5 of the best eco-friendly watches

5 of the best eco-friendly watches

Borna Bošnjak

Wherever you look these days, brands will be happy to tell you how “green” their products really are, hoping that you’ll cut them some slack for ruining the environment previously and coming up with a fresh new marketing term for “plastic”. Much of watchmaking is the same – drop-shipped AliExpress specials that cut out the middle man but happen to use an “unethical” vegan leather (read terrible quality but hey we can get away with it more easily now) strap claiming they’re eco-friendly are a personal favourite. If we’re to get further into the semantics of it, any mechanical watch could be considered sustainable. There are no batteries to pollute the environment, all it takes is a service every five years or so – provided the service centre doesn’t just discard the old movement and swap in a new one for the sake of saving on labour costs. As that would’ve been a bit of a cop-out, here are five watches that are made with sustainable materials, or that were made by brands fiercely dedicated to environmental conservation, or both.

Mondaine Essence

Mondaine Essence 41mm. Image courtesy of Kaminsky Blog

There’s no better place to start than Mondaine, and more specifically, their Essence collection. Before you even get the watch, you’ll find it shipped to you in a pouch made from recycled plastic bottles, which Mondaine is hoping you’ll upcycle as a phone or glasses case. The watch itself is cased in a castor oil and glass powder composite, containing a classic Mondaine dial with a red lollipop seconds hand. The case is mounted on a recycled rubber strap, though the movement is only a quartz, meaning a new battery every few years.

Mondaine’s eco-friendly efforts do not end with just their products, as the entire manufacture is carbon neutral, being the very first watch manufacturer to achieve that goal. They support reforestation programs via the GulaGula Forest Program, Fairventures Worldwide, and Oak.

Oris Aquis Date Upcycle

Oris are far from being one of Switzerland’s biggest manufacturers, but they’ve been at the forefront of the eco-friendly charge when it comes to luxury watches. Notable for the Upcycle and New York Harbor editions of their Aquis dive watch, Oris were proud to annouce the publishing of their first sustainability report in 2022, marking the brand becoming a climate-neutral company. Rather than resting on their laurels, Oris is committed to reducing the brand’s carbon footprint by 10% over the next three years. Zach thought Greta Thunberg might even be a fan.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Net

Though they’re not the first ones to experiment with watches fully made from recycled materials, Ulysse Nardin have taken things a step further. The Diver Net was a concept watch introduced in 2020, with a recycled fishing net case, PET plastic strap, and a crystal made of transparent ceramic, rather than sapphire, as it uses less energy in manufacturing. The next step was taken just recently, when the brand introducing the Diver Net Azure, a follow-up to the concept piece with a composite case utilising numerous recycled materials.

Expanding their impact to the field too, Ulysse Nardin is sponsoring the Plastic Odyssey ship. The vessel, currently on a three-year journey, will cover 40,000 miles and stop in countries most affected by plastic pollution.

Pretty much any Seiko Save the Ocean

Seiko SLA055 Save the Oceans

While the watches are not necessarily as directly eco-friendly as some others on this list, we’d be remiss not to mention Seiko’s Save the Ocean initiative and all of its branches. By donating parts of the proceeds from sales of their Save the Ocean collection, Seiko is supporting projects such as the PADI Marine Debris Program – a citizen science movement that has compiled the most comprehensive database on seafloor debris. Furthermore, Seiko as a corporation is taking strides to become carbon-neutral by 2050, recently installing huge solar panel arrays in their Sendai and Navanakorn factories, the latter being the largest CO2 producer in all of Seiko Group.

Maurice Lacroix Aikon #tide

I’ll be the first to admit, when I saw that Maurice Lacroix is launching a plastic-cased watch mere months after the MoonSwatch, I was sceptical of it being anything other than just that – an affordable(ish) plastic watch. It’s safe to say that I, too, am human, and therefore err from time to time. This was one such time. The Aikon #tide launched as part of a collaboration with another Swiss company, #tide, concerning themselves with cleaning up the oceans of plastic, and turning it into useful materials. Collecting bottles in the seas surrounding Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, #tide shred, wash and compact them before turning them into a useful granulated plastic. For more information on the material – Fergus has done you the favour of writing an excellent overview.

As part of this collaboration, Maurice Lacroix has made a commitment of cleaning up 10 million plastic bottles from the ocean by way of collection activities,