Swiss watchmaker Hublot, owned by LVMH, introduced a limited-edition timepiece that’s exclusively available for purchase with Bitcoin, 10 years after the digital currency was first created.
The watch, made for Hublot’s Big Bang line, costs about $25,000, Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Guadalupe said at an event in Hong Kong. It’s the world’s first major luxury brand to offer a product that can only be bought with Bitcoin.
The Swiss watch industry has been boosting online sales and moving marketing to social-media sites to keep up with younger consumers. Hublot’s move is the latest example of LVMH brands wading through uncharted waters, following sister brand TAG Heuer’s full embrace of high technology with its $1,500 smartwatch.
“We can do something different,” Guadalupe told Bloomberg News, adding Hublot has been able to capture new customers this way. “We will give the possibility to buy all our watches with cryptocurrencies in the future by the end of next year, after offering a second exclusive series.”
Hublot is partnering with Hong Kong-based digital-asset brokerage Octagon Strategy Ltd., which will perform background and anti-money-laundering checks and handle payment services. Orders have already exceeded the limited run of 210 pieces, Octagon CEO Wayne Trench said. The customers whose applications have been accepted will receive a purchase agreement at a predetermined Bitcoin strike date, with deliveries starting in January.
LVMH brands have stood out under 69-year-old former watch chief Jean-Claude Biver, who, despite his age, had a knack for connecting with millennials. TAG Heuer spearheaded the Swiss watch industry’s push into smartwatches, while Hublot started scouting out potential future customers by sponsoring private schools. Biver stepped down from operational duties earlier this month, remaining nonexecutive head of the division.
Various industries have embraced blockchain digital technology, the basis of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Microsoft Corp.’s blockchain services will integrate with Nasdaq’s Financial Framework, which offers software for traders, exchanges and clearinghouses to interact. Signet Jewelers Ltd., the world’s biggest diamond retailer, signed up to De Beers’s pilot plan to track gems from mine to jewelry store with the technology. It’s also been used in hotel bookings and animal husbandry.
Still, the technology may also risk facilitating scandals such as money laundering in industries where cash floods in, such as casinos, real estate and luxury goods.
Policy makers around the world are drawing up fresh regulations on everything from exchanges to initial coin offerings. Hong Kong is joining a global push to improve supervision, with its securities watchdog unveiling new rules for cryptocurrency funds and saying it may regulate digital-asset exchanges.
Guadalupe expects Hublot’s revenue to top 600 million Swiss francs ($600 million) this year and to be able to triple its China business, he told Swiss newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft in September.