The arrest last week in France and Antwerp of 33 people suspected of belonging to a large-scale international criminal network involved in the concealment of luxury watches, once again, highlights the difficulty brands face in protecting themselves from organized crime.
Rolexes, Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille and others from Patek Philippe topped the list of objects targeted by criminals. The watches fluctuate between 10,000 and 400,000 francs, representing a new way to wash away the fruits of their crimes. In fact, it’s much easier to travel three or four hours, resale allows buying real estate or a luxury car, than carrying suitcases full of banknotes.
according to the scientistIn August 2021, the police were already alarmed by the upsurge in luxury watch thefts in Nice, Saint-Tropez and Paris as well as in many European tourist cities. Thefts are not simple, as they are committed violently regularly, even at gunpoint or lead to kidnapping. The head of the branch of the Judicial Police in Nice, during a press conference on June 27 in Marseille, explained that the watches are now an object of the speculative market. “The prices have exploded, triggering greed as a target for predation by thugs or as a target for hoarding for investors who can consequently keep several hundred or even several million euros in a safe.”
Blockchain against counterfeiters
If many of the large houses involved have admitted, in an informal way, that they are sometimes powerless to cope with the evolution of the methods used by smugglers, this is a small French brand that would have found the offer in collaboration with a Swiss company. Awake, which produces 5,000 to 6,000 hours per year, officially makes its world premiere on July 1st. A watch in which the sapphire crystal is equipped with an invisible chip that connects it to the blockchain.
“Blockchain technology is designed to ensure the credibility and security of the information stored on it,” explains Lillian Thibault, founder of Awake. Thus, each watch is equipped with a unique tamper-resistant identifier, embedded in the sapphire crystal. A formidable anti-theft device and an unstoppable shield to fight counterfeiting, at a time when thugs have all the technical possibilities to completely conceal watches. This was revealed by the investigation conducted by the French police.
The first items collected show, in fact, that the number of seized documents “rewritten”. Moreover, it is accompanied by a real fake Certificate of Authenticity, as well as the original packaging. The work of the jeweler. always according to the scientistin the criminals’ address book, investigators found high-ranking specialists, particularly people from luxury watch manufacturers, able to modify and renumber parts.” The talents of these counterfeit jewelers are that certain classic series watches were turned into a special limited series, and sold at a price Two to three times higher.
Tamper Proof Chip
“To give full value to blockchain technology, it had to be integrated directly into the watch and not externally via a card or accessory. A project we developed in collaboration with Swiss manufacturer Stiss and the Arianee protocol, the latter being a major player in Web 3.0 (the third generation of the Internet that allows interconnection between data in a decentralized manner in order to escape the influence of the digital giants). This will require more than six months of development,” explains Lillian Thibault.
To specify: “Our goal is to provide maximum transparency and continuity of information and to allow our customers to always receive their testimonials.” The Frenchman stresses that this is not a concept watch and that this technology will be systematically integrated into all new models of the brand.
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Joe Curtin, founder and managing director of Winwatch, owner of Stiss (Swiss technology inside the smart sapphire), specifies that a process for integrating the wafer into glass was developed last year and was commercialized in November. “Digital ID glass provides the ability to trace the life cycle of a watch while allowing buyers to communicate data about the origin of the watch.”
Our chip cannot be hacked.
The main difficulty is having to circumvent the effects of the Faraday cage (which blocks electromagnetic fields) so that information can be transmitted without an active chip. “Our chips are passive, they operate completely autonomously in terms of energy, and therefore impenetrable,” explains Joe Curtin. Founded in 2012, Stiss has already launched a contactless propulsion system that is also integrated into the watch glass. This first with Awake will probably open the doors of the large factories most vulnerable to the Valais cover-up.
From the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), Jean-Daniel Bach admits he hasn’t personally heard of Stiss, but stresses the importance of any innovation to fight theft and other counterfeit products. Not without drawing attention to the fact that 55% of people who buy a fake watch do so on purpose.
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