Can a watch brand be sustainable? It would be nice to think so. On the one hand it produces inherently long-lasting products (You don’t actually own a Patek… etc). On the other, watchmaking emits pollutants, mines raw materials and uses wasteful packaging just like any other industry. In fact, the watch and jewellery industry uses around 50 per cent of the world’s gold and 67 per cent of its new-mined rough diamonds. The mining of these raw materials causes air and water pollution, soil degradation and the destruction of ecosystems that has a terrible effect on wildlife, oceans and forests.
Even before today’s climate panic, the industry was taking steps to address this. The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) was founded in 2005. Its goal is to establish responsible standards for the entire jewellery supply chain: from the extraction of raw materials, through their processing, to the retailing of the merchandise. A whole series of watch brands have earned certification from the RJC in recent years, including IWC, A Lange & Söhne and Cartier.
More recently Blancpain and Omega, among others, have shown commitment to protecting the oceans through number of initiatives, Oris has partnered with Pacific Garbage Screening and IWC Schaffhausen has started getting its electric energy from 100-per cent renewable sources. The watches themselves have begun to incorporate sustainable materials. The wristband of Breitling’s Superocean Héritage II Chronograph 44 Outerkown uses a yarn made from nylon waste, including from fishing nets – a development made in collaboration with the sustainable clothing brand Outerknown, founder by “Breitling Squad” member, the surfer Kelly Slater. Mondaine has its Essence collection, developed with recyclable materials. Alpina has made a dive watch collection with a case and strap made from recycled materials taken from the ocean.
Now Panerai has announced a concept watch where 98.6 per cent of its weight is made of recycled plant-based materials. The dive watch brand has already shown commitment to the cause – its Mike Horn Edition Submersible watch from last year had a case crafted entirely from recycled titanium – Eco-Titanium, the brand calls it – and a PET strap made from used plastic soda bottles, for example. (The packaging was also entirely composed of recycled materials.)
The newly announced Submersible eLAB-ID features a case, sandwich dial and bridges composed of EcoTitanium, a recycled titanium alloy that is a lightweight aerospace-grade metal made of more than 80 per cent recycled content. It also used recycled SuperLuminova on its dial and hands and recycled silicon for its movement escapement, something Panerai says is a first for the watch business.
Both are obtained through small-scale recycling processes that reuse raw material waste. “From the sapphire crystal to the gold hands, most of the major components contain recycled-based material,” it says, in a carefully worded statement.
The watch is 44mm in diameter and features identifiably Panerai trademarks, including a safety lock protection device and distinctive outsized hands.
“We don’t want to be the only one doing this”, comments Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué. “Being alone won’t save the world”.
“We will be very happy if all our competitors in Switzerland and around the world get in touch with the same suppliers to use the same materials.”
As sustainability becomes a status symbol, it doesn't seem such a far-fetched idea.
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