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Where did my watch come from and how was it produced? While many people today are already asking questions about the origin and manufacture of food, clothing or cosmetics, the issue of sustainability has not been given much public attention in the world of watches. However, the environment is becoming an increasingly important issue in the watch industry as well. Numerous companies in the luxury watch industry already rely on sustainable watch production and are committed to the responsible use of resources.

How sustainable is the production of luxury watches?

Most people are unaware that the extraction of high-quality raw materials such as gold can be very damaging to the environment. Unfortunately, diamonds additionally often come from mines that use child labour. This issue is central to the non-profit organization Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). By reviewing and promoting ethically, socially and ecologically responsible processes throughout the supply chain, it aims to ensure general, sustainability-oriented standards in watch and jewellery production. The standards apply to jewellery products made of diamonds, gold, platinum and other precious metals – from mining to retail sale. According to RJC, respect for human rights is always at the forefront of this process. For some years now, the organization has even been a full member of the ISEAL Alliance, the global association for sustainability standards.

WWF gives the Richemont Group a positive assessment

The luxury watch and jewellery manufacturer Cartier is also committed to sustainable production and the purchase of fairly acquired resources such as gold or precious stones. In fact, Cartier has even adopted corresponding principles in its corporate philosophy. Moreover, a study conducted by the WWF in Switzerland showed that the entire Richemont Group, which includes Piaget, IWC, Cartier, Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre, fared better than most other Swiss luxury watch manufacturers. However, it should be mentioned that some of the largest manufacturers did not grant access to their accounts for the study. Consequently, the data of most companies cannot be evaluated.

Fairly acquired resources at Chopard

The renowned luxury brand Chopard has also committed itself to these standards. The Haute Joaillerie "Green Carpet Collection", which was launched in 2013, exclusively used fairly produced gold as well as certified diamonds and emeralds. Then in 2018, there was exciting news: in future, Chopard would only use gold with the "Fairmined" seal of quality. This means that the entire production of jewellery and watches either uses gold from small mines that meet the standards for fair trade from the Swiss Better Gold Association (SGBA), or uses precious metals certified by the RJC.

Mother-of-pearl dial of a Chopard Imperiale 388532-6001 watch

Oris commits to ocean conservation

The manufacturer Oris also made a further contribution to environmental protection in 2019 with its Clean Ocean Limited Edition. This limited edition of 200 pieces is a set of three diving watches in a box made of recycled PET bottles. The watches are the Oris Aquis Clean Ocean Limited Edition, the Oris Great Barrier Reef III and the Oris Aquis Blue Whale Limited Edition, which were exclusively available in this set. All three watches are made of stainless steel and have a blue bezel and dial. The Great Barrier Reef and Aquis Clean Ocean Limited Edition also have a case back made from recycled PET bottles. Due to the nature of the material, each of the case backs, as well as each of the boxes, are totally unique and have a high collector's value, as these sets are now in great demand. Another positive aspect is that a part of the sales proceeds of 9,600 CHF (approx. 9,000 Euro) per set was donated to non-profit organizations dedicated to the protection of the oceans.

Green revolution in the watch industry

Meanwhile, there are now suppliers who exclusively offer sustainable watches, for example Panda. Alongside bamboo sunglasses, the company also offers a bamboo watch, which is made 100% from sustainable agriculture, has a Swiss movement and is water-resistant up to 30 meters.

Omega donates to environmental conservation projects

If you prefer the classic luxury watch to an eco-watch, but still want to do something for the environment, the Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M GoodPlanet from Omega may interest you. This noble wristwatch is the product of a partnership between the renowned watch company and the GoodPlanet Foundation. The proceeds from sales go directly to the "Time for the Planet" environmental conservation projects in Indonesia. These projects mainly involve the protection of mangroves and seagrass, which also benefits local communities that are dependent on the natural conditions of their environment.

Omega Seamaster Diver 300 M diving watch with blue dial under water

Leather watch straps from humane livestock

More and more people are devoting themselves to the subject of animal husbandry. If you want to be sure that your wristwatch does not support factory farming, you can use watches from the brand Styrman & Crew: the leather used for the watches not only comes from organic farming methods promoting animal welfare, it is also tanned with natural raw materials and without the use of toxic chemicals. If you wish to go one step further and completely avoid animal products, you will certainly find the right product from AB AETERNO's product range. This manufacturer makes vegan and environmentally friendly products. Regardless, a large selection of watch bracelets made of non-animal materials are standard in the assortment of many watch manufacturers including stainless steel, nylon or ceramic bracelets.

Breitling goes digital: Goodbye to paper and packaging!

Breitling has committed to increasing its efforts to environmental protection and will introduce digital watch certificates by the end of 2020. A test run has already been carried out on a limited Breitling Top Time series and showed that the technology can enter series production at the end of the year. The new digital watch certificates will make it easier for watch owners to check the status of their watches and verify their authenticity when they sell them. Soon, both the warranty cards with display, some of which are already digital, and the certificates of authenticity in paper form will be replaced by this resource-saving alternative at Breitling. Furthermore, according to Breitling CEO Georges Kern, the elaborate Breitling watch boxes will soon be replaced by smaller cases, saying the company sells watches and not boxes in an Instagram Live interview at the beginning of April 2020. Kern also stressed that society had become more relaxed about luxury goods and that the environment should not suffer as a result. It remains to be seen whether Breitling will sell its watches directly in travel cases made of recycled materials in the future and abandon the large box, or instead rely on completely new packaging. However, Breitling has already demonstrated its ability to produce first-class luxury goods from recycled materials in its collaboration with OUTERKNOWN, a company that produces bracelets for Breitling Superocean models from marine debris.

Breitling Colt Chronograph II A7338710.G742.157A stainless steel watch for men with silver dial

Sustainability establishes itself in the watch industry

It should also be noted that all products from Swiss brands are primarily produced in Switzerland, which ensures high-quality standards and fair working conditions. Watch brands such as Nomos aus Glashütte have also embraced this trend and rely on local watch production, in that case exclusively in Germany. Since watches are a long-term investment that retain their value, it is worthwhile to check the production conditions of the manufacturers before buying a watch. Sustainability and ethics should always be taken into consideration when choosing a watch and are now standard for many watch manufacturers.