Sustainability is the new buzzword across global manufacturing industries. Manufacturers across the spectrum, including carmakers, fashion and electronic brands, shoe companies etc., are embracing the idea unreservedly. Not surprising then that watchmakers are also following suit, taking the first steps to develop timepieces made from environment-friendly, recyclable and ethically sourced materials. For years the industry has been actively involved in helping conservation organisations in their efforts through collaborations and donations, so making eco-friendly watches would seem the next logical step. 2021 has seen a saw a range of looks that capture the new environment-friendly approach. We list a few.
SWATCH BIOCERAMIC BIG BOLD
Swatch pioneered plastic watches and continues to be the most significant player in the arena. In that sense, the Swiss watchmaker has much at stake as the world moves away from single-use plastic. Last year, it made the first big move towards environmentally friendly material by launching the `bioreloaded’ range of watches based on the original 1983 designs. Plastic was replaced by biosourced materials made from castor oil. Swatch called it the `First mass production within the watchmaking industry replacing all plastics by bio-sourced material.’
Swatch went even bigger this year in April with its Big Bold range. According to a video released by the brand on its website, around 500 engineers were involved in developing a new material called Bioceramic used in these watches. It was made by combining one-third of bioplastic made from castor oil with two-third of ceramic made from Zirconium dioxide. Swatch Marketing Director Bernardo Tribolet calls Bioceramic part of a new generation of bio-sourced materials under the umbrella of Swatch Next.
The beauty of the material, according to Tribolet, is that its production procedures are very similar to plastic, allowing the Swatch manufacturing facility to use the same injection moulding machines employed in the making of plastic swatches. Bioceramic is powdery and silky to touch. It is thermally easily adapted to body temperature, ensuring that the wearer would hardly feel the watch, and it is very pure in its looks. Swatch deliberately chose the 47 mm size for the collection for the majesty of the material to come through. Tribolet says, besides the size, that the range was called Big Bold because Bioceramic is also a `big and bold statement for Swatch’. Swatch considers Bioceramic among its most significant innovation on par with the Swatch Chrono from 1990, Swatch Thin, in 1997 and the one-screw Swatch Sistem 51 from 2013.
PANERAI SUBMERSIBLE ELAB-IDTM
A concept watch that will go on sale as a limited edition next year, Submersible eLab-IDTM is almost entirely (98.6%) made from recycled material, an unprecedented achievement in watchmaking history. Panerai terms it: `the watch with the highest percentage of recycled-based material ever made.’ The case, sandwich dial, the caseback, and bridges are all made from EcoTitanium – a recycled titanium alloy that is a lightweight aerospace grade metal. The Superluminova in the dial, the silicon in the movement, the sapphire crystal, the gold hands and the Grigio Roccia fabric strap also feature recycled materials. The brand had to start from scratch and build an entirely new supply chain to bring the automatic watch to life. Since then, Panerai has made the list of its suppliers public to encourage other watchmakers who might want to develop similar kinds of watches. The 43 mm grey case and dial feature identifiable Panerai design codes.
ORIS AQUIS DATE UPCYCLE
Every hour around 700 tonnes of plastic waste is dumped into the oceans around the world. Oris has been doing its bit to save the environment by partnering with Everwave, a non-profit that uses active and passive technologies to clean plastic from rivers and oceans around the world. As the watch’s name suggests, Oris is taking its sustainability effort one step forward by upcycling the plastic waste collected from the oceans to make attractive dials for its new collection of 41.5 mm and 31.5 mm watches. The PET plastic recycling process produces random patterns which ensure that no two dials look the same, making each watch a unique piece. The automatic watches share their architecture with the popular Aquis Date 41.5 mm and 36.5 mm models. Both have a stainless steel case and a uni-directional rotating diver’s bezel with a scratch-resistant grey ceramic insert.
SKAGEN AAREN NATURALS
Skagen has initiated its journey towards sustainability with the launch of the Aaren Naturals collection. Labelled as Pro-planet, the collection features watches where all the parts are made from sustainable materials. The case is made from at least 50% stainless steel material, while the dial and strap also feature at least 50% material sourced from natural materials like cork, mulberry bark and apple. Additionally, the Denmark-based brand has reduced the use of virgin plastic across its entire supply chain. It has also set several long-term sustainability commitments, including reducing water consumption for leather tanning by 45%, creating designs that meet their Pro-planet criteria, sourcing upwards of 90% of its leather requirement from Leather Working Group certified tanneries and using 100 % recycled material for its packaging and promo materials.
Straps are one area where watch brands, luxury and mass, have found it the easiest to shift to bio-friendly material. Among the most recent examples include Cartier Tank Must SolarBeat, the first- solar-powered watch in the Tank family, where the strap is made from 40% plant matter, mostly waste from apples grown in Europe. Carl F. Bucherer Patravi ScubaTec Maldives features a strap made of natural rubber and a fabric insert made of 100% recycled bottles. TimberTex straps from IWC Schaffhausen is made from a low-impact paper-based material that is made up of 80% natural plant fibres from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified trees grown in the non-profit organisation’s sustainably managed European forests. Manufactured in Italy using traditional paper-making techniques, these straps are padded with recycled microfibres, making them soft and supple and comfortable to wear. It is very durable and offers maximum resistance against water.