He’s currently circumnavigating the globe via the South and North Poles; he has hiked to the North Pole in 24-hour darkness; and he has explored perilous regions such as the Amazon and Arctic Circle solo. If you’ve wondered what it’s like to live like South Africa-born explorer Mike Horn, you might now have the chance to experience it. We sat down with the lean and tanned adventurer at the Salon Internationale de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva earlier this year, where the latest collaborative watch between Panerai and him was unveiled. The Submersible Mike Horn Edition PAM 985 is a 19-piece limited edition that comes with a once-in-a- lifetime experience: Buyers of the watch, which retails for $58,000, will get to participate in one of his trips for a few days.
The friendly 52-year-old shares more about his new (eco-friendly) watch, bearing witness to the need for greater sustainability, and just how fit one has to be to join him on an expedition.
The new Submersible Mike Horn Edition watches feature straps made from recycled plastic and cases made from recycled Ecotitanium. Did these initiatives come from you or Panerai?
It was a combination. I started working with Panerai in 2001, and I’ve spoken to the brand about sustainability for the past 17 years. It takes just three plastic bottles to make this strap – and it’s high-quality and easy to use. We don’t have to create more titanium if we have titanium we can reuse; the quality is not any worse, and you’re taking a metal that took a lot of energy to create and giving it new value by changing its shape.
What consequences of environmental pollution have you seen in your years as an explorer?
I’ve sailed through the “Garbage Patch” (the nickname for open ocean areas where marine debris concentrates) in the Pacific. The Garbage Patch is made of accumulated plastic and it’s the size of Mexico – it’s big. It would take 150 years to clean. There is no life in these areas – the animals you find here are often dead, because they had swallowed the plastic and choked. Plastic breaks down to become microplastics, and fish and other animals eat it; it’s in our food and we are polluting our bodies. We can’t go and dig all the plastics out of the ocean, but we can stop adding to it.
What can the 19 buyers of the limited-edition PAM 985 expect from the Mike Horn experience?
I want to do something unique, that will enrich each person. There will be interaction between adventure, and environmental awareness and action. One programme I have in mind involves capturing the DNA of whales to be able to better monitor their movements, and we are doing this by obtaining the spray that these whales expel. So, we’ll teach (the participants) to fly the drones to capture the whale spray.
That certainly doesn’t sound like a walk in the park…
People must trust me. I am their key, I am the guy who opens the door for them. They just have to prepare themselves a little. Just go for a jog, keep a little fit. I will suggest training programmes. They have to make the time. I want to give these people emotions that will be connected to the watch that I sign. And I also want to engrave their name on the watch, to show that they made it. This is a watch that they have to earn. It’s not just a watch that they can buy.