With concerns about climate change reaching around the world and back again, it probably won’t come as any surprise to hear that the issue has permeated the watch making industry. The time when all that mattered to consumers was the finished product has come and gone. Now it seems that everyone is concerned about how green their possessions are, whether it is food grown locally or the car they drive.
And when you think about it, why should the watch industry be any different? Watch manufacturers thrive on the attention to detail they put in the movement and case of their watches to ensure accuracy and good looks. Now there is another factor they can weigh in and boast about – how carbon neutral they are.
This isn’t anywhere near as simple as it looks. Although the factories that assemble watches can be environmentally friendly – IWC Schaffhausen, for example, is based along the banks of the Rhine and their factory has hydroelectric power – the act of mining ores and smelting them down to make the metal required is decidedly harder to control. In addition to this, many watch houses buy parts made all around the world and assemble them on site, which means they have no control over how eco-friendly their components are going to be.
But the problem is one that an increasing number of watch manufacturers are going to want to solve, because now the green agenda is something everyone is talking about. Being able to boast that the watch on your wrist was not only made by a luxury brand but is actually eco-friendly as well could certainly give you an edge when it comes to garden parties this summer.
The major watch houses won’t be rolling out completely carbon-neutral watches right away. While factories in Switzerland are already fairly green thanks to the efforts of the Swiss government’s legislation, how do you regulate components manufactured in China? And how far do you go back down the line? Arguments about whether the mining and smelting of metals should be included, or just the manufacture of the parts could be what is holding the watch world back.
It won’t be for long. Already many factories are being redesigned – Rolex has rooftop gardens and glass facades, Jaeger LeCoultre has both a bus service for its workers and a car-pooling incentive. And carbon-offsetting means that factors which can’t be changed, such as the emissions from producing and transporting components, can be evened out. Tree-planting schemes and carbon and methane capturing projects mean that any damage done to the environment is undone elsewhere.
Watches that don’t require batteries are already more environmentally friendly that their quartz equivalents. By countering the effects of producing them, the watch houses are making an even sounder product.