Respect and Utility Key in NFT Success, Says Tag Heuer’s Frédéric Arnault

·4 min read

PARIS — Forget wearing your heart on your sleeve: thanks to Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer, it’s your NFT collection you’ll be able to display on your wrist, proof of ownership and all.

Owners of its Connected Calibre E4 smartwatch will now be able to showcase their digital collection using the dedicated viewer in its new Lens watch face.

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With still and animated digital collectibles supported, it’s a far cry from having to pull out one’s smartphone to open a digital wallet or using static images as device backgrounds or phone cases, the watchmaker’s chief executive officer Frédéric Arnault told WWD.

“That’s not really your NFT, it’s an image of it,” he pointed out, adding that given the value of digital artwork, “you want to be able to showcase it on something as unique and special as it is.”

Proof of ownership will also be displayed as a hexagonal cloud of particles gravitating around the digital artwork, which can be resized to its owner’s liking.

Putting an NFT viewer in a smartwatch felt right to address the needs of collectors, given their affinity toward tech devices and appetite to showcase their digital identities and ownership credentials.

“A watch is a great format for yourself [to admire your collection] and as a conversation starter. [Collectors] are passionate, they talk about them all the time,” he continued, admitting that he was among them.

And the intuitive display has also allowed non-NFT enthusiasts to start seeing the point, the executive added.

This could also pave the way to changing the way time is displayed.

Although Tag Heuer’s most successful watch faces remain those mimicking mechanical timepieces such as the most-downloaded Heuer 02 with its chronograph-style display, Arnault believes connected devices offer new creative avenues and that NFTs will, in time, be a key in moving away from watch hands.

Case in point: while an NFT takes pride of place in the new Lens display, time is indicated by a discreet triangle and circle near the bezel, indicating hours and minutes, respectively.

Asked why the brand didn’t dive into the Web3 space with its own digital artwork, the executive felt there was a positioning challenge toward the NFT community, which numbers around 500,000 around the world but is rapidly growing.

“It’s difficult for a brand to land in that space without showing respect and recognition towards what the community is. Our approach is to show that we are part of it, first by accepting crypto payments and now giving the ability to visualize existing NFTs,” said the executive.

Frédéric Arnault - Credit: Gian Marco Castelberg/Courtesy of Tag Heuer
Frédéric Arnault - Credit: Gian Marco Castelberg/Courtesy of Tag Heuer

Gian Marco Castelberg/Courtesy of Tag Heuer

He credited NFTs’ potential monetization for drumming up interest in creators and attracting large volumes of investment that have financed creativity on a scale that didn’t previously exist.

Artistic considerations aside, “what’s most important is why a digital collectible has value. What utility lies behind it: services, access, drops? Launching an NFT collection is a very involving choice because you have to have a vision on how to maintain value so that clients will want to have and continue to be part of the community,” he continued.

Among those successful in harnessing “a good concept with real engagement strategies in terms of drops and the whole universe [each brand] has created around these avatars,” he named Rtfkt, Takashi Murakami’s “Murakami.Flowers” and Bored Ape, who gained “the most traction [by being] the first to work their brand differently, giving the intellectual property to their community [and in succession] creating a universe, a land, a metaverse.”

Given the outsized importance of community in the Web3 space, which he likened to the watch collecting world, Arnault is convinced that blockchain and NFTs will fundamentally change the face of luxury.

“What clients have in their wallet will change the way CRM is done and how brands engage with them,” he said, although he admits it will take time given the steep technological and time-consuming barriers to entry.

Innovations that will lessen the environmental impact of their current energy-intensive production will also be key.

“I’d be surprised if no one finds a way to make crypto efficient within the next decade,” he said, naming quantum computing as another coming paradigm shift for crypto as calculations speed up.

If recent cryptocurrency crashes have made headlines by wiping out billions, Arnault viewed them as a good thing that “repels speculators and puts an end to dilettante projects,” expressing the opinion that the field’s unicorns were now being built.

As for the shape Tag Heuer’s Web3 presence will take, the executive declined to share specifics but noted that “going too fast or being first” wasn’t necessary.

“I could tell you what we’re not going to do right now, or within the next five years, but I never want to say never. A month in crypto is [equivalent to] a year. You have to be agile, to question the way you function — it’s a risk-taking mind-set,” he said.

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