registered, with the Pirate Party’s favourite currency occasionally being pirated itself. Led in particular by banking institutions that start to be nervous, the counter-revolution is on against a process that completely challenges the functioning of our monetary, commercial and economic system...
The end of corruption?
Nevertheless, Bitcoin has become popular since its surge last year - and interest in the Blockchain has also spread beyond the “insider” circle. For example, we are promised encrypted personal medical information in the Blockchain, that could make it possible to harmonize the world’s medical systems - whereas today, it is not even possible to issue a prescription in Switzerland that would be recognized in the United States. Another dream is the end of corruption thanks to trade settlements that would be both transparent and unfalsifiable. A good summary of the issues at stake is available by clicking here and here.
The fundamentals of the Blockchain is therefore the disintermediation of any transaction, which will in the future be operated directly and instantaneously via decentralized, encrypted and secure networks. Looking at this new digital revolution, one constantly evolves between the promise of an increasingly “fluid” world thanks to digital networks and the fear of a dehumanization process that could be a perfect script for an episode of the futuristic series of Netflix “Black Mirror”]*. Eliminating the public intermediation power, can we avoid anarchy on the one hand and the reduction of human beings to their functional value alone on the other? Vast question...
We are constantly evolving between the promise of an increasingly “fluid” world thanks to digital networks and the fear of a dehumanization process that could be a perfect script for an episode of Netflix’s futuristic series “Black Mirror”.
Watches certified in the Blockchain
Let’s focus on watchmaking! The diamond-setting specialist Shant Ghouchian, who founded his own watch brand Gvchiani a few years ago, has just joined forces with Cryptolex to launch a certified watch in the Blockchain, called “Masterblock”. A mechanical chronograph which is protected by a certificate linked to the Blockchain and issued by Cryptolex, thus making it “forgery-proof”.
Each numbered MasterBlock will have its own Blockchain address. The first edition is limited to 2010 timepieces, from number 0000 to number 2009, the year of the launch of the Bitcoin. Some 2008 pieces will be sold on the site www.masterblock.ch and two customizable pieces will be auctioned: the 0000, named “Genesis”, and the 2009, named “Satoshi” in homage to the creator of the Bitcoin. The digital reference of the watch in the Blockchain is written on the MasterBlock dial. Each production step is “engraved” into the Blockchain, allowing all watches to be traced from birth. Indeed, the Blockchain provides both confidentiality, by securing watches against forgery, and transparency to the products integrated into the network...
“The future is the evolution of watchmaking in the Blockchain!”
The watches themselves, worth 16’500 CHF (or 2 Bitcoins at the current rate...), display a rather bold design, with its generous volume and the large X characteristic of Gvchiani on the case. The watchmaker insisted on integrating several cultural references to the Blockchain, such as a DLC titanium “block”, a leather strap representing a decentralized network or the X line seen for the occasion as reflecting the Bitcoin monetary code (XBT). A cryptocurrency which will of course be accepted as payment, just like another less known exchange protocol, the “Ethereum”.
As watch labels are the subject of a heated debate and as the authenticity and traceability of watches are constantly questioned, this first foray of watchmaking into this futuristic network offers radical but very interesting prospects. It approaches in a truly different way the watch production, certification and distribution. “The future is the evolution of watchmaking in the Blockchain,” says Shant Ghouchian, the creator of the Masterblock.
- Shant Ghouchian, the creator of the Masterblock
It is however hard to imagine this rather traditional industry adopting the Blockchain quickly. In this respect, the Masterblock can be considered as a pioneer. If virtual currencies, and more broadly Blockchain technology, really convince on a larger scale and succeed in dispelling the many doubts surrounding them, then it will be the opening of a whole new chapter in history... and in watchmaking!
This first foray of watchmaking into this futuristic network offers radical but very interesting prospects. It approaches in a truly different way the watch production, certification and distribution.
*Netflix is, by the way, one of the best examples of the new giants of the new Business to Consumer world: a movies and series producer itself, broadcasting its products directly to the consumer, that has ousted videoclubs from the old world and reduced to a certain extent Consumer to Consumer “piracy” by organising and facilitating access to legal content. One could draw the analogy to the watchmaking world, with brands wishing to produce and distribute their watches directly to consumers, ousting the “old world” of independent retailers and distributors and attacking parallel networks, the grey market and counterfeiting, which have been boosted by the arrival of the Internet, just like audiovisual piracy...