Many luxury brands’ marketing materials now include buzzwords like “sustainability,” “greener,” and “constructive social impact.” Concepts like corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship, which were long dismissed as mere marketing gimmicks, are increasingly being given substance. In part, this transition is due to Millennials and Generation Z taking over the purchasing power. Conscious customers are those who are concerned about the environmental and social impact of the products they buy, and they look for companies with similar ideals.
If that’s the case, why should marketers care about the opinions of this generation? According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, the affluent members of these groups now account for 85 per cent of the rise in worldwide luxury product sales. Luxury brands will have to change in order to survive in the face of such enormous purchasing power and a general worldwide shift toward a more sustainable way of life. As a surprise, high-end watchmakers, who are typically reluctant to respond to market conditions, have been at the vanguard of this movement since its start.
First and foremost, when I began writing an article on luxury watches and sustainability, the first question that came to my head was, are watches sustainable or are they conscious?
Rather than laud the glories of and give free advertising to multiple brands, I’d like to endeavor to deal with the subject as fairly and with respect as I can. While it’s important to look at the issue from the perspective of a watch aficionado, we also need to consider what sustainability entails for luxury goods.
Is sustainable luxury attainable or is it another far-fetched dream? Watch how these watch brands have committed to being more environmentally conscious through their watches.
The fact that Panerai has always been experimental with material development meant that it would only be a matter of time until it developed a material that was both durable enough to serve as the case for a diver’s watch and opulent enough to be called a Panerai.
Over 98% of the Submersible eLAB-weight ID’s are derived from recyclable and/or reclaimed materials. Eco-Titanium, a lightweight aerospace-grade alloy composed of over 80% recycled titanium, is used in the dial, case, and bridges of this watch. Even the SuperLumiNova on its dial and hands, as well as the silicon for the movement’s escapement, are all recycled components.
Chopard’s first calibre with a flying tourbillon, the new L.U.C Flying T Twin, made news, for obvious reasons. Using socially certified Fairmined rose gold, this line has been there long enough and has been appealing to stylish gentlemen, verified by the “Poinçon de Genève” seal of quality.
In light of Chopard’s long history as the world’s leading gold buyer, it’s not surprising that this piece’s hand-guilloché dial and ultra-thin case are fashioned from 18-karat ethically certified Fairmined rose gold.
To ensure the long-term viability of the artisanal mining cooperatives that supply the gold for the company’s watches and jewellery, the company began using 100% ethical gold in July 2018.
Breitling has long supported non-governmental organizations like Ocean Conservancy, which works to ensure that the world’s oceans and beaches are healthy and clean. The Breitling Superocean Heritage Ocean Conservancy Limited Edition, for example, features a NATO strap made from Econyl Yarn, in addition to other environmental efforts like beach clean-ups. It is possible to recycle this special fabric indefinitely because they make it from nylon waste that has been collected in the oceans.
Breitling’s Superocean Heritage Ocean Conservancy Limited Edition sends a coherent message: the company wants to take the lead in the battle against ocean degradation with the Ocean Conservancy. It’s no secret that Breitling cares about ocean health and clean beaches, and this 1000-piece limited edition showcases Breitling’s support of Ocean Conservancy’s preservation initiatives.
Even the watch box on this device makes a bold promise: it will go above and beyond the call of duty. The new packaging is collapsible, recyclable, and ships with a substantially lighter carbon footprint because they manufacture it entirely from repurposed plastic bottles.
This closeness to the sea has led Blancpain not only to build some of the best diving watches but also to make a commitment to safeguarding the deep blue sea itself. The Fifty Fathoms, the company’s flagship model, was introduced in 1953 and has subsequently generated variants dedicated to the cause, such as the 250-piece Fifty Fathoms Ocean Commitment III.
It has a 40.3mm steel casing and a matte dial with painted hour and minute hands. The hands and hour markers on this timepiece have a little yellowed hue, but they’re not overly “fauxtina.” The white stenciled-out image of the globe with the words “Ocean Commitment” around it replaces the moisture-indicating disc we saw on the Mil-Spec. In addition to being blue, the Blancpain-patented rotating sapphire bezel has a good grip, and it’s unidirectional.
The Gombessa expedition, whose research exposed the effects of global warming in the Antarctic, was one of the beneficiaries of the project’s revenues.
In addition to their paper-based TimberTex watch straps, IWC is also doing a lot to help the environment. Dedicated to environmental sustainability, Schaffhausen-based business even reimburses a considerable amount of travel expenses for its employees who commute to work by public transportation. The corporation also covered the cost of solar panel installation for its employees.
The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), a non-profit organization that promotes ethical forest management, is another option to help. As an example, the TimberTex straps, which are made of 80% natural plant fibers, come from trees grown in European forests that have been ecologically and properly maintained.
The new paper straps are offered in blue, brown and black, and can be worn with four models: the Portugieser Chronograph, Portugieser Automatic 40, Portofino Automatic and Portofino Chronograph. All of the watchmaker’s stores are also expected to run entirely on renewable energy by 2025.
With the announcement of a five-year agreement with Race for Water Foundation, Breguet has pushed its dedication to conserving marine life to the next level. Breguet’s founder, Abraham-Louis Breguet, was named horologer to the French Royal Navy by King Louis XIII in 1815, and he ensured that the company remained focused on naval timekeeping.
By working with Race for Water, Breguet has aimed at highlighting the dangers of plastic waste to the ocean and promoting ocean conservation. A special edition Breguet Marine “Race for Water” watch for explorers’ wrists. Longitude calculations at sea were made easier thanks to accurate chronometers installed in the ship’s heart. Breguet has made an unforgettable impact on history.
Breguet’s modern Marine series showcases the brand’s extraordinary skill of timekeeping. Breguet has released a special edition of its Marine 5517 timepiece in honor of its relationship with Race for Water. They depicted the Race for Water vessel in A Clous de Paris style on a bespoke blue dial in a light titanium casing. On the wrists of Race for Water participants, the Breguet Marine Special Edition will embark on a maritime journey, joining them on their goal.
Oris has teamed up with the Billion Oyster Project, a pioneering non-profit seeking to repopulate New York Harbor’s once-dwindling oyster population, to continue its mission of bringing positive change. In the year 2035, they will reintroduce one billion oysters into the city’s iconic rivers as part of the project’s ambitious goal.
2,000 of the New York Harbor Limited Edition, based on their high-performance Aquis diving watch, will be made available in support of the project’s pioneering work. The green mother-of-pearl dial, which was inspired by both the color of the water in the port and the shells of oysters, is unmistakable. It’s a striking representation of an amazing tale.
The Skeleton X features a brand-new movement that highlights the fine craftsmanship of Ulysse Nardin. Wearers can see the watch’s meticulously cut and finished internal mechanisms via its open-worked dial, which is made of a lightweight, environmentally friendly material called Carbonium Gold.
As a result, Carbonium has a 40% lower environmental effect than other carbon composites because it is made with offcuts from aviation parts. Not only does this make the Skeleton X more environmentally friendly than most, but the combination of carbon and gold results in an eye-catching marbled effect.
Indeed, the watch industry is headed towards a sustainable future. The question still lingering in my mind: are they conscious enough? This brings me to my answer. The conscious aspect comes into play when what we, as buyers, can do.
Making the proper or “mistaken” decisions while buying timepieces will neither save the planet nor lead to its demise. Like any other industry, however, watchmaking cannot dodge its role, despite its small global proportion in overall environmental effect. The same applies to a buyer. I would even go so far as to claim that this extends even more to consumers of luxury watches; since individuals who can afford such products are typically in a privileged status.
The responsibility of the fortunate buyer goes over their entire lives and beyond their affinity for watches. Stay tuned as we break down several paradoxes and possibilities related to sustainability and watches…