Green Movement: Eco-Friendly Watches Are In

Luxury watchmakers are adopting more sustainable methods of manufacturing their products.

May 23, 2024  |  Joshua Hendren
sustainability watches image

As the luxury market sharpens its focus on a more sustainable future, the biggest names in watchmaking are embracing new eco-friendly practices to minimize their environmental impact. What steps are they taking, and who are the innovators leading the charge?

A perpetual champion

Of the high-end watch brands making major strides in implementing greener codes, few have championed these values as long as Swiss titan Rolex. Sustainability was a core tenet of the Rolex ethos well before many other companies joined the cause, but now the Swiss watchmaker is taking more proactive steps toward sustainable development.

The brand’s signature Perpetual Oyster case — the world’s first waterproof wristwatch case, which Rolex created in 1926 — is designed to last generations, minimizing waste, notes Daniel Yi, chief marketing officer at Bob’s Watches in Newport Beach, California.

“[Rolex] also uses 100% renewable energy in its production facilities and has invested in reforestation and marine conservation programs,” he adds, referring to nonprofit initiatives like Mission Blue, led by oceanographer Sylvia Earle.

Sustainable strategies

Swiss watch brand Oris, meanwhile, has partnered with various environmental groups and clean-up movements across the world. These include the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, which works to conserve and protect the Wadden Sea, and the UN Industrial Development Organization. The 120-year-old watchmaker has even released several limited-edition timepieces in support of sustainable causes. In 2023, it partnered with social enterprise Bracenet on a special version of its Aquis Date model, complete with a dial made from melted fishing nets.

Oris x Bracenet collaboration image
(Image from the Oris x Bracenet collaboration)

“Relative to our profile, Oris’s environmental impact is small: Watches are low-volume products and use low quantities of raw materials,” said Rolf Studer, the brand’s co-CEO, in a 2023 sustainability report. “For example, we used 9 tonnes of steel in 2022, with the equivalent environmental impact of three return business-class flights from Europe to Los Angeles. But that’s not to diminish our part: We all have a responsibility to bring ‘Change for the Better’” — a nod to Oris’s signature tagline.

Panerai, too, has implemented sustainable strategies in its manufacturing, specifically with its eLAB-ID model, which features a case, sandwich dial and bridges consisting entirely of recycled-based materials.

A lasting legacy

How can vendors advise watch collectors about sustainable options? Yi recommends sharing specific sustainability initiatives from brands so clients can make informed decisions. Furthermore, he says, “educate customers on brands that prioritize traceability in their materials. For instance, using recycled steel or ethically sourced precious metals can significantly reduce environmental impact.” Also, “promote the longevity of watches by focusing on brands that offer extensive servicing options. A well-maintained watch can last for decades, reducing the need for frequent replacements and thus lowering environmental impact.”

Image: Oris

Yi encourages participation in the pre-owned market as well. “By purchasing a pre-owned watch, collectors help extend the life cycle of luxury goods, decreasing the demand for new production and
its associated environmental costs.”

Main Image: Visual from the Oris x Bracenet collaboration. (Oris)

This article is from the May-June 2024 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.

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sustainability watches image Green Movement: Eco-Friendly Watches Are In

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