On the last day of fashion week, completely thirsty and late for a runway, I ran over to Dunkin ‘Donuts and ordered a large iced tea for $ 2.49. I couldn’t bother pulling out my debit card or even removing my mask to access my digital wallet, so instead I ran my hand over the scanner. If you take a closer look you’ll see an elegant black leather strap wrapped around my wrist: a wearable Prada Centurion. A tiny chip was implanted in the band, which was connected to my credit card, which allowed me to easily and quickly maneuver in everyday life as if I were some kind of Gattaca baby.
I was the only person in the world to have this technology. Even when it releases later this month, only a tiny percentage of the world could get it. The Prada group is reserved for Centurion cardholders, that is, people who have an unlimited American Express card, that is, the iconic black card. I don’t have a black card, but I quickly adapted to the grandeur that such exclusive technology brings. The group was directly linked to my own bank account, but had some of the benefits of being a Centurion member.
Having a bracelet takes away all of the usual thought processes that one has when buying something. An ordinary person has a wallet, and when he takes that wallet out to buy something, he is aware that he is participating in an act of spending. (And, often, they wonder if they can or should spend the money on whatever is left on the counter.) Even for those who use a digital wallet, there’s still a step in the buying process, whether that’s pulling out the phone and using facial recognition or typing in a password. As for this bracelet? It is the ultimate luxury. No thinking required.
With the group came the benefits. Things sort of … happened. For example, when I made a reservation through Resy under my name for my friend’s birthday in Balthazar, bottomless flutes of champagne appeared at our table. While staying at the Equinox Hotel, my room was magically upgraded. When I had my makeup done at Saks Fifth Avenue at the Armani counter, it was applied by an award-winning artist. It was an experience, that’s what Amex had in mind. “We thought about how we could get more into the storytelling and the experience,” Amex Centurion Club manager Rafael Mason told me over the phone. “We wanted to think beyond the cards to push innovation. We wanted to reinvent contactless payment and wearable technology. Stylistically, working with Prada made sense for Amex: both are known for their iconic black colors, to begin with.
Every time I used the band to pay, there were reactions. After the Moschino show in Bryant Park, I had to run to the Apple store to get an emergency phone charger. The man who called me exclaimed, “I’ve never seen this before! When I was at the Armani counter, the makeup artist and the manager filmed the process. The concept resembled the very beginning of the 2000s, when technological innovations advanced at a breakneck pace: from PalmPilots, to large cell phones equipped with emails, or even Amex, which created the first metal card in 1999. The aesthetic of the band was also very 2000s. I felt like Shakira, who wore lots of leather bracelets during her 2000s rocker glory. But for the other members who will get their hands on the leather bracelet? It is not Shakira’s spirit, but rather a visual signifier to other Centurion holders that says, “It’s me with my limitless black card!”
On the last day of fashion week, I was with my colleagues for lunch, showing off my new set of black cards. They suggested that I wear it around my neck, like a punk-rock choker. “It would look hot,” one said. I took their advice, but before doing so I coldly paid for our lunch with my microchip bracelet. I wanted to live a little longer with the world at my fingertips or rather my wrist.