Made to last generations, quality watches are fast fashion’s arch nemeses. But some brands are pushing paper, moving mountains and making waves to bolster their sustainable cred. Meet the horological tastemakers leading the charge with their sustainable watches.
1. Ocean-Saving Oris
In 2021, Oris achieved carbon-neutral certified status but they didn’t stop there; their plan is to reduce emissions by 10% each year. In the past, they’ve also released a number of limited-edition watches to raise money for conservation projects to protect the Great Barrier Reef, Russia’s Lake Baikal and the River Han in South Korea.
But it’s their release of the Oris Aquis Date Upcycle in late 2021, that really made a splash. The dial of this watch is made from recycled PET plastic, creating random colour patterns and meaning that no two watches are the same. Yeah, this watch is trash, but in a good way.
2. Changemaker Chopard
Chopard goes straight to the source to strengthen their sustainable efforts. They have been committed to 100% responsibly-sourced gold since 2018 through Fairmined and recycled gold. The brand works directly with small artisanal gold miners in South America to ensure the workers have a good livelihood and have helped several of them achieve Fairmined certification.
They are refreshingly up front about their shortcomings and are making efforts to source precious stones responsibly and reduce their carbon footprint.
Although they’ve long used ethical gold, even their innovative Lucent Steel A223 is made up of recycled steel. It features on the highly desirable Chopard Alpine Eagle, a reinterpretation of the St Moritz, the company’s first sports steel watch created in 1980.
3. Futureproof Breitling
If you thought the new age world of Bitcoin, NFTs and blockchains wouldn’t intercept the world of luxury watchmaking, you’re sorely mistaken. Breitling wants to use a blockchain to record their watches’ materials and components.
Every Breitling watch now has a digital passport and the goal is that soon customers will be able to scan a QR code to see where, when and how every component of the watch was made. Goodbye greenwashing, hello transparency!
But while the kinks of innovation are ironed out, an old school 1957 SuperOcean tribute, the Breitling Superocean Heritage ‘57 Outerknown is here to grab your attention right now. Co-designed with Kelly Slater’s surf wear brand, it features a special ECONYL® yarn single-piece strap, repurposed from nylon waste pulled out from the oceans, like fishing nets. Bonus: Breitling has also introduced a foldable, reusable watch box created entirely from upcycled plastic bottles.
4. Boundary-Pushing Panerai
Panerai is one of the heavy hitters when it comes to sustainable efforts. In April 2021, they announced the Submersible eLAB-ID, a concept watch made from 98.6 percent recycled material—the watch with the highest percentage of recycled-based material ever made. They were set to release 30 some time in 2022 but it’s estimated they would retail at over a million rand.
So if you can’t wait or part with a cool million, they also have the Panerai Submersible Quarantaquattro eSteel Blu Profondo which uses recycled steel and has two straps; one made of recycled PET plastic and another made of recycled rubber. Bonus: South African explorer Mike Horn has been an ambassador for over a decade.
5. Role Model Rolex
You can’t talk about planet-saving pursuits without talking about the watch that has ridden shotgun to every corner of the planet in pursuit of exploration, adventure and discovery. But that pursuit is nowadays more about planet preservation than pure pleasure, and Rolex is supporting those explorers on this new mission.
In 2019, Rolex launched its Perpetual Planet initiative that supports partnerships and projects that protect our planet. Two such partnerships are the National Geographic Society to collect climate data and Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue initiative to protect the oceans through a network of marine protected “Hope Spots”.
No such watch embodies the mission of Rolex more than the Rolex Explorer II; a watch that can weather the extremes of life, whether that’s mountaineering or making it to work on time.
These pieces are forging an eco-friendly future, too.
Ulysse Nardin Diver X The Ocean Race
The case is 40% Carbonium® and 60% recycled fishing nets. Plus, the monochrome grey looks pretty damn great.
Swatch BIG BOLD BIOCERAMIC C-White
This watch is made of BIOCERAMIC, a game-changing blend of ceramic and bio-sourced plastic.
IWC Portugieser Chronograph Watch
This watch is compatible with IWC’s TimberTex straps; straps 80% composed of natural plant fibres. Who would’ve guessed?
Seiko Prospex Tuna Antarctica Save The Ocean Watch
Proceeds from the Save the Ocean series go towards ocean conservation charities.
Omega Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Co-Axial Master Chronometer
The NATO strap is made from polyamide yarn sourced entirely from recycled fishing nets.