Inside Watchmaking: Cashless Payments with Luxury Watches

An Opinion Piece

Contactless payments are now part of our daily lives, and it looks like the trend is on the up and up. Zombified, we barely look at the evermore redundant cashier, as we reach into our pockets and lift our cards to the reader. But say goodbye to the hand-in-pocket phase: NFC technology in your wristwatch can take care of that!


NFC technology – or Near Field Communication to give it its full name – is a relatively simple concept not unlike Bluetooth in its application. A chip loaded with personal data (such as passwords, bank information, boarding passes etcetera) can be fitted to pretty much anything and turn that device into a master key for life.

It didn’t take too long for the luxury watch industry to cotton-on to NFC’s potential. With the emergence of smartwatches threatening the very guts of Haute Horlogerie, the inclusion of a small NFC chip to enhance the functionality of a luxury timepiece without usurping the movement itself, seemed like a match made in heaven.

But is it?


One of the two NFC-loaded watches I’ve reviewed for is a perfect case study, having recently been updated to include the contactless payment function.

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Using super-secure software developed by Swiss security firm WISeKey, Bulgari have created the Diagono Magnesium Concept that can now, thanks to a recent partnership with Mastercard, be used to pay for goods in the same way a contactless debit or credit card can. So the question is, does it have any legs?

In a word, no. NFC technology is a cool place-holder in luxury watchmaking, but it is not the answer. The depressing thing about the Diagono when it was released was the feeling that it was already a touch passé. I personally really like the watch and think it attractive with sufficient horological integrity to wear irrespective of the NFC chip (or maybe that should be in spite of it).


NFC technology is fine in itself, but it has no place in a luxury timepiece. When they scraped the Titanic off the ocean floor, they found a Patek Philippe pocket watch in a safe. I saw this pocket watch exactly 100 years after the ship sank in the restoration department of Patek Philippe in Geneva. Their artisans had brought the piece back to life. It was still beautiful. It was iconic. It was magical. And not because it was technologically advanced, but because it was and is art.

No one will be awed by NFC technology in 100 years. That’s not to say it isn’t really useful right now, but it’s just not a great investment. The technology is too temporary; the excitement too ephemeral. And when you know this at the moment of creation, I ask why bother?

The Bulgari Diagono Magnesium Concept is cool. I would wear it. But it is a piece to be worn for today, not for tomorrow. If I had inexhaustible funds, I would buy it, but I doubt, quite ironically, it’d ever spend the night in my safe.

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About the Author:

Rob Nudds is a WOSTEP qualified watchmaker, working as a consultant in the UK market. You can read more of his work on