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Demand Grows For Sustainably Made Watches and Jewellery

Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 unites brands in meeting United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Renowned explorer Mike Horn speaks out.

As Earth continues to suffer the ravages of climate change, watch and jewellery brands are increasing their efforts to source responsibly, and innovate on production methods and materials, with sustainability in mind.  

One of the panel discussions at the recent Watches and Wonders in Geneva dedicated time to corporate social responsibility, while another saw the signing of the official founding of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 by Cartier, delegated by Richemont, and Kering.  

The initiative is driven by a common conviction that the UN Global Goals and aspirations for a sustainable industry can only be achieved through collaborative initiatives.

Current members include Chanel Horlogerie Joaillerie, Montblanc, Swarovski, Gucci Watches, Boucheron and Pomellato. It’s the first time that luxury watches and jewellery brands across the globe have committed to building climate resilience, preserving resources, and fostering inclusiveness together.

Cartier Tank Must incorporating SolarBeat photovoltaic movement.

Cartier Tank Must incorporating SolarBeat photovoltaic movement.

Explorer and Panerai Ambassador Mike Horn had first-hand experience of the planet’s deterioration and is passionate about the “massive role industry has to play in making the world a better place. I don’t like the term social responsibility. I prefer social investment. We need real action by companies and we need it now.” 

I interviewed him in 2029 at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (the predecessor to Watches and Wonders before its rebranding). He said: “I think today it’s about how much we consume. It goes beyond plastic. Plastic is one part of it. What do you really need to consume to be able to live in a more sustainable manner? For us, it’s easy. We see. We want. Vicious circle. When you’re alone in Antarctica and see the pristineness of nature, you want to protect it.

“I’ve seen polar bears being killed by grizzly bears, I’ve sailed through plastic continents the size of Mexico, I’ve seen permafrost melting. I sail the oceans. I don’t see the birds or the fish anymore. I don’t see that glitter in the ocean. That’s full of microplastics. This is not normal, I don’t want it to happen.” 

Speaking at this year’s event, Panerai CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué said: “Three years ago, Mike came to see us with a piece of drive shaft from his boat and challenged us to turn it into a watch, and that’s what really set us thinking. Not only did we succeed in producing a watch that was 40% recycled, we started looking into a sustainable business model and asking why wouldn’t it be possible to make watches entirely from recycled components?” 

Oris Dat Watt Limited Edition - 'Dat Watt' is low German for 'Wadden Sea'. The watch marks Oris's conservation commitment with the Common Wadden Sea Secratariat.

Oris Dat Watt Limited Edition – ‘Dat Watt’ is low German for ‘Wadden Sea’. The watch marks Oris’s conservation commitment with the Common Wadden Sea Secratariat.

The result was the development of a 30-piece limited edition Submersible e-Lab-ID. It comprises 98.6% (by weight) recycled materials, from the titanium for the case, dial and bridges to the silicon for the escapement and the Super-LumiNova coating on the hands and indexes.

They have also produced the Luminor Marina eSteel made with 58.4% (by weight) recycled steel for the case and dial. “For both these ‘e’ models, we worked with a dozen companies, half of which had never been involved in producing a watch. We very much hope they will go on to work with more and more brands to develop similar projects to ours,” said Pontroué. 

Chopard was one of the first to promote responsible practices in traceability of gold and diamond supplies. Since 2018, the brand has used only ethically sourced gold for its jewellery and watches – now a major driver for purchasing decisions among millennials.

“Young people don’t expect any less from us,” said Chopard Co-president, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. “But this can’t only be about supply chains. It has to be a global strategy that takes in both product and production, down to the smallest detail.” 

At this year’s Watches and Wonders, Speake-Marin presented an Art-Series Rhinoceros timepiece with a strap made from lime tree wood. It is lined with cork. A percentage of proceeds from sales goes towards protecting this critically endangered species. And Oris is contributing to conservation of the Wadden Sea, underpinned by the launch of the Dat Watt. 

Meanwhile, Cartier’s latest Tank features a strap made from 50% apple waste and a SolarBeat movement powered by solar energy thanks to invisible perforations in the Roman numerals. This Tank Must timepiece is the first to benefit from the technology and only needs servicing every 16 years. 

Words by Debbie Hathway

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