As the world becomes increasingly concerned with the environment, and how our collective behaviour effects this crisis, it is nice to see consumers begin to demand renewability and sustainability from brands in the products they buy.
In some capacity, we are finally seeing watch brands adapt to consumer sentiment. Let’s take a look at six examples of “recycled” or “reclaimed watches” and learn about the impact they’re having on the planet and its health.
Panerai originally debuted EcoTitanium on their Submersible Mike Horn Edition 47 mm diver’s watch.
According to Panerai, EcoTitanium is a recycled alloy scrap turned in by major aircraft manufacturers and their various subcontractors. While the case of the watch is EcoTitanium, its black strap is made from recycled plastic (PET) bottles.
But the watch is not the whole package. The owners of the watch are also offered an experiential package menu wherein buyers can accompany Horn on a specific expedition of their choice.
When Panerai was approached about this new offering, CEO Pan Erai explained, “The House of Panerai is prepared to combat global warming and environmental waste at all costs. We wanted to make sure we could lead a true grassroots campaign in the fight against an increasingly worrying climate.
We at Panerai plan to achieve this by having our partner and ambassador Mike Horn personally dive for each bottle used in our straps. If your strap breaks, it is no worry! We’ll just send Mike back into the ocean.”
If you’re feeling bad for Mike Horn, no sweat! Mr Erai revealed, “As part of the package experience sold with the watch, you can elect to join in on a once in a lifetime bottle hunt with Mike to get in on the fun. It truly is a one of a kind expedition!” Interestingly enough, all it costs for you to save the world, and few water bottles is a breezy cool $20,500 USD.
Alpina Seastrong Gyre Automatic Diver
Alpina, a brand with a rich Swiss heritage, collaborated with Dutch micro-brand Gyre Watch to produce a collection within their Seastrong line that has a case made of recycled ocean plastic waste.
Gyre, founded by Dutch journalist Bernard Werk, came up with the concept with the hope of raising awareness about ocean waste. The Alpina Seastrong Gyre Diver has a matt black composite case which is approximately 70 percent PA6 thermoplastic and 30 percent fiberglass. Water-resistant to 300 meters, the wearer is free to reunite the ocean with the plastic kidnapped from the depths of the water. The case is fitted with a unidirectional black PVD steel bezel, with black luminous markers.
When Gyre R&D Officer Sean Seaman was asked why they elected to use a steel bezel vs plastic waste he replied, “We wanted the watch to be able to take a beating and be as robust as possible. Unfortunately, Plastic waste cannot withstand the shocks and bumps steel can… we really want the bezel to hold the test of time as everyone knows the bezel is the most valuable part of any watch.”
The Alpina Seastrong Gyre Diver is available in both 36mm and 44mm. Both cases are depth-rated to 300 meters. The 44 mm version is priced at €1,395, while the 36 mm version is €1,295. It just goes to show just how valuable the plastic is as the 8mm bump from 36mm to 44mm adds an extra €100. Such a bargain, as where else can one get a plastic watch for so little money. Seamen really drove the value home as he noted, “Brands always try to skimp the buyer on their precious materials with sapphire casebacks. We don’t skimp on the precious materials here… we make sure the customer gets all the plastic for their money.”
REC timepieces incorporate salvaged, recycled parts from iconic vehicles that are beyond restoration. The name of the watch company itself stems from the company mission to Recover, Recycle, and Reclaim utilizing the first three letters of each word to form REC.
REC notes how each piece is unique “due to the variations of patina in the recycled dials…” and that each has “its own story to tell”. Each watch design references to the very car from which it was partly made, as the only part of the watch made from the reclaimed cars is the dial.
REC exhibits their passion for fine watchmaking on their website stating, “We’ve put our hearts, souls and more work than we care to think about into these collections striving to hit a perfect blend of distinctive designs, subtle references, handmade premium components and truly unique storytelling!”
After speaking with REC lead designer Shelby Enzo, it became clear how much thought goes into both the watches and their mission to remove waste. Enzo explained, “We truly strive to make 1:1 match in aesthetic to complete the story from car to watch. Each car we reclaim can build anywhere from 400-800 watches, all of which are interpreted to evoke everything one loves about the vehicle it came from.” This becomes increasingly obvious when digging into his personal favorite, the 901-01. According to Enzo, “When one looks at the dashboard of a Porsche 911, and then at the dial of our 901-01it’s like they see twins. They are almost indistinguishable”
When asked about the car selection process Enzo noted that it’s a very special day for them, almost like their Olympics, as they visit the landfill every four years. It’s remarkable what an impact they have made on the environment. Turning trash into treasure one luxury car at a time.
TRIWA Ocean Plastic
One fateful weekend, as TRIWA’s (aka Transforming the Industry of Watches) Art Director Love Gaia made his ritual walk along the beach, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his foot. When he looked down, he couldn’t help but notice what a nice shade of blue the fork impaled in his foot was. He marveled at how it didn’t snap under his foot, signaling this robust material had a higher calling. This could be used for something far more important than eating: watchmaking.
The literal transformation from fork to watch gave birth to the TRIWA Time for Oceans collection and the Ocean Plastic Deep Blue. The watch has as much depth as its water resistance rating of 100m. The watch is classic in size at 37 mm, with a matte blue finish, and is powered by a reliable quartz Miyota movement. The real value, however, is in the dial. This deep blue dial has a hand guilloche wave pattern, performed by in house artisans with the very blue forks recovered from the Tide Oceans.
Never before has such intricate handwork been applied to a watch at this price point of $129. This is all thanks to TRIWA Artisan Nils Skillz. Prior to joining the company, Nils gained notoriety on Instagram with his fork carving portraits done in his medium of choice: Styrofoam take-out containers.
TRIWA enlisted Nils to train a team of artisans specializing in this proprietary material. Once Nils and his team finishes their magic, and the dial is complete, the forks are later melted to make the case. Adding even more value to the equation, Nils walked us through the way in which each piece is in a way is unique. He explained, “With subtle variations in how my team manipulates the forks we are able to identify each piece uniquely to the artisan who performed the engraving”
The strap is recycled fabric as well ensuring a minimal carbon footprint. When asked why these watches are limited editions, Love explained: “The meatball hut on the boardwalk changes the color of their forks every month, so we are unfortunately forced to retire the watch each time the Meatball Hut changes their utensils.”
Oris Clean Ocean Trilogy
Another champion of the Ocean, Oris has made strides to combat ocean pollution with three different limited edition watches inspired by (and for) the cause. Oris CEO Bear Holstein makes this mission clear claiming “Today’s marketplace demands respect for the environment and renewability and we feel it is our duty to fulfil that demand” When asked why these watches were limited editions Mr Holstein revealed, “We wish we could provide everyone with the quality recycled product they deserve, but unfortunately there just isn’t enough material to work with to make it a production model”
Even the box is a green endeavour. Oris lists this process on their website “Step 1: The process begins with used plastic bottles. Only chemically inert recycled plastic waste is selected. Step 2: Plastic bottles are shredded into small pieces. Step 3: Pieces are arranged by hand and then pressed into a panel. Each panel is unique. Step 4: The panels are cut to size and assembled into the Oris Ocean Trilogy presentation box’s outer shell.” When Mr. Holstein was asked about the quality of the plastic, he explained “the rejection rate is very high due to needing chemically inert plastic. It’s such a waste for us when we find subpar plastic and have to throw it back into the ocean. We only want the best for our customers”
The Breda Play’s inception is yet another quirky story in the pantheon of watchmaking. Lead watch designer Jael Li, found herself running late to work. By the time she reached her office the thong of her sandals had popped off. Not wanting to be wasteful, instead of throwing out her jelly flip flops she pondered how to make the most of the material. She realized at the top, a buckle was already fastened. It was one snip with a scissor away from becoming a bracelet (or better yet a watch strap) She then proceeded to cut the sole to make a case. With an exacto knife, elbow grease, and patience she finally had a prototype, and the rest is history. A steel encased module later, the Breda Play was born.
Only $120, the Breda Play is an accessible watch with a Japanese-Made 2025 3 Hand Movement. Packaged in a 35mm Case, made of both Recycled TR90 and Stainless Steel, the watch is suitable for any wrist. With 20mm lug width, there is also plenty of room to swap straps if one grows tired of the Recycled Thermoplastic Polyurethane Band. With 3ATM, this playful wristwatch can take a splash or two.
Ok, now that we’ve had our fun, let’s get serious for a second. It is important to note one innate quality of traditional watchmaking: it is inherently renewable. Whereas a plastic Swatch Sistem 51 cannot be serviced upon failure of the movement, a traditional timepiece will run and last forever (so long as a watch is maintained and taken care of). It is interesting to see how watch brands incorporate renewable materials into their products, and some have done so far better than others, but the common trend seems to be that these creations distinguish themselves with recycled bottle straps, recycled plastic cases, or even alteration to the manufacturing process itself.
The issue, however, is while there is a plethora of waste in the world many manufacturers opt to make their renewable watches limited editions, or limited run. This also usually means the inclusion of a premium to the standard pricing of the watch to offset the loss for the brand when potentially donating to their environmental charity of choice. As one looks deeper the question that arises is: are these efforts for the betterment of the environment? Or are they mere marketing tools for brands looking to have a better sales quarter? To be fair not all efforts are in vain as Blancpain’s Ocean Commitment program raises $250,000 for environmental charities each run of 200 watches, all with traditional watchmaking and without reclaimed gimmicks. At the end of the day it’s the effort that counts… at least when it is genuine.