Conservation Time: With the Natural World in Peril, These Watch Companies Are Stepping Up and Diving In to Help

Conservation Time: With the Natural World in Peril, These Watch Companies Are Stepping Up and Diving In to Help

From sponsoring scientific expeditions to protecting species to supporting Foundations and so much more, leaders in the timepiece field are seeking sustainable solutions as well.

As time ticks by, the world’s environmental crises are heightening, from climate change and habitat loss to the pervasiveness of microplastics. In response, many watch companies are committed to making a difference across the globe, whether at the heights of Mount Everest or in the currents of the ocean.

In 2019, a National Geographic expedition co-sponsored by Rolex —as part of its Perpetual Planet Initiative—discovered microplastic pollution at an elevation of 27,700 feet atop the world’s tallest mountain, the highest place the substances (the result of plastics breaking down) have ever been recorded.

That same year, in the European Alps, Victor, a white-tailed eagle with a GoPro camera fitted on his back, soared through the mountains, capturing video of areas where glaciers are retreating due to the earth’s rising temperatures. The trained eagle is an ambassador of the Eagle Wings Foundation, one of whose founding members is Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard. As Scheufele tells CSQ, “Chopard wishes to promote a more sustainable way of life, while raising awareness of Mother Nature’s timely needs. Rapid action is necessary to protect the wildlife at risk in an ever-changing environment. One of the objectives of the foundation is to reintroduce the white-tailed eagle to its natural Alpine habitat.”

Other timepiece companies are also working to protect individual species, including Speake-Marin, whose Art-Series watch supports conservation of the rhinoceros, and Carl F. Bucherer, whose Patravi Scubatec Black dive watch donates a portion of proceeds to manta ray preservation. Marc Hayek, CEO of Blancpain, took an interest in another animal, the endangered great hammerhead shark, after diving in French Polynesia eight years ago.

“I went there on a private basis, as a volunteer to help with underwater identification, photography, and videography,” he tells CSQ. “The mission was challenging, in terms of both dives and data collecting. We had to make deep and technical dives to see great hammerhead sharks, which usually stay in coastal waters up to 80 meters. For one hour spent with the sharks, we had to make two to three hours of decompression stops totaling dives of three to four hours. The great hammerhead shark is a stunning predator, different from all the other sharks I discovered when I was there. Diving is always a moment of complete peace, and the ocean a world where you are in total symbiosis with nature.”

Last year, Blancpain brought out a new limited edition of its longtime Fifty Fathoms series, the Fifty Fathoms Mokarran. For every piece sold, Blancpain donates $1,000 to the protection of the great hammerhead shark. Many companies, including Blancpain, Oris, and Breitling, have gotten involved with ocean preservation because dive watches are integral parts of their product lines, and the brands have relationships with divers who themselves are sounding the alarm about threats to the oceans.

Commitment to the environment can take many forms. Since 1992, the Audemars Piguet Foundation has donated to forest restoration around the globe, supporting projects in more than 25 countries. Last October, Citizen, known for its solar-powered Eco-Drive watch, joined 1%for the Planet, pledging to donate 1% of its website sales in the United States to environmental aid organizations. Swiss brand H. Moser has pledged to make the company carbon neutral, while IWC is pushing to use 100% renewable energy globally and phase out use of non-Forest Stewardship Council–certified wood products by 2022.

One of the most exciting developments is product design that introduces recycled materials to watchmaking. In November, Tom Ford introduced the 40mm Ocean Plastic Watch, which is made entirely from plastic collected from oceans, coastlines, and uncontrolled landfills; the company says that every watch purchased removes the equivalent of 35 bottles of plastic waste from the ocean.

It isn’t just high-end brands that are making changes. In September, Swatch, long-time purveyor of plastic watches, introduced a new collection, Bio Reloaded, with timepieces made entirely from bio-sourced materials, primarily castor-plant seeds. And California-based Nixon, through its H2O Yeah! program has created surf watches with cases and bands made from recycled plastics.

Of course, the watch industry is still a major consumer of raw materials, from gold and diamonds to steel, and has long been known for its high-flying ways, with many brands holding major sponsored events across the globe every year (pre-COVID). All the associated air travel and carbon emissions those entail cannot be discounted.

But clearly there’s a new consciousness in the sector.

The fact that 9 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the sea every year—which birds and sea animals are either entrapped by or ingest—prompted Ulysse Nardin to introduce a new concept watch, the Diver Net, and welcome swimmer and adventurer Ben Lecomte (whose work calls attention to the prevalence of plastics in the seas) as a new ambassador. The Diver Net’s case, caseback, and bezel are made from recycled fishing nets; it uses transparent ceramic glass, which has a lower environmental impact than regular glass; and its R-Strap is made from recovered fishing nets. Carl F. Bucherer and Breitling have also created straps made from recycled ocean plastics.

“It is our duty to change this situation, [and] help preserve—and rebuild—our world for the next generations,” says Blancpain’s Hayek. “I have an 11 son, a passionate diver who completed his Open Water certificate. I truly hope that he will have the chance, in the future, to see all the wonders of the underwater world I had the privilege to discover. We are responsible for what we are leaving behind us. It is not just about breathing; it is about having a world that is worth living in for our children.”

CSQ selected its favorite eco-conscious watches, a mix that includes everything from artful pieces to tough dive watches, many of which are limited edition.

photo courtesy Blancpain

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Limited Edition Mokarran

For Blancpain, supporting ocean conservation is a natural outgrowth of its history. The watchmaker has long been one of the leaders in the manufacture of dive watches, dating back to 1953 when it introduced its now-famous Fifty Fathoms. Since 2014, as part of a series called Ocean Commitment, it has created three special Fifty Fathoms limited-edition watches, with 1,000 euros from the sale of each watch benefiting ocean preservation. It also became the official watch sponsor of the nonprofit group Oceana; this year, Oceana and Blancpain will lead an expedition to Mexico’s Arrecife Alacranes reef to document its marine life and campaign for increased protections for the area. The watchmaker has also created yet another conservation-focused Fifty Fathoms, the Bathyscaphe Mokarran, with $1,000 from the sale of each watch going to the Mokarran Protection Society, a nonprofit working to protect and research great hammerhead sharks in French Polynesia. The automatic 43.6mm watch, in an edition of 50, features a tropical green dial, matching ceramic bezel, ceramic case, and image of a hammerhead on the rotor. It has a 120-hour power reserve and is water resistant to 300 meters. $15,500, at Blancpain, New York and Las Vegas, and blancpain.com

 

photo courtesy Breguet

Breguet Race for Water Marine

Breguet is the prime sponsor of the Race for Water, a foundation dedicated to preserving the earth’s H20, with a focus on the threat caused by plastic pollution. as part of the partnership, a solar-, hydrogen- and kite-powered Race for Water vessel is visiting ports across the globe over the course of five years, raising awareness about ocean pollution. The foundation is also working to discover a way to repurpose plastic waste through pyrolysis, a process of transforming materials through high temperatures. Next year, at the end of the voyage, a suite of special watches created for the captain and the crew of the vessel — modeled after Breguet’s water-resistant Marine 5517 sport watch and featuring the Race for Water ship hand-engraved on the dial — will be auctioned to benefit the foundation. The original Marine 5517, in 18-carat white gold, features an in-house, self-winding movement, 44mm case; a blue dial with a hand-guilloche wave pattern; and a see-through case back. It is water resistant to 100 meters. $28,600, at Breguet boutiques and breguet.com/en

 

photo courtesy of Breitling

 

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronograph 44 Ocean Conservancy Limited Edition

Launched with a beach cleanup day in Bali supported by the brand’s Surfer Squad ambassadors Sally Fitzgibbons, Stephanie Gilmore, and Kelly Slater, this new 44mm stainless-steel iteration of Breitling’s iconic dive watch is part of the maker’s partnership with the Ocean Conservancy. Every year, the nonprofit works with millions of volunteers on coastal cleanups around the world. Limited to 1,000 pieces, the Superocean Heritage Chronograph 44 Ocean Conservancy sports a silver-colored dial, blue uni-directional bezel, in-house automatic movement, and hands coated in Super-LumiNova that emit a blue glow. Notably, the NATO strap is made from Econyl yarn, a material made from recycled nylon waste, including abandoned fishing nets. $6,250 at Breitling boutiques and breitling.com

 

photo courtesy Bremont

Bremont Waterman Limited Edition

During the development of this limited-edition dive watch, introduced in 2018, British brand Bremont tested it in the field with renowned free diver, big-wave surfer, and environmentalist Mark Healey, who dove with it to depths of up to 50 meters while holding his breath. Limited to 300 pieces, the 43mm stainless-steel watch—featuring Bremont’s Supermarine 500 sapphire crystal case-back, which is water resistant to 500 meters—includes a GMT hand, helium release valve, uni-directional bezel, and anti-shock vibration mount. A portion of proceeds goes to the grassroots nonprofit Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, which coordinates beach cleanups and education programs in the state. $6,595 at Mr Porter, mrporter.com

photo courtesy Carl F Bucherer

Carl F. Bucherer Patravi Scubatrec Black

The new-for-20202 Patravi Scubatrec Black dive watch not only features a black strap made from recycled plastic bottles that once polluted the oceans, but it also sends a portion of proceeds to the Manta Trust, which works to protect manta rays around the globe through research and education. This automatic watch comes in a matte black DLC-coated 44.6mm titanium case, with Super-LumiNova–coated hour markers, wave pattern on the dial, and uni-directional rotating dive bezel. Two manta rays decorate the back, and it is water resistant to a depth of 500 meters. $7,200, at Tourneau boutiques or carl-f-bucherer.com

 

photo courtesy Chopard

Chopard Alpine Eagle Wempe 5th Avenue Edition

Launched in 2019, Chopard’s new collection of luxury sports watches, the Alpine Eagle, has proven to be a popular addition to its offerings. In tandem with the debut, Chopard announced that it is partnering with the Alpine Eagle Foundation (its co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele is a co-founder) to help reintroduce the white-tailed eagle to the Alps and bring awareness to climate change that is diminishing glaciers in the area. The collection, which includes 16 models, now welcomes a limited-edition Alpine Eagle timepiece that celebrates the 40th anniversary of Wempe’s flagship New York boutique on Fifth Avenue. In a limited edition of 40, the Alpine Eagle Wempe 5th Avenue Edition comes in a 41mm steel case with an integrated steel bracelet—both in Chopard’s proprietary light-reflecting Lucent Steel A223 alloy—and features a gray dial with the Wempe logo, in-house automatic movement with 60-hour power reserve, and dial markers coated in Super-LumiNova Grade X1. $12,900, at Wempe, New York and wempe.com

 

 

Photo courtesy Jaquet Droz

Jaquet Droz Loving Butterfly Chinchilla Red Automaton

Some of the world’s most fascinating watches are automatons, three-dimensional timepieces that bring a scene to life through dynamic movement. One of the masters of the automaton is Jaquet Droz, which released its Loving Butterfly in 2017, featuring a butterfly with a wing that flutters up to 300 times in a two-minute period, driven by a cherub atop a chariot with a wheel that spins, all controlled by a trigger mechanism in the crown. Its newest iteration has a stunning dial made from black onyx and a rare petrified wood called Chinchilla Red, which was preserved in Australia 140 million to 180 million years ago. Due to the devastating fires in Australia this year, Jaquet Droz is donating a portion of proceeds to associations dedicated to reforestation. The 43mm watch—a limited edition of 28 pieces—features an 18-karat red gold case, self-winding hours and minutes movement with a 68-hour power reserve, hand-wound automaton movement, black-alligator strap, and dial elements in carved red gold. $126,000, at Jaquet Droz, New York, or jaquet-droz.com

 

photo courtesy Omega

Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Nekton Edition

Omega has had a connection to the seas dating back to the 1940s, when it was commissioned to create watches for the Royal Navy. In 1948, it introduced its now-iconic Seamaster, known for its appearance in the Bond movie franchise for the last quarter century. The watchmaker has partnered with Nekton—a research foundation committed to preserving 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030—to create a special Seamaster. Featuring a polished-brushed stainless steel case, black ceramic dial with a wave design, and uni-directional rotating bezel in grade 5 titanium, the 42mm Seamaster Diver 300M Nekton Edition comes with either an integrated black rubber strap or steel bracelet. The case back is embossed with an image of the Nekton submarine medallion. $5,850 rubber or $6,150 bracelet, at Omega boutiques and omegawatches.com

 

01 798 7754 4185-Set MB – Oris Carysfort Reef Limited Edition

Oris Carysfort Reef Limited Edition

Since 2010, under its Change for the Better initiative, Oris has released 17 limited-edition watches that direct a portion of proceeds to conservation causes. In 2020, it released three such watches. One helps fund environmental preservation in Russia’s Lake Baikal, while another works to clean up South Korea’s Hangang River. The third, the Carysfort Reef Limited Edition, benefits Florida’s Coral Restoration Foundation, which Oris has supported since 2017. The Carysfort Reef timepiece celebrates the ongoing partnership, which to date has seen the out-planting of 30,000 corals in the Florida Reef Tract, the third-largest barrier reef in the world, where coral populations have declined in recent decades by more than 90%. In an edition of 2,000 pieces, this 43.5mm automatic watch comes in stainless steel with a GMT function, blue dial, and choice of orange rubber strap or steel bracelet. $2,800 rubber or $3,000 steel, at oris.ch/en.

 

 

Reservoir Hydrosphere

Five-year-old watch brand Reservoir offers a distinctive aesthetic, with timepieces based on vintage measuring instruments found in the fields of automobiles, aeronautics, and seafaring. The Paris-based company has partnered with Greg Lecoeur, who won National Geographic’s Nature Photographer of the Year in 2016, supporting the photographer on a recent trip to Antarctica, where melting ice caused by climate change is threatening the continent’s delicate balance of life. Lecoeur wears Reservoir’s 45mm stainless-steel Hydrosphere watch, which is inspired by diving pressure gauges. Available with a black, blue, or white dial, the automatic timepiece features retrograde minutes and jumping hour complications, a uni-directional ceramic rotating bezel with a double scale, and helium valve. The Hydrosphere offers a 37-hour power reserve and is water resistant to 250 meters. $4,300, at Chatel in Carmel, California, or reservoir-watch.com

 

photo courtesy Speake Marin

Speake-Marin Art Series Rhinoceros

Made in a limited edition of nine pieces and part of the company’s craftsmanship-focused Art Series, this watch features a silver-plated sculpted image of a rhinoceros on the black-lacquered dial, made from a master stamp that takes more than 40 hours to create. It is then hand finished with an oxidizing acid that adds gray shading. For each timepiece sold, Speake-Marin donates around $3,300 to protect endangered rhinos at the Sumatra Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia, which operates a captive breeding program for the Sumatran rhino, whose total remaining population is less than 100 individuals. The watchmaker’s partner for the watch is London-based Save the Rhino International, which supports conservation of all five rhinoceros species across Africa and Asia by protecting habitat, reducing illegal trade in horns, and involving local communities. Other features of the timepiece include an in-house movement with a 48-hour power reserve, titanium case, and bracelet made from lime tree wood sourced from responsibly managed forests. speake-marin.com

 

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