The Swiss foundation Origyn has partnered with WatchBox, the world’s leading platform for the certified second-hand luxury watch market.
The nonprofit foundation Origyn uses smart technologies running on a decentralized computing infrastructure to identify and authenticate across verticals including art, collectibles, digital media and luxury goods.
When it comes to the watch industry, says CEO Daniel Haudenschild, a former partner at Ernst & Young, “Origyn’s mission is to become the equivalent of the GIA, the global standard for diamond authentication.”
Going forward, every watch sold through WatchBox will come with an NFT utility, a blockchain-based digital certificate, backed by Origyn, proving that the watch is authentic.
First, the watch is authenticated by WatchBox experts. It is then placed in one of Origyn’s exclusive knockboxes. Using ultra-high resolution cameras and artificial intelligence, the box photographs the watch 360 degrees and issues a digital certificate containing its unique biometric fingerprint. When you get down to the micron level, no two watches are the same.
Once generated, the watch’s biometric passport can be accessed simply by scanning said watch, “Shazam style”, via Origyn’s consumer smartphone app. If the watch warranty is still valid, it will also be incorporated into the digital certificate as standard.
“It’s always been a challenge to make sure people aren’t buying counterfeits,” says Vincent Perriard, co-founder of Origyn. And he should know. His three-decade career in the watch industry began as Director of Communications at Audemars Piguet and served as Vice President at Hamilton, followed by CEO positions at TechnoMarine and Concord.
The Swiss watch industry alone loses $2 billion a year to counterfeiting, with more than 40 million counterfeit luxury watches produced and sold each year.
Before Origyn brought the product and data together, you would receive a paper certificate or at best a QR code linking to a page where you would register your watch, he says. Which was fine if you were buying directly from Cartier but more problematic in the secondary market as a genuine QR code does not necessarily guarantee an authentic product. For the record, you cannot chip a watch because it interferes with the mechanical movement.
Now, however, to realize Origyn’s ambition to become the global authentication standard for the luxury watch industry, there needs to be a massive rollout. As Perriard puts it, “the race for data” is on.
While the goal is to break into the primary market, he acknowledges that 300-year-old watch brands are notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. “It’s a must,” he said, “we have to go. But we want to go faster. So, instead of just waiting, we take hold of the secondary market where the volumes are huge. Hence the agreement with WatchBox, its biggest player.
The market for certified pre-owned luxury watches has already surpassed the primary market and, according to McKinsey, is expected to reach over $30 billion by 2025.
“As soon as we hit a certain level, you can walk up to someone on the street and scan their watch and the app will recognize it,” says Perriard. “If not, the watch will be fake.”
The WatchBox deal is just the start. Perriard signs 10 more contracts with secondary retailers this week and in Q4 2022 Origyn will open offices around the world where consumers can go to have their watches digitally verified and certified.
In addition to underwriting the human side of authentication, Origyn will soon offer an additional benefit through a disruptive new insurance company based in Guernsey. “Origyn Insurance will be a joint venture with a huge London insurance company,” reveals Perriard. “It will break all the rules with prices set at 50% below the average.”
Going forward, he says, Origyn will also power joint ventures with multi-brand retailers, allowing them to offer a resale concierge service in addition to authentication.
“Statistically, there’s a 40% chance you’ll resell your watch,” he says. “So we’re giving retailers the opportunity to get into the secondary market and sell a watch more than once and I can tell you the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.”
The reason for the pull is that watch brands are working less with retailers and are increasingly opening their own boutiques so as not to give up their margins. The concierge option gives the retailer the ability to keep their business and stay in the game.
Origyn, whose investors include Table Management, billionaire investor Bill Ackman (Origyn was its first token investment), Polychain Capital and even Paris Hilton, raised $20 million in its most recent funding round. The foundation’s utility token, OGY, is expected to become publicly tradable in the second quarter of this year via a Dutch auction — “a natural price-finding mechanism,” says Haudenschild. Even the reserve price would set its value at $1 billion of unicorn status.