ZAG x BAUME type H-95.
ZAG x BAUME type H-95.
Image: Supplied

Although #PlasticFreeJuly might be drawing to a close, with over 22,000 tons of plastic waste finding its way into our oceans every day, we need to make every month about cleaning up our act. The fashion industry, particularly fast fashion, has been one of the biggest culprits, creating low-quality goods with planned obsolescence with little concern for the environment impact.

It was reassuring to hear recently that brands such as Zara and H&M are heeding the environmental and consumer call. Zara aim to have all clothing manufactured from sustainable fabrics by 2025 and H&M has pledged to become 100% “climate positive” by 2040 by using renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency in all its operations. It has also pledged to use 100% recycled or sustainable materials by 2030. 

1. CIRCULAR CLOCKWORKS

However, while executives deliberate and voice their intentions for the decades to come, it appears that innovative, conscientious Generation Z is leapfrogging its way into a cleaner, brighter future for our planet. An example in the world of watches is Circular Clockworks, crowdfunded with Indiegogo and launched at the Dutch Design Week of 2017.

Circular Clockworks Lazy Lion.
Circular Clockworks Lazy Lion.
Image: Supplied

This start-up was founded on the principles of the circular economy and, by collaborating with Dutch recycling company Coolrec, they have created a line of watches with cases made from post-consumer ABS waste, like TV casings and fridges, and straps from leather waste from the shoe industry.

The bright colours for their new Perky Peacock, Lazy Lion and Funky Fox pieces are sourced from special batches of plastics, such as suitcases or plastic helmets. All materials used are recycled or at least recyclable. In addition, no glue is used so all parts can be easily separated and repaired.

To keep the range accessibly priced at around R2 400, they are powered by Ronda 705 Gold Swiss-made quartz movements. To close the loop, the company gives credits for maintenance and repairs and has a buy-back scheme to reuse old parts in new watches.

2. AWAKE

Awake is another newcomer driven by the desire to minimise their environmental impact and inspire us to make sustainable choices. Priced at around R3,600, Awake timepieces are elegant, yet rugged, and waterproof to 100m, making them ready for any adventure.

Enclosed in a recycled stainless steel case, the ombre, embossed dials are inspired by the ocean seabed and its mountainous terrain. A solar movement, produced by a Seiko subsidiary, powers these time-only pieces with free energy for life. Their Phoenix fabric straps are made from 100% recycled PET plastic water bottles.

Awake Blue Reef.
Awake Blue Reef.
Image: Supplied

Although these are by no means examples of high-end watchmaking, they are great examples of how things can, and should, be done. While there are many high-end brands making huge financial contributions to, and working with, organisations dedicated to sustainability and raising public awareness of our oceans, the industry in general been slow to embrace more sustainable production methods or incorporate recycled materials in their timepieces.

3. BREITLING 

What you wear says a lot about you and brands are aware that consumers vote with their wallets. We will see more brands, such as Breitling, who not only participate in Ocean Conservancy programmes but also include components like straps made from Econyl yarn, a material repurposed from nylon waste, such as abandoned fishing nets.

Breitling SuperOcean Heritage Ocean Conservancy Limited Edition.
Breitling SuperOcean Heritage Ocean Conservancy Limited Edition.
Image: Supplied

Customisation is also no longer the preserve of the rich, becoming more accessible to everyone online with the potential to reduce large production runs and wasteful material usage by rather focusing on making based on demand.

4. BAUME 

Baume is “focused on encouraging individuals to participate in a design-led global conversation” with customisation and mindful design — in both material choices and sustainable production techniques — at its core. While Baume draws on the expertise and 188-year heritage of its mother company, Baume & Mercier, its fully customisable timepieces are not only on-trend, but ahead of the curve. Straps are made from more environment-friendly materials, such as cork, linen, cotton and Alcantara.

Baume has also partnered with Waste Free Oceans, a non-governmental organisation that transforms ocean plastic into innovative products. The company is sponsoring the Material Futures master’s degree at Central Saint Martins in London.

Based on their Iconic 41mm “upcycled timepiece”, the HRS Limited Edition has a case made from the old skateboards of American professional skateboarder Erik Ellington and in collaboration with his shoe brand HRS (Human Recreational Services). The more recent ZAG x BAUME type H-95 (about R17,500), created with French ski brand ZAG, sees a case made from recycled free-ride skis, presented on recycled PET straps. The watch features an automatic calibre 82D7 from Citizen-owned Miyota, which is partly revealed through its unusual dial configuration and open sapphire case back.

5. ORIS

Oris produces some of the most practical tool watches and, as part of its “Go Your Own Way” philosophy, is striving to “bring change for the better by behaving in a more ecologically friendly way”.

Oris Clean Ocean Limited Edition.
Oris Clean Ocean Limited Edition.
Image: Supplied

Apart from working with more sustainable materials and manufacturing processes, this also means raising awareness. The Oceans Project is at the forefront of that ambition, highlighting the threat posed to the world's oceans by plastic with micro plastics from the beauty industry and synthetic fashion fabrics among the worst culprits.

The 39.5mm Oris Clean Ocean Limited Edition (R32,000) is based on the Aquis diver’s watch, with each of the 2 000 pieces featuring a unique medal made of recycled plastic inserted into the case back. The watch is made in partnership with Pacific Garbage Screening, a pioneering young organisation which is developing technology to capture plastic before it enters the ocean. The watches are water-resistant to 300m and come with a gradient blue dial and a uni-directional rotating bezel with an aqua blue ceramic insert. 

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