What Happened: When timepieces went digital, Bulova was already ahead of the game. As electronic and quartz watches grew in popularity through the late 1970s and 1980s, the American watch brand met this demand by releasing the all-digital Computron LED, which broke convention with its futuristic trapezoidal case and LED display on the side.
Now, Bulova is giving digital watches a new meaning. The 145-year-old brand has partnered with Stefano Rosso’s lifestyle metaverse marketplace D-CAVE to develop two new Computron LED watches, including a Special Edition version, that will be presented in a dedicated space on Decentraland. Drawing inspiration from gaming culture, the designs feature luminous green accents against black stainless steel while the Special Edition version adds an exhibition mineral crystal case top to highlight the technology’s circuit board.
Consumers can access these physical watches through a unique NFT drop that will also come with a wearable version to use on their avatars in Decentraland.
The Jing Take: Bulova isn’t the only watchmaker entering the metaverse. Jacob & Co. was one of the earliest entrants when it released the first-ever luxury watch NFT in April 2021, fetching a whopping $100,000 at auction. Since then, Patek Philippe has taken its famous Nautilus model virtual — garnering over 16,000 users registrations for its NFT auction — while Louis Moinet has teamed up with 3D digital avatar designer Tafi for an NFT watch collection that maintains full working functionality.
That said, there is still a strong demand for physical pieces. In fact, Swiss watch exports had a record year in 2021, with shipments rising 31 percent to $24.1 billion, driven by the US and China. But there are other reasons hard luxury players are going digital. As Jeffrey Cohen, President of Citizen Watch America, points out, “Bulova interfaces with the metaverse and the gaming universe, allowing us to reach new consumers and opportunities.” Particularly in China — which boasts the world’s largest gaming market and where luxury consumers average ten years younger than their global counterparts — these NFT drops allow heritage brands to reintroduce themselves to a digitally native generation.
While some leaders like LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault have taken a backseat approach to the metaverse, Rosso, founder of D-Cave and OTB board member, offers a different view. “Metaverse is not a trend, it is a new way of living,” reads a statement. “Our physical life is and will be more and more integrated with our digital life. And as in real life we want to express who we are also through the brands we love, the same will happen in the metaverse.”
With the demand for watches surging in the physical world, it’s only a matter of time before others join Bulova in Web 3.0.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.