Patek Philippe famous slogan is “You never really own a Patek Philippe, you merely take care of it for the next generation”. The fact that one of these timepieces will outlast its user is one of the main selling points of a mechanical luxury watch. In addition to the temptation of being able to pass on a watch as an heirloom to the next generation, a more contemporary allure has emerged around mechanical watches: sustainability. After all, if it could be used for decades and passed down without needing to be replaced, should it be sustainable? Unfortunately, according to one World Wildlife Organization Report Regarding the Swiss watch industry announced in 2018, there are some environmental concerns surrounding mining, pollution and the resources required to handle raw materials for production. Many works to do. Fast to this day and many famous watchmakers are pushing the boundaries of innovation, driven by a global trend towards sustainability.
The most common examples of sustainable innovations in any product-focused industry have always been related to materials used in the manufacturing process. The watch industry is no exception. Steel has always been the classic material used in the making of beloved timepieces. However, steel making is not an environmentally friendly process. Pollution and carbon emissions from crude iron extraction and processing have a major impact on our environment. However, steel is a part of the DNA of many watches, especially diver and field watches, which must be built with powerful components. Naturally, a more sustainable alternative to steel would be the ideal focus for innovation. Panerai launched the Submersible Mike Horn in 2019 and it is produced using exclusive EcoTitanium, produced from scrapped aircraft. This year, the producer has released ELAB-ID sink PAM01225, a timepiece that takes the lead in their newest sustainability as part of the 2021 Watches & Wonders.
Also released this year is Swatch’s newest addition to the BIG BOLD line. These watches are made of the exclusive material dubbed as BIOCERAMIC, created from a combination of ceramic and bio-derived plastic. Together with the watch’s crystal and band made of bio-derived plastic, Swatch has created an innovative watch that is sustainable, in line with global trends.
In addition to case materials, manufacturers are also looking at improvements around the rest of the watch. A common theme is the use of recycled plastic obtained from a number of different sources. Tom Ford’s ocean plastic watch, as its name implies, recycles marine plastic waste in its construction. Each watch reportedly uses “an average of 35 plastic waste bottles used per product including watches and bands”.
Ulysse Nardin studied a variety of materials on the ocean floor and assessed their suitability for use in watchmaking. From this study, NET diver, done in partnership with Fil & Fab. Unwanted fishing nets have been recycled and formed into the raw materials used in the Diver NET’s case, back, and bezel. Another innovation is the use of transparent ceramic glass instead of the more energy consuming sapphire crystals.
There are many technical innovations in the watch industry that are endless and will not be possible in one sitting. However, the greater need for sustainability is not just limited to materials and design. It also leads to innovations in brand marketing. As consumers become more conscious of environmental and social issues, they expect that their favorite brands reflect the values they trust. reports by Nielsen indicates that 73% of Millennials are willing to spend more on products offered by brands that are considered sustainable or socially conscious. An example of marketing innovation driven by sustainability is Seiko’s Save the Ocean line, made in collaboration with renowned ocean conservationist Fabien Cousteau. This lineup has some of Seiko’s most popular features Prospex diving watches such as Turtle and Samurai. Part of the proceeds from the sale of these watches is donated to the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center and helps fund their global efforts to preserve the ocean.
Other non-tangible innovations include how a brand is run as a business. Some of the largest brands in the industry, including Omega, IWC Schaffhausen and Cartier, are members of the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC). Members of the certified RJC have an ethical supply chain that includes precious metals and gemstones. Some even pass certification to make consumers feel comfortable. IWC Schaffhausen, for example, embraces sustainability and transparent by releasing a report of its practices to the public every two years. In addition to the ethical use of the gold supply chain, brands like Chopard and Rolex even runs their own gold foundry and recycles the gold used in their watches.
As new generations of consumers become more aware of social problems around the world, watchmakers have had to keep up with the times. As climate change and environmental pollution began to become central to discussions around the world, sustainability has become a major concern in the minds of consumers. This has helped drive innovation in the watch industry in the design and manufacture of realistic watches, as well as how brands market themselves and run their businesses.