Watches are somewhat of a paradox. One the one hand – incredibly sustainable as a product which lasts generations with intermittent intervention (the definition of luxury). On the other, the manufacturing process, packaging and profit maximisation is often damaging. For too long watch brands have got away without having to improve their practices, and now customers, particularly younger ones, are starting to hold them accountable for their disruptive supply chains and global impact.
The most obvious way brands are upping their eco game is via the materials they use. That’s been the case in straps for a while, which are a pretty surface-level way of ensuring a modicum of sustainability. It also happens that there are some pretty cool examples out there – good for the planet, good on the wrist.
Breitling’s Outerknown ECONYL® yarn NATO strap collection, for example, was launched in 2019. Created in partnership with Outerknown (a super-cool surf brand), the straps have been designed specifically for the Superocean sustainable wristwatch collection. ECONYL® yarn is created exclusively from recycled nylon waste, some of which is recovered from discarded or lost fishing nets. The straps are not only recycled but are also completely recyclable and visually a powerful modern tribute to the surf culture of the 1950s and 1960s.
Similarly, the Patravi ScubaTec Black, a sporty number from Carl F. Bucherer, features its all-new black rubber strap with material made of 100% recycled plastic bottles removed from the ocean (it also looks mega). It ties in nicely with the brand’s ongoing work with the Manta Trust, helping to conserve rays and their habitats.
However, more recently brands have been going a bit further in their quests to clean up the world and have begun including recycled materials into their watches proper. Sure, there have been concepts in the past doing just that but now we’re looking at a raft of new sustainable production wristwatches like Panerai’s eSteel. So let’s have a look at 14 of the most exciting watches championing sustainable materials.
14 of the Best Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Watches
Panerai Luminor Marina ESteel Blu Profondo
A hefty 44mm of stainless steel, it’s good to know that over half of the Luminor’s weight (58.4%, to be precise) is made from recycled materials. Other than the nod on the dial, Panerai don’t make a big thing about the novel material; if it weren’t for the ESteel lettering, you’d assume it was the same as any other Luminor, a handsome, heritage diver – which is very much the point.
Case/Dial: 44mm brushed ESteel™ case, with 300m (30 bar) water resistance
Movement: P.9010 calibre, automatic, 72-hour power reserve
Strap: Recycled PET fabric
Christopher Ward C60 #tide
The C60 #tide wears its oceanic inspirations on its sleeve or, more accurately, it’s dial, with a deep blue, semi-transparent wavy number. But the theme is more than aesthetic; both the strap and a ring in the caseback have been made from recycled ocean plastics courtesy of the #tide project, which not only gives the watch its name, but receives proceeds from the sale of each watch. It’s a good-looking watch for an even better cause. Read more about the Christopher Ward C60 #tide here.
Case/Dial: 42mm stainless steel case with 600m (60 bar) water resistance
Movement: Sellita SW200 calibre, automatic, COSC-certified chronometer, 38-hour power reserve
Strap: #tide ocean material® fabric
Maurice Lacroix AIKON #tide
The AIKON collection is Maurice Lacroix’s flagship, a chunky, sporty watch built as a visually-striking daily wearer, and in the new #tide model that impact hits new heights with a veritable shockwave of colour. Well, you’d want all your good work to stand out, wouldn’t you?
As mentioned with the Christopher Ward above, #tide is a specialist in reclaiming and upcycling plastic waste in the ocean, cleaning the water and repurposing the material to ensure that no more ends up where it’s not wanted. The plastic bottles (specifically from around Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines) are broken down, repurposed into a useable format and sent on. Maurice Lacroix have gone all in on the material, utilising it for the watch’s bezel, case, caseback, crown and buckle – hence the incredible colours.
Each timepiece contains material from 17 recycled bottles, and Maurice Lacroix have committed to reclaiming 10 million bottles so expect to see more sustainable wristwatches like this in future. Read more about the Maurice Lacroix AIKON #tide here.
Case/Dial: 40mm stainless steel case with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Strap: Black rubber
Price: €690 EUR
Oris Aquis Upcycle
As you’ve seen, there are now a fair few watches with cases made from recycled materials, which makes sense as far as practicality goes. The dial though, the main visual impact of the watch might be a stretch too far. Except for Oris, of course. The latest (and non-limited) version of their flagship diving watch uses a dial made from recycled ocean plastic.
The Oris Aquis Date Upcycle is… out there. It’s similar in vein to the crazy TAG Heuer Monaco pieces made by Bamford Watch Department and Black Badger in those kind of eye-wrenching colours. But here it’s a touch more random and, strange given the fact that it’s ocean plastic, oddly organic. Otherwise, the base watch is the same as ever, with a pared-back grey diving bezel and the usual 41.5mm case with 300m water resistance.
It’s not for everyone, but it’s as funky as it is sustainable. If you can pull it off. Read more about the Oris Aquis Upcycle here.
Case/Dial: 41.5mm stainless steel case, with 3000m (30 bar) water resistance
Movement: Oris 733 calibre, automatic, 38-hour reserve
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
Oris Big Crown Calibre 473
The biggest story about the new Big Crown is the movement, which is the next in line of Oris’ phenomenal calibre 400 series, with a five-day power reserve and 10 year warranty. What you might not realise however is that the strap isn’t from the Swiss watchmaker, but Cervo Volante. The brand takes waste materials, specifically deer skins, and turns them into luxury leather goods. Generally that means shoes, but here it’s all about the sumptuous leather strap. Read more about the Oris Big Crown Calibre 473 here.
Case/Dial: 38mm diameter, stainless steel case, blue dial, with 50m (5 bar) water resistance
Movement: Oris Calibre 473, manual winding, 120-hour power reserve
Strap: Olive brown deer leather strap with butterfly clasp
Price: CHF 4,200 (approx. £3,750)
Chopard Alpine Eagle
With the Alpine Eagle, Chopard not only built one of the few new sports luxe pieces in the upper echelons of watchmaking, but amped up both parts of the equation. First, it’s a chunky, industrial piece with some serious wrist presence; second, the proprietary Lucent Steel has a lustre akin to white gold, with none of the impractical downsides. What’s less known however is that Lucent Steel A223 is also made using 70% recycled steel. Looks good, does good, is good.
Case/Dial: 36mm stainless steel case with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Movement: Chopard 09.01-C calibre, automatic, COSC-certified chronometer, 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
The Sacred Crafts La Grande Mer
It’s honestly shocking how much waste humans generate. And not all of it is as small as a plastic bottle tossed carelessly into the ocean, some of it can be as large as an entire boat left to rot on the coast. It’s these larger scale reclamation projects that The Sacred Crafts is involved with, turning disused boats into luxury, sustainable wristwatches. For example, the bronze case of La Grande Mer, a 44mm diving watch, is made from reclaimed boat propellers.
Another key material used by The Sacred Crafts is plastic taken from fish netting, which they use as an alternative to precious stones like jade. It’s not just about redistributing the physical material in an environmentally sound way, it’s also about re-evaluating the value we place on those materials. It’s this combination of factors that gives the brand it’s mission statement, Culture Reclaimed. It also doesn’t hurt that La Grande Mer has an attractive nautical aesthetic.
Case/Dial: 44mm bronze case with 300m (30m) water resistance
Movement: Calibre ETA 2824, automatic, 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Bronze with the middle bracelet links made of reclaimed wood
Price: $1,999 USD (approx. £1,445), limited to 220 pieces
Ulysse Nardin Diver NET
The ‘sustainable’ part of the watchmaking industry sees a higher than usual proportion of concept watches because they allow watchmakers to experiment with new materials and new manufacturing techniques without having to commit to large scale production. While we may never see a watch akin to the concept again, the learnings are sure to go forward.
The concept Ulysse Nardin Diver NET was an attempt to make each aspect of a watch as environmentally friendly as possible and its nautical leanings are no surprise given UN’s history. The 44mm case is constructed from recycled fishing nets and the strap is made from PET plastic taken from the oceans, provided by the same supplier as Christopher Ward’s C60 #tide. Intriguingly, they have also replaced the traditional sapphire crystal for a transparent ceramic because the overall energy used in its production is lower.
Case/Dial: 44mm constructed from recycled fishing nets with 300m (30 bar) water resistance
Movement: Calibre UN-118, automatic, 60-hour power reserve
Strap: Fabric ‘R-STRAP’ (PET plastic taken from the oceans)
Price: Concept watch, not available for sale
REC x Gunther Werks 901 GW Exoskeleton & Chelsea
In the environment conversation, oceans are without a doubt a major issue, but the other equally large issue is vehicles, especially cars. While they’re active they produce unrivalled amounts of pollutants and once they’re no longer usable, they often find their ways to vast scrap heaps that spoil the natural landscape. REC offer disused vehicles an alternative and more environmentally friendly ending, reclaiming their parts for use in unique and technical watches.
Every watch they produce has components taken from an iconic car, each with the individual patinas they earned through use, making every watch produced unique. Their latest project is a collaboration with Gunther Werks on two timepieces, the 901 GW Exoskeleton and Chelsea, based on the Porsche 903. Both watches use recycled carbon fibre for their six-part construction cases and have redesigned sandwich dials. Naturally, because each watch model is made from a single vehicle, all REC watches are limited editions.
Read more about the REC x Gunther Werks 901 GW Exoskeleton & Chelsea here.
Case/Dial: Recycled carbon fibre case
Movement: Swiss made chronograph movement
Price: £2,095, limited to 420 pieces
Swatch Bioceramic Gent
One downside of sustainable watches has typically been their prices, due to the added effort in producing them they are often more expensive than their base model counter parts. However, earlier this year Swatch launched their new bioceramic material, a substance created from the combination of recycled plastic and ceramic powder that is simultaneously sustainable and accessible.
The latest additions to their bioceramic watches are a summery collection of Gent and New Gent watches in black and white with vibrantly coloured open work movements. And at £74 for the white models and £83 for the black, they’re entirely accessible for anyone and help to show that sustainable doesn’t have to mean expensive. The trade off is that it houses a fairly standard quartz movement when, with an open work dial, you’d really prefer an automatic calibre.
Case/Dial: 41mm bioceramic case with 30m (3 bar) water resistance
Movement: Quartz movement
Strap: Bio-sourced rubber
Price: £74 (white model) and £83 (black model)
Breitling Superocean Heritage 57 Outerknown
In keeping with the laid-back surfer vibes of the Heritage ’57, this particular version of the Superocean comes equipped with a strap from Kelly Slater’s sustainable surfing label Outerknown. Made from ECONYL yarn, which uses old fishing nets and other waste nylon, it’s just one of Breitling’s exclusive sustainable straps, one in which the brown perfectly matches the sepia-tinted retro vibes of the dial.
Read more about the Breitling Superocean Heritage 57 Outerknown here.
Case/Dial: 42mm stainless steel case, with 100m (10 bar) water resistance
Movement: Breitling calibre 10, automatic, 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Brown ECONYL® yarn
Tag Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph
It’s not just windy and sunlit countries getting in on the green energy game; the latest quartz-powered take on TAG Heuer’s entry level diver is now solar powered. The translucent dial lets it charge throughout the day, with two-minutes of sunlight equating to a full day of charge. It also helps that with its polar blue highlights, the Solargraph is also one of the best looking, if restrained, Aquaracer Professional models around.
Read more about the Tag Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph here.
Case/Dial: 40mm sandblasted titanium case, sunray black dial with 200m (20 bar) water resistance
Movement: Solar powered Solargraph quartz movement
Strap: Titanium bracelet
Baume Skate Aurelien Giraud Special Edition 10653
Turning away from the water, Baume have chosen to a very unique source to find a sustainable, upcycled material: the world of skateboarding. Skateboards are constructed out of multiple materials, which includes aluminium and wood, both of which are valuable resources that need to be protected. They also happen to be great materials for watchmaking, possessing the qualities of lightness, strength and flexibility. sustainable watches
Baume’s attention to detail is exceptional as even the skate deck grip tape is used, giving the dial that classic skateboard texture and aesthetic. This is not so much a watch that set out to be sustainable as one where they realised a perfectly good resource was going to waste whenever a board headed to the trash pile. It also has the endorsement of Aurelien Giraud, a French pro skater who reached the street skating final at Tokyo 2020.
Read more about the Baume Skate Aurelien Giraud Special Edition 10653 here.
Case/Dial: 42.2mm aluminium and wood case, with 300m (30 bar) water resistance
Movement: Sellita SW200 calibre, automatic, 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Interchangeable black cotton
Alpina Seastrong Gyre
With its gorgeous smoked blue dial and matching strap in aqua shades, it’s easy to fall in love with Alpina’s flagship diving watch without needing to rely on its sustainable credentials. But what credentials they are: the case is made using 70% recycled plastic and a strap made from plastic bottles. Where some watchmakers dabble in these kinds of materials, Alpina are all in – and it works.
Case/Dial: 44mm recycled PA 6 (70%) and glass-fiber (30%) case with 300m (30 bar) water resistance, smoked blue dial
Movement: Calibre AL-525, automatic, 38-hour power reserve sustainable watches
Strap: RPET (recycled plastic bottles) blue and black NATO