“Luckily for me and unfortunately for my future wallet, most of my favorite watch brands have dedicated themselves to protect the environment, ranging from creating limited edition watches to fund ocean-preserving projects, all the way to brands building new factories with the promise to meet their zero-carbon commitment.”
Sustainable Luxury Watch Brands
- IWC Schaffhausen
- Carl F. Bucherer
The Need For Sustainability In The Watch Industry
If you didn’t live under a rock for the past years, and especially the past few months, you know that the climate is changing and that at an alarming rate. Extreme floods in Europe, wildfires in the US, Australia, and in South Europe, droughts, and food crisis in Africa. I think it’s fair to say that it is necessary for us as humans to combat climate change and show some respect to our planet. I’m tired of people that don’t acknowledge this apparent change and think that this is normal. Let me assure you, it isn’t. Thousands of scientists around the globe rung the alarm bell years ago, but we just ignored it. And usually, you will not find any of my political opinions on this blog, I don’t care if you are left or right. We have something in common, and that is our love for watches. But what I am is someone that advocates for more sustainable living. Because climate change will affect you anyway, doesn’t matter if you support Trump, Biden, or anyone else. It’s a fact. And I try my best to do my part in this whole thing, like reducing the amount of meat I consume or use public transport. What I’m also a big advocate of, is to buy things that will last for a long time, and don’t need to be bought new every year. And part of that are wristwatches since they are a big part of my life. And in recent years, as sustainability became more and more important, a lot of luxury watch brands decided to take some steps to combat climate change, spare resources, and just be more conscious of what they do overall.
But why is it that important for luxury watch brands to do their part in sustainability? After all, they only produce a very small number of products. Right? Well, not exactly. While you would be right to assume that brands like Rolex aren’t flooding the market with cheap products, the watch industry is part of the manufacturing sector. The manufacturing sector is responsible for around half of the 37.1 billion tons of CO2 that we as a population pumped into our atmosphere. And until around 5-10 years ago, the watch industry didn’t really care about using recycled materials, nor caring about how much CO2 they produce overall.
Luckily, this slowly changes, as more and more people are looking for a more sustainable way of living. And while most of the current luxury brands customers maybe not yet care about those topics, I guarantee that the next generation of watch enthusiasts, like me, will care about this. And honestly, if I feel that a brand just doesn’t care about the environment, I will not spend a penny on them. Period. If you are that egoistic, you just don’t deserve my money. But luckily for me and unfortunately for my future wallet, most of my favorite watch brands have dedicated themselves to protect the environment, ranging from creating limited edition watches to fund ocean-preserving projects, all the way to brands building new factories with the promise to meet their zero-carbon commitment.
What Makes A Watch Sustainable?
There are a few points that you have to look at when determining if a watch is sustainable. First, the watch and its packaging use recycled materials. Second, the energy to produce that watch should mainly come from renewable sources. You can check the brand’s website to confirm that. And third, the company that produces the watch should adhere to a fair supply chain and labor practices, as well as actively engage with local communities and invest money into non-profit organizations.
So, now that you had to endure my rant, let’s get back to our favorite topic and look at what watch brands actually care about sustainability. By the way, the brands listed below are not sorted after their level of sustainability, I just put them in random order.
In 1735, a young man named Jehan-Jaques Blancpain registers himself as a watchmaker in a small Swiss town named Villeret and laid the foundation for the Blancpain watch company. Blancpain, for almost 200 years, stayed in the hands of the family and went on to produce many timepieces, with one of the most famous ones being the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms, which was introduced in 1953.
And over the past years, Blancpain really got involved with protecting our planet, especially when it comes to our oceans. Makes sense, since they are known for their scuba-diving watches, right? Anyway, Blancpain supports and funds a lot of projects that have the goal to protect either the oceans themselves or the spectacular creatures that live inside of them. A great example would be the Pristine Seas Expeditions projects, which Blancpain supported for five years, enabling the creation of new marine protected areas covering more than four million square kilometers across the world. But that’s not the only one. To this day, Blancpain co-financed 18 major scientific projects, participated in the doubling of the marine protected surface area around the world, and presented several award-winning documentary films, as well as underwater photo exhibitions and other publications. These contributions in favor of the exploration and protection of the oceans were supplemented by the sale of several limited-edition watches.
Oris was founded by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian in the Swiss town of Holstein. After the decision was made, the duo proceeded to buy a small watch factory and landed an agreement with the local mayor, to start producing watches. By 1911, after just 7 years, Oris has become the largest employer in Holstein, with over 300 workers and watchmakers. And their steep rise continuous on to this day with the help of watches like the Oris Diver, Oris Big Crown, or the Oris Aquis Date.
Alongside growing their revenue, Oris also made sure that they take good care of the environment, introducing a great amount of responsibility and sustainability into their company policy. Part of their efforts to protect the planet and its oceans are consisting of several projects, like for example, collaborating with the Coral Restoration Foundation, as part of its mission to stop the global ecological disaster that is unfolding below the ocean’s surface. Oris is also working with the Reef Restoration Foundation on helping restore the Great Barrier Reef, the Seoul KFEM, South Korea’s largest environmental non-governmental organization, the whale and dolphin conservation which is aiming to protect these majestic creatures, and several environmentalists, filmmakers, and divers.
Founded back in 1868 by American engineer and watchmaker, Florentine Ariosto Jones, IWC created a name for itself by bringing together innovative American production techniques and traditional Swiss watchmaking skills. With watches like the IWC Portugieser, the Big Pilot, and the Portofino, IWC managed to rise through the ranks and become one of the most significant Swiss watch companies of today.
A big part of IWC’s identity is the promise of Swiss quality and their promise of doing good in the world and caring about the environment and their overall corporate responsibility. IWC does not only reduce the environmental impact of their own operations and productions, but also of the way the source materials, community investments, and the choices they are making in their role as an employer. Increasingly, environmental impact is also factored into planning marketing and events, client experience opportunities, and sponsorships. In their 2020 sustainability report, they list a whole list of action points that they want to take on in order to reduce their impact on the environment, without compromising their strive for quality. Just to give you an idea of what they listed in that report, here are a few examples: Action points and goals for the next years range from redesigning their packages to produce less plastic, fighting deforestation by changing their bags, implementing a green IT strategy, purchasing 100 percent renewable energy globally, and investing in local communities.
Carl F. Bucherer
Carl F. Bucherer’s history began back in 1888, when merchant and entrepreneur Carl-Friedrich Bucherer opened the first specialist watch and jewelry store in Lucerne, together with his wife, Luise. And while today, Bucherer mainly serves as an authorized retailer for a broad range of top-notch luxury watch brands like Rolex, Audemars Piguet, A. Lange & Söhne, Blancpain, and a lot more, they also have their own watch collection, which they fittingly call the Carl F. Bucherer. I personally especially like their Manero Flyback Chronograph, which just is an absolute beauty.
But, besides selling and creating some of Switzerland’s most expensive and exciting watches, they also care about the environment. More than seven years ago, Bucherer started to support the UK-based charity Manta Trust, which has dedicated itself to the cause of rare manta rays since 2011. Today, it is active in over 20 countries, with the goal of preserving the maritime ecosystem and the rays’ habitat on a long-term, sustainable basis. And in 2020, Bucherer celebrated this collaboration with a very special edition of their Patravi ScubaTec. The Carl F. Bucherer Patravi ScubaTec Black Manta Special Edition, which portrays an iconic Manta illustration on its dial and has a rubber strap that is made from recycled plastic bottles recovered from the Mediterranean Sea.
Founded in 1860, Chopard was originally famous for making ladies’ watches and pocket watches. But what started off as a watch-only production, evolved into the Chopard of today, which specializes not only in making high-quality timepieces for both men and women but also in creating high-end jewelry for an upscale clientele. Some of Chopard’s most well-known timepieces are the Alpine Eagle, the Happy Diamonds collection, and the L.U.C line.
Besides creating fantastic watches and jewelry, Chopard is also known for its commitment to the environment. Since 2013, Chopard commits itself to sustainability, which is facilitated by an overarching and well-established internal governance structure, dedicated sustainability managers, responsible sourcing, investment in employees and in non-profits, as well as raising awareness within the watch industry. Chopard is also part of The Responsive Jewellery Council, which consists of several different jewelry companies, and has developed a common platform of standards for the jewelry supply chain, as well as credible mechanisms for verifying responsible business practices through third-party auditing.
Presumably, the most famous watch manufacturer on this list is Rolex. Worn by countless public figures, actors, musicians, and athletes, the name Rolex has become a byword for luxury and exclusivity. Known for their thought and robust watches that were part of several milestones in the world’s history, like the climbing of Mount Everest, Rolex gained a very big and loyal following, which admittedly, I’m also a part of. Rolex was founded in 1905 when Hans Wilsdorf opened up a London-based company, which specialized in distributing timepieces. Then, in 1919, Rolex moved from London to Geneva, where they stayed until this day.
And while Rolex supports a lot of famous athletes, like Roger Federer or Tiger Woods, they also take huge pride in supporting individuals and organizations committed to finding solutions to protect our planet. Here are a few examples of those exceptional humans and projects, that are supported by Rolex and their foundation.
Dr. Paula Kahumbu, a National Geographic Explorer who has devoted her career to protecting elephants from environmental changes and poachers.
Enlisting local people from one of the world’s wildest and most isolated places, the mountainous Himalaya region of Humla in Nepal, as frontline conservators to rescue dwindling wild animal populations – from snow leopards to wild yaks. The project is headed up by young ecologist, Rinzin Phunjok Lama.
Mission Blue. A mission with the goal to help increase global marine protection to 30 percent by 2030, adhering to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) target. Rolex does this by defining certain Hope Spots, which are protected areas in ecologically significant parts of the oceans, vital to the preservation of marine species, or places where communities rely on a healthy marine environment for their livelihoods.
Rolex also engages in a lot more projects, some of which they support directly, some of which they support via their Rolex foundation.
Famously known for being the brand behind the first watch on the moon, Omega was founded back in 1848, in a small Swiss village named La Chaux-de-Fonds. And ever since then, the Swiss manufacturer continues to produce high-quality and luxurious watches. Omega managed to gain a very loyal following and scored high-valuable contracts with movie franchises like James Bond.
But Omega doesn’t only care about space or action movies, they also care about our planet. And they do that by taking part in various conservation projects and supporting several advocates that call for action regarding the climate crisis and the pollution of our air and oceans. One particular collaboration that I find very interesting, is the collaboration between Omega and the GoodPlanet Foundation, which resulted in two projects, which have the goal to restore and conserve the Indonesian coast. These three-year projects, carried out in collaboration with local conservation activists, are designed to maintain the natural heritage and preserve local economic activities. So, they not only invest money in short-term changes, but they also educate the locals, in order to strengthen the future impact that their projects already made.
In 1775, Breguet was founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet, who after leaving his home in Neuchâtel as a teenager and heading for Versailles and Paris for a watchmaking apprenticeship, opened his first watch workshop in the Ile de la Cité in Paris. After surviving the French revolution, a switch of ownership, and two world wars, Breguet was sold to a Parisian jewelry house, which then got bought up by Investcorp, who relocated the production facilities to Switzerland. In 1999, Breguet joined the Swatch group and continues to create exquisite timepieces to this day.
Breguet is also committed to protecting the environment and especially the oceans. Back in 2018, Breguet announced that they had entered a partnership with the Race for Water Foundation, in order to support the Odyssey 2017-2021 and its crucial mission for the oceans. The Odyssey 2017-2021 is a mission, where a solar- and wind-powered vessel, embarks on a journey with the goal of promoting innovative solutions, capable of transforming plastic waste into energy resources, and accelerating the clean energy transition. The Race for Water Odyssey will make around 35 stopovers all around the world and provide an opportunity for scientists and locals to gather and share their learnings on the need to preserve water. The ongoing journey will take them through 18 different countries, ranging from France to the small island nation Vanuatu and to its current location, Shimoda, Japan.
And the last brand on this list is Panerai. Known for their unique watch designs and underwater capabilities, the Italian watch manufacturer Panerai specializes in creating high-end dive watches, which, since Panerai’s foundation in 1860, earned the respect of enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike. Panerai’s best-known watches are the Radiomir and Luminor – both of which have been updated numerous times, adapting to the current market situation.
Panerai is also adapting to the new development in the worldwide sustainability movement and proudly supports several projects to reduce their impact on the environment. Like Chopard, Panerai is also part of The Responsive Jewellery Council, therefore admitting to the group’s standards. Besides that, Panerai also implemented other actions, like making their new manufacture new zero-impact, carefully sourcing their leather, equipping their boutiques with environmentally friendly and certified wooden and electrical products, as well as supporting non-profit organizations, that benefit the community and the planet. At this year’s Watches and Wonders 2021, they even introduced a completely new watch, that is made from sustainable materials. Well done Panerai!