Breitling plans to start delivering its watches without boxes and papers later this year in an effort to cut down on packaging for environmental reasons. “I want to sell watches, not packaging,” said the brand’s CEO, Georges Kern on an Instagram Live interview with Watchonista last week. “The consumer is changing. Everybody has become more relaxed about luxury… it has to be more informal and should not be damaging to the environment.”
Boxes and papers constitute an important part of the value of a luxury watch, particularly when it comes to selling them on the secondary market. In reality, they are generally stored rather than discarded, because they can add considerably to the value of a watch. The phrase “with box and papers” is a common and crucial component of the description of any watch listed for sale at auction or online. So important are they to the resale potential of a watch that some luxury brands even hold them back for highly sought-after models in order to prevent flipping.
“I have heard of Rolex and Patek Philippe retailers that hold back the boxes and papers for the valuable steel pieces, sometimes for six months,” says vintage watch dealer Eric Wind. “And I have heard of them in some cases holding them for up to two years, in order to discourage people from being able to flip the watches—which it is near impossible to do without the box and papers.” The boxes themselves are even traded separately on the secondary market, often listed for hundreds of dollars.
Breitling isn’t doing away with packaging altogether but is simply ditching the traditional hard boxes that luxury watches are typically delivered in. “We are currently reviewing the concept but will move towards selling watches in pouches that are made from recycled materials and can be recycled again,” said Kern. Breitling has previously used recycled materials. Some of its straps are made from Econyl fiber, which is made from recycled fishing nets.
Breitling is also looking at new ways to store the information conveyed on the papers that come with a watch, in a way that is secure. “There will be fewer papers with the watch because all of the information will be provided digitally,” he said. In March, Breitling launched a new Top Time watch with a blockchain-based digital passport attached to it that confirms the authenticity and ownership of the watch throughout its lifetime. It can be tied to the watch’s digital warranty. Owners can access the watch’s digital passport at any time and transfer ownership with a simple blockchain transaction. Offered in cooperation with Arianee, the digital passport complements Breitling’s digital warranty program. So far, the watch is being sold exclusively online, and will launch separately in brick-and-mortar stores at a later date.