I wish I had an NFT

I unironically wish I got an NFT with my latest purchase.

I got myself a mechanical watch (Seiko SNK805). Nothing fancy or expensive (relatively), just a neat little thing. Because that model has been discontinued, and the watch industry is somewhat stuck in the past (go figure), getting one was a bit of a pain in the ass. I ended up getting one all the way from Singapore, from a website I’ve never heard of before (but one that a watch expert friend of mine assures me is trustworthy – thanks odyniec!) and from a supposedly reputable seller.

It’s arrived timely (hah!), in a neat box, with a proper instruction manual and a certificate saying that it’s genuine. But is it really? The certificate looks authentic enough, but I wouldn’t know what to look for in one. The watch looks about as well made as it ought to be, and it’s highly doubtful that someone would bother producing counterfeit copies of something this cheap, but is it genuine? Is the serial number engraved on it actually its serial number?

I could take it to Seiko’s some-sort-of-dealership-service-center-thing, assuming there’s one in the area, but given the logistics and labour required to take the thing apart and check it thoroughly, it’ll far exceed the cost of the thing itself – so it’s not exactly viable or sensible.

But I could’ve gotten a digital certificate with this. Seiko could emit one, sign it with its private key, then similarly emit a notification about its transfer to someone else, who would then sign it with their own key and update the imaginary watch certificate database whenever they transfer it to someone else.

We could have a big database with the record of every genuine watch ever produced, the record of it being transferred from one person to another, so that if you want to buy one you can see that the owner is indeed its rightful owner (as in, they didn’t steal it along with its paper certificate), that it’s indeed the only copy with its serial number (or at least, the only one with its certificate in the imaginary watch database), and that its transfer to you has been noted in the database listing you as the rightful owner.

Sounds familiar?

I don’t see any alternative technology that’d allow me to similarly easily verify that what I’m getting is legit. While there’s nothing that “attaches” a watch to its digital record, it’d at least be easy to spot if duplicates with the same serial number started appearing out of thin air – and it’d make the first, original one actually retain its value. Or you could rightfully question the reliability of a seller who’d claim to have a watch that had an NFT assigned to somebody else. And, unlike with the silly monkey jpegs, there’s no value – real or perceived – in stealing the NFT itself: except to maybe extort money from the actual owner.

Am I missing some simplier, superior solution to this problem? People love to say that blockchain is just an inefficient postgres database with a ponzi scheme on top, but unless you’d want to put this imaginary watch database entirely in the manufacturer’s control (and thus have them control the grey market), blockchain is the only thing I can think of that’d actually make this effective.

Feel free to join on Matrix if you want to discuss this further.