Status watches have lagged categories like fine jewelry and designer accessories when it comes to offering sustainable talking points, but lately they’re catching up. And make no mistake, clients are listening.
“I don’t know that it’s the ultimate decision-making factor, but clients are aware,” says Scott Meller, president of L.A.’s Feldmar Watch Co., which carries brands that include Oris, Breitling and Bremont, all of which have released timepieces with sustainable elements in recent months. “People are still selecting or buying a watch for more traditional reasons — its movement and features, the way it looks on the wrist — but they’re also cognizant of the environment and showing concern for that. Sustainability in a watch adds value, there’s no question.”
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Entering the conversation this fall is one of the world’s most high-profile actors. In October, Geneva-based watchmaker ID Genève announced that its latest round of investors includes environmental advocate Leonardo DiCaprio.
.“As an environmental advocate, I am thrilled to be an equity investor in ID Genève,” said the Killers of the Flower Moon star in a statement. “Their dedication to circular economy principles, sustainable materials and innovation is truly inspiring, as is the headway they have made in such a short time. I am excited to support the team and the company’s growth as it drives change in the luxury industry and beyond.”
Indeed, ID Genève may be the most committed watch company in the sustainable arena, crafting pieces with details that include recycled steel remelted in a solar furnace, straps that are vegan and compostable, and packaging derived from mushrooms and seaweed. In September the brand released Circular C, which features a bezel and dial made from recycled carbon fibers sourced from wind turbine manufacturing waste.
Meller notes that sustainable commitments by a watch brand tend to fall into three strategies: donating funds to environmental causes, a partnership that highlights an organization’s name and influences the design of a watch, or the use of recycled materials in the design. “It could be one of those ideas or all three at once,” he adds.
Among other brands, Breitling promotes its NATO straps, crafted from ECONYL yarn, made from repurposed nylon waste pulled from the oceans, while Bremont’s just-released Supermarine Ocean in “Thresher Grey” supports ocean conservation.
In August, Oris released a new collaboration with German company Bracenet, which makes products from discarded fishing nets. “When we cut the nets to create our products, there are always offcuts,” explains Bracenet founder Benjamin Wenke. “We thought, what if we turned some of these into watch dials?” The result is a special-edition Oris Aquis diver’s watch (in men’s and women’s sizes) that features a dial using material made from those abandoned nets. “This would basically mean that the nets used for the dials have been upcycled twice,” says Wenke, noting that the manufacturing process results in no two dials being alike.
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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