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How luxury watch brands are going green

From working with renewable energy to using recycled materials, haute horology is embracing sustainability.

No matter what you hear about the longevity of luxury timepieces, fine watchmaking still relies on resource-consuming manufacturing practices. Thankfully, many brands are now trying their best to be more responsible.

Those like A. Lange & Sohne, Tag Heuer and IWC have made their manufacturing sites more eco-friendly through sustainable architecture, solar panels and geothermal power plants. Many others, including Chopard, Omega and Harry Winston are also proudly declaring various certifications from institutions like Fairmined and the Responsible Jewellery Council. Even educators are raising awareness by partnering with organisations in the way Omega has done with the GoodPlanet Foundation and Blancpain with its Blancpain Ocean Commitment.

While many such efforts have been ongoing for years, watchmakers are now realising that the final products make far better ambassadors than the announcements about them.

  • Sustainable Watches

    Panerai ambassador, Mike Horn.

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SALVAGE KING: GIVING USED MATERIALS A SECOND LIFE

Panerai made good on its promise two years ago to produce a watch that was almost completely made out of recycled materials. The limited-edition Submersible Mike Horn, with a case made from the brand’s EcoTitanium (a titanium alloy produced from aerospace-grade scrap metal) and strap from recycled PET bottles, was the teaser for this year’s Submersible eLAB-ID PAM01225. Besides an EcoTitanium case, it also features an EcoTitanium sandwich dial and bridges, and a recycled fabric strap. It is also the first watch ever to use 100 per cent recycled SuperLuminova as well as reprocessed silicon for the escapement.

Panerai claims that most of the major components – including the sapphire crystal and gold hands – “contain recyclable materials” that make up 98.6 per cent of the watch’s weight.

It also launched the Luminor Marina eSteel that gets its name from a recycled steel alloy used in the case and dial. Compared to the eLAB-ID, only 58.4 per cent of this watch’s weight comes from recycled materials.

Its dial colours, on the other hand, have Italian names that evoke the ocean: Blu Profondo (dark blue), Verde Smeraldo (green) and Grigio Roccia (grey).

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SUN WORSHIPPERS: POWERING UP WITH SOLAR ENERGY

When the quartz crisis hit the industry in the 1970s, Cartier responded by launching the Tank Must de Cartier, its first industrially produced, non-precious Tank. Now the collection is introducing versions offering the new SolarBeat photovoltaic movement with a lifetime of 16 years. Perforations in the Roman numerals let through sunlight to power it up.

The new-generation Must collection also offers straps made from 40 per cent waste matter collected from apple orchards. The carbon footprint and amount of energy and water used are considerably less than what it takes to make a calfskin strap.

Antwerp watchmaker Ressence had a more avant-garde take on the use of solar power when it unveiled its patented e-Crown technology in the Type 2 e-Crown Concept watch in 2018. The invisible “crown” is actually an electro-mechanical module powered by photovoltaic cells that works alongside the (fully mechanical) movement to automatically set the time. The Type 2, however, is no longer just a concept. Ressence recently released its third addition to the line-up: the Type 2N Night Blue.

TWISTS TO THE WRISTS: ENGAGING WITH ECO-FRIENDLY STRAPS

Why limit yourself to rubber or fabric straps when looking for recycled, cruelty- free options? IWC’s new TimberTex straps might look like soft, matte leather but they are composed of 80 per cent natural plant fibres and crafted with traditional papermaking techniques. In blue, brown or black, the straps are also padded with recycled microfibre for extra comfort and currently complement the Portugieser Chronograph, Portugieser Automatic 40, Portofino Automatic and Portofino Chronograph.

If you must have the real deal, you can always count on Chopard to ensure that its straps at least come from a reputable source. The maison works closely with strap suppliers to map supply chains and ensure full traceability and visibility from the tanneries, slaughterhouses and breeding farms it works with. So you can trust that the leather straps of this year’s L.U.C QF Jubilee have been acquired from a supplier that guarantees responsible practices.

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