The environmental impact of watchmaking is something that the top brands are still coming to terms with. Pulling shiny new materials from the ground might make for beautiful and compelling timepieces but it comes with a cost all of its own, one that is getting higher every year. Panerai has developed a new concept watch, the Submersible eLAB-IDTM, that is designed to reduce waste by using recycled materials.
The concept of recycling is not a new introduction to watchmaking, but utilising almost exclusively recycled materials in a single watch is a step further towards environmentally responsible manufacturing. The eLAB’s weight is made up of 98.6% recycled material, the highest percentage out of any watch.
The core component that makes up the piece is EcoTitanium, a titanium alloy made of 80% recycled content from aerospace-grade material. It has all the same durability, light weight and scratch resistance of entirely new-made titanium. The EcoTitanium has been used for the case, sandwich dial and bridges, with a brushed finish that adds a little lustre to emphasise it.
It’s not just the base materials that have been recycled though, even some of the tiny aspects we might easily overlook have been crafted using eco-friendly goods. The SuperLuminova is 100% recycled, as is the silicone that is used to make the movement escapement. In order to get the material, Panerai had to use small-scale recycling processes that reuse raw material waste.
In fact, to create this watch, Panerai had to completely shift and alter its supply chain to obtain the recycled material, collaborating with the aero-space and automotive industries. The innovations of the eLAB go far beyond the specs of the watch itself, it is the product of entirely new and reworked ideas about manufacturing that places the environment at the fore.
However, it’s all very well to have bold ideas about how processes should be reimagined, but if no one wants to buy the resultant timepiece it won’t solve anything. Ultimately, sales will drive innovation. So let’s look at how the Submersible eLAB-IDTM performs as a watch above anything else.
The design is a little bit plain, an ode to the colour grey, designed to show off the EcoTitanium with a matte black sandwich dial and monochrome unidirectional diving bezel. Despite its simplicity I still find it charming thanks to its bold dive indices that pay homage to classic design. It feels like it has been refined down to the bare essence of a diver’s watch.
It also performs admirably in that role too with 30 bar (300m) water resistance, which is perfectly suited to most professional marine activities. The bezel features the traditional dive timer and the crown has Panerai’s lock protection to stop it from being adjusted by accident. So it has a lot of utility that fits with the utilitarian design.
The case is 44m in diameter so it’s not small but well within the region of acceptable diver’s watches. The movement inside is actually towards the top end of automatic movements, the P900e, a riff on the standard Panerai calibre that uses recycled components such as the silicon escapement and jewels. The piece is presented on a recycled Grigio Roccia fabric strap with light blue stitching.
This is a tricky watch to judge. It makes sense that Panerai would add a recycled material to their ever-growing pantheon of cutting-edge metallurgy, but the all-black look isn’t exactly the most eye-catching out there. Still, I’d argue that it doesn’t need to be showy to be a meaningful addition to the Italian heritage brand’s collection. Now it’s just a case of whether Panerai will make it a production piece.
Price & Specs:
Model: Panerai Submersible eLAB-ID™
Case/Dial: 44mm diameter, brushed EcoTitanium™, grey sandwich EcoTitanium™ dial
Water Resistance: 300m (30 bar)
Movement: In-house calibre P.900e, automatic, 17 recycled jewels, 5 jewels, 161 parts, Incabloc™ anti-shock device
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power Reserve: 72h (3 days)
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, unidirectional rotating bezel for the calculation of the immersion time
Strap: Recycled Grigio Roccia fabric with light blue stitching and trapezoidal EcoTitanium™ buckle
More details at Panerai.