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Sustainability takes the stage at Watches and Wonders
Watches and Wonders

Sustainability takes the stage at Watches and Wonders

Wednesday, 21 April 2021
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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4 min read

After talking the talk, the watch industry is beginning to walk the walk – and not just with isolated initiatives. Sustainable development is making very real inroads, as reported at Watches and Wonders.

When luxury’s chief executives meet, it’s rarely to check up on the planet’s health. Except at Watches and Wonders, which devoted one of its daily panels to corporate social responsibility. And who better than explorer Mike Horn, one of the speakers, to alert us to the sorry state of the environment. Deforestation, desertification, ice melt… wherever his explorations have taken him these past twenty years, including the polar regions, the consequences of human activity are showing in increasingly dramatic ways. Horn took the opportunity to speak up on the “massive role industry has to play in making the world a better place,” adding that “I don’t like the term social responsibility. I prefer social investment. We need real action by companies and we need it now.”

Mike Horn
Mike Horn

Mike Horn’s message hasn’t fallen on deaf ears at Officine Panerai. Speaking at the same panel, CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué explained how, “three years ago, Mike came to see us with a piece of drive shaft from his boat and challenged us to turn it into a watch, and that’s what really set us thinking. Not only did we succeed in producing a watch that was 40% recycled, we started looking into a sustainable business model and asking why wouldn’t it be possible to make watches entirely from recycled components?”

Luminor Marina eSteel (Pam1157) © Panerai
Luminor Marina eSteel (Pam1157) © Panerai

The question has now found an answer in the form of a Submersible e-Lab-ID, 98.6% of whose weight comes from recycled materials, from the titanium for the case, dial and bridges to the silicon for the escapement, even the Super-LumiNova coating on the hands and indexes. Joining this 30-piece limited edition is a Luminor Marina eSteel made with 58.4% (by weight) recycled steel for the case and dial. From now on, announced Jean-Marc Pontroué, for each of its new models Panerai will indicate the percentage of recycled materials. The company is also taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint and, importantly, is working to develop an open production ecosystem. “For both these ‘e’ models, we worked with a dozen companies, half of which had never previously been involved in producing a watch. We very much hope they will go on to work with more and more brands to develop similar projects to ours.”

Art Series Rhinoceros © Spaeake-Marin
Art Series Rhinoceros © Spaeake-Marin

Until now, the majority of initiatives were focused on the traceability of gold and diamond supplies. Chopard was one of the first to promote responsible practices in this field, in 2010, its 150th anniversary year, and since 2018 has used only ethically sourced gold for its jewellery and watches. “Young people don’t expect any less from us,” says Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. “But this can’t only be about supply chains. It has to be a global strategy that takes in both product and production, down to the smallest detail.”

Oris Dat Watt created with the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat
Oris Dat Watt created with the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat

Chopard is no longer a lone voice, as more and more brands incorporate recycled materials into their watches, starting with straps. Among the new releases at Watches and Wonders, Speake-Marin presented an Art-Series Rhinoceros whose strap is made from lime tree wood with a cork lining. Part of the proceeds from sales goes towards protecting critically endangered rhinoceros. Carl F. Bucherer is supporting manta ray preservation with the Scubatec, on recycled PET straps. Oris, meanwhile, is contributing to conservation of the Wadden Sea, including with the launch of the Dat Watt.

Tank Must SolarBeat © Cartier
Tank Must SolarBeat © Cartier

As well as fitting its latest Tank with a strap that is 50% apple waste, Cartier has succeeded in powering the movement from solar energy – without altering the watch’s appearance – thanks to invisible perforations in the Roman numerals. The SolarBeat™ movement was two years in development and has a lifespan of sixteen years between services. This Tank Must is the first model to benefit from the technology. In a similar vein, Ressence has developed its solar-powered Type 2N Night Blue. In addition to an automatic movement that drives the rotating hours, minutes and seconds dials, photovoltaic cells power an electronic component that stores two time zones. With its e-Crown system and Bluetooth connection, this electro-mechanical watch speaks a language in which millennials are already fluent.

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