In 2011, when the watch community took to Instagram, early adopters could see the platform’s potential. The opportunity to directly connect and interact with their consumers has meant that watch brands are more educated now than ever before on their customer and can learn how to improve their products and services.
Slowly but surely, as those communities grew, watches on social media began started to garner mainstream interest. Today almost 20 million photos have been uploaded to Instagram with hashtag #Watches and nearly 6 million with #WatchFam.
The result has been an enduring collaboration between both brands and communities, as seen with Breitling, which in 2017, invited over 30 Instagram commenters who added “value to the discussion” to join a new advisory board. Or Cartier, which was approached by the Dubai Watch Club and the Singapore Watch Club (boasting over 66,000 and 45,000 followers respectively), to create limited edition watches for members of their communities.
Now, the same opportunity to break into communities within Web 3.0 exists.
The majority of the brands are aware they have the chance to attract a very digitally, crypto native demographic, where many of these individuals have made money through the cryptocurrency and NFT boom, and spent their gains on lavish lifestyles, luxury goods and high-end watches.
They also understand the value of community, and the opportunity to interact with these like-minded individuals through a new and exciting medium. Take De Bethune, one of our generation's leading independent watch brands, which has found a unique way of communicating its brand and their values through the NFT Project - Private Jet Pyjama Part (PJPP).
The project has garnered some of the most exclusive collaborations in Web 3.0, including De Bethune, Porsche, Sease clothing and Casa Cipriani, making PJPP one of Europe's most successful NFT projects with record sales.
And it has no shortage of admirers. Many prominent watch collectors and industry experts are existing holders of PJPP, including WatchAnish, WatchRookie, and Watch4Moi, who sit alongside some of the world's leading business magnates as well as celebrities including the Loro Piana Family, Umar Kamani, Sergio Roberto, Antonio Felix Da Costa, Jessica Kahawaty and others.
In creating PJPP, De Bethune has perfectly translated its core values into Web 3.0 without forgetting its heritage and the ultimate goal of educating a younger generation on the intricacies of fine watchmaking. They had included their infamous Starry Varius watch five times as part of the generative collection of NFTs. The lucky owners of the NFT had the unique opportunity to visit the De Bethune Manufacture in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland and discover their watchmaking - ultimately, an experience reserved for their most prominent collectors.
Having spoken to "Scooby" - one of the lucky holders of the De Bethune PJPP NFT, he said: "Coming to the De Bethune factory tour I earned with PJPP, was like coming home. They were so welcoming and friendly. They showed and explained everything about the process of watchmaking in a beautiful environment, and showed a deep, heartfelt love for their craft and designs. It is the same openness, love and warmth that is so abundant in the PJPP community, and that is what makes it the true diamond in the NFT space for us."
But what are the challenges that hold both brand and community back?
As collectors, we must consider many things before we start interacting with brands on Web 3.0. First and foremost, do we need another communication medium? We already spend countless hours doom-scrolling through Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube.
Additionally, there are a lot of barriers to entry, and most collectors would be concerned if we had to set up specific Web 3.0 wallets. Additional log-in keys? And would we require existing knowledge of blockchain? Do we need a specific app or service for each brand of watch we collect?
There is a group of early adopters who can support these endeavours, similar to those who started using forums and then quickly adopted Instagram.
However, I believe mainstream adoption will be much faster than ever before. There are existing communities within Web 3.0, and brands need ways to tap into them. For the existing communities within Web 2.0 and in real life, it's transitioning into Web 3.0 rather than building from scratch.
Due to its decentralised nature, Web 3.0 challenges traditional social media by allowing individuals and brands to set up, develop, and, most importantly, own their communities. They can educate their consumers in any way they desire, monetise in methods that weren't previously possible, and hold the full right and royalties from their efforts. No centralised governments will have the ability to censor promotional activities; social media platforms won't be able to block your accounts if a post doesn't meet their guidelines, and during times of uncertainty, you can reach communities globally.
IWC developed the Diamond Hand Club- the brand's ecosystem, enabling their clients to register and authenticate their watches on the blockchain and enabling direct communication and interaction with their consumers. Collectors will have access to token-gated experiences where: "the token unlocks individual benefits and can grant access to otherwise inaccessible locations."
As many brands will undoubtedly follow the footsteps of De Bethune and IWC in creating new and unique ways to connect and engage with their audiences, will they all be able to recreate the emotion and the true sense of community as they have done so well through social media and real-life interactions? How will they go about this without diluting their brand values?
If we return back to the past, where the watch community began to come together online. First through internet forums and blogs, where typically small groups of like-minded individuals found each other in random corners of the web and shared their love and passion for horology. At the time, they were not easy to find, and the opportunity for developing such communities were minimal. Today, the same cannot be said. And with that in mind, the opportunities to harness communities exists. It’s what you do with that opportunity that matters.
This article is part two of a three-part opinion series on Web 3.0 and Watches. Since part one of this series was published, a lot has changed. There has also been extreme volatility within cryptocurrency, Web 3.0 and the watch industry.