Breitling Blockchain Interview With Antonio Carriero
There’s a new kid on the block…chain…
Accompanying the rebirth of the Breitling Top Time (something all of us at Fratello are VERY excited about), is the news of a new digital service available to buyers. To better understand this new blockchain-stored digital passport, I caught up with Antonio Carriero, Breitling‘s Chief Digital and Technology Officer and a member of the senior executive team, the man with all the answers. Welcome, one and all, to the future…
Rob Nudds: It’s a very exciting time for Breitling with the continued overhaul of the catalog. Everything feels very much on brand. That’s hard to achieve while also being progressive. And now we see the Top Time return to the fold, bringing back one of the most recognizable and best-loved dials of 1960s watchmaking. What made you decide now was the right time for this piece to be relaunched
Antonio Carriero: Well, it wasn’t a sudden decision. We’ve been working on relaunching the Top Time for a couple of years. The dial is just too good to consign to history, after all. When Breitling first launched the watch it was intended to widen the consumer base. It was brighter, more colorful, more striking than the highly technical watches popular with the current audience.
The Top Time is truly a testimony of Willy Breitling’s marketing genius, not only because of its catchy name. In the 1960s Willy Breitling had the bold idea to speak to the youth; he developed the Top Time specifically for them, with trendy looks and using modern ways of communication for that period including product placement in James Bond Thunderball.
We envisage this model performing the same role today. The Top Time is a metaphor for the “New” Breitling in terms of communication and positioning and an attempt to target a new audience once again in this era.
The launch of the 765 and 806 re-editions demonstrated a strong interest in Breitling icons, and so it seemed to make sense to continue in that vein for the Top Time, a modernized version of a collector’s favorite.
RN: Pleasingly, as with the 806, very little has changed with this reissue. The biggest difference is the size. What was the thinking behind that?
AC: Simply put, it was a conscious decision to react to modern tastes and trends. 41mm is still not a big watch by modern industry standards, and certainly not by Breitling’s standards when you compare it to the pre-Kern output. 41mm is a good size — a sweet spot if you will. Not too big, not too small. A Goldilocks watch.
RN: Do you imagine it will appeal to women as a result?
AC: Why not! We spend a lot of time trying to predict and define audiences but in the end, one never knows until a product goes to market. We may end up finding fans where we never expected, this is a colorful and positive dial in a very trying time. There is no telling who may be charmed by it. Everyone is welcome!
RN: And while the product range is bringing the past into the present, other aspects of the Breitling machine are more focused on bringing the present into the future. Therefore, I’d like to ask you about the technical innovations embellishing the brand’s offering. The Breitling Top Time will come with a blockchain-based digital passport. It sounds exciting. Explain that to me.
AC: When the customer purchases the new Breitling Top Time, they will receive the watch and its warranty card. There is a QR code on the warranty card. Once the customer scans the QR code with their device, a Blockchain wallet containing a digital certificate of authenticity is downloaded to the device. In the future, it will go straight to the device’s apple or android wallet. Currently, if you’re using it in China it will download the certificate into your WeChat space.
With just one click, the user, and anyone else for that matter, can check the authenticity of the watch in their possession. And better still, this system does not require the user to transfer any of their data to the brand. This means the consumer can interact with the brand anonymously.
RN: That raises an immediate question in my mind: What if the watch is stolen? If you don’t have personal details attached to the watch, what use is this digital certificate?
AC: The thief would not be able to prove ownership because they would not have a certificate of authenticity. Let’s say, for example, the thief stole the watch and walks into an authorized dealer that also buys and sells pre-owned watches, with the intention of off-loading the watch there. The dealer will be able to access the blockchain records to see if the real owner has issued a theft notification. In that instance, the AD would know the watch was ill-gotten.
RN: How easy would it be to crack or forge this technology to get around that problem?
AC: Well, theoretically nothing is uncrackable but right now it is the most secure method of authentication. It not only gives customers extra reassurance, but it also increases engagement with the brand. This is important for increasing trust. And let’s not overplay this: realistically it is the same process as before but just shifted to a digital format. It makes more sense to the modern consumer. We are simply making this process more relevant to our clientele.
RN: So what if you want to sell your watch? Is it straightforward? How do you transfer ownership of the certificate?
AC: Via the blockchain wallet itself, the owner can access the “call to action” function on the menu. From there you can choose to transfer the certificate. You can either send the data to the new owner’s contact details (phone or web address) or get the new owner to scan the QR code while this call to action is activated.
The history of ownership transfer (as well as all service history) will be saved in the blockchain. The certificate then disappears from your wallet. It is fast. It is simple. And it is secure.
RN: Ah, so service history is logged as well? So this is effectively a digitized logbook as one would have with a car, held securely and anonymously on a device?
AC: Exactly. Furthermore, authorized retailers will have the ability to view (although not edit) the blockchain information via their existing retailer app. Although the Breitling Top Time is only available online, for now, it is not exclusive to Breitling itself. A handful of retailers are stocking the watch and trialing this technology. Together we can work on improving its relevance and functionality for the future.
RN: Talking of retailers, do you hope/envisage that this new blockchain technology will positively impact the concerning level of gray market activity?
AC: Retailers will benefit from the same Transparency, Traceability, and Tradability. We hope that the visibility of the watch will bring the customer towards the right channel anyway. But, more directly, the brand’s access to the blockchain enables it to zero-in on suspicious activity by retailers. It is important to protect the brand’s reputation, but also the livelihoods of our retailers.
This technology also opens the door to possibly collaborating with established pre-owned marketplaces and trade-in platforms in a more official capacity. Improvements to the authentication process can only benefit the pre-owned purchaser going forward.
RN: I own a Breitling Aerospace. I would quite like my own blockchain passport and a digital certificate. Can this kind of technology be added to a model retroactively?
AC: Yes, theoretically we could deliver a certificate for an official Breitling watch. We haven’t yet industrialized the process so we don’t have a way to do it yet, but we have the technology. We have to define the process. Going back would make it harder for the customer to retain anonymity but it is the customer’s choice. We would never put any pressure on our existing clients to subject information they weren’t comfortable submitting.
RN: Okay. We’ll have to test that out with my Everest Skydive model at some point. But what if I buy another Breitling in the future? Will the blockchain technology feature on all future Breitling models?
AC: Yes, eventually, it will. It will take some time but that is the intention. I would say any Breitling – any luxury watch actually – should have a Blockchain certificate. A global standard for the industry.
RN: The Blockchain passport is offered in cooperation with Arianee. Why did you choose to work with them as a service provider?
AC: Arianee is focused on the luxury industry. It knows how to protect data. It has worked with other luxury brands and groups before. In the past, the approach implemented has been a little simpler — the aim then was to simply digitize what would normally be a physical document.
RN: I assume that means that the system only works as long as the relationship between Arianee and Breitling remains active?
AC: Arianee effectively hosts the blockchain. As a consortium Arianee is providing to all of us a protocol on a standard Blockchain. Our certificates could be transferrable to another solution provider backed by Blockchain. Our capability to maintain the blockchain would be unhindered. We can simply port the blockchain data to another service provider so there would be no hindrance to the customer. Breitling watches and their Blockchain certificates will survive both of us!
RN: I see. So the idea is future proof!
AC: I hope so!
RN: Do you believe that physical, non-branded retailers are important to Breitling’s future? Is this tech partly for their benefit? And do you have a word for them as they face difficult times as the Coronavirus continues to spread?
AC: Obviously! Authorized dealers are a key part of Breitling’s future. They are an essential step in the value chain of Breitling. We develop solutions and platforms for our customers and our retailers, empowering both. Blockchain is one among our many solutions. And in these difficult times, we do not forget our authorized dealers all over the world, on the contrary.
We will help our retailers without e-Commerce capabilities through a digital platform powered by Breitling. We present this solution in the next weeks; it will not only help them in engaging with their clients in the short term, but it should eventually change how the watch industry operates. We also hope that our efforts to make engagement between the retailer and their consumers more effectively have a positive impact.
This interview took place on March 26th, 2020 between Antonio Carriero and Rob Nudds. Learn more about Breitling and the subjects discussed here.
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