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Fair Play: Four Watch Brands Putting Environment, Equality, and Ethics First

More and more brands are stepping up to the plate when it comes to ethical-sourcing, sustainable practices, and protecting the earth and all who call it home. Here is what four of them are doing today.

By Barbara Palumbo

Caring about the environment and wanting responsible practices used to protect our Earth, its oceans, its animals, and its people shouldn’t be controversial, political, or anything other than normal, and yet we live in a world where that’s not always the case. There are still mines in places like Angola and Sierra Leone which are causing a great deal of topographical damage to the planet, not to mention the multitude of mines in existence around the world – be they diamond, gold, or gemstone – that have unsafe conditions and use underpaid workers. And yet as an industry that utilizes these resources regularly, it’s surprising to see just how little we do overall, which is why when brands take the initiative to head in the right direction, We, The Press, sit up and listen. 

Fairmined Gold: The Future of Precious Metals

While luxury jewelry and watch brand Chopard has been a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) since 2010, it was their 2013 “Journey to Sustainable Luxury” initiative and Green Carpet Collection introduction at the Cannes Film Festival that put the brand on the sustainable map. A year after the initiative was launched at Cannes, Chopard became the first luxury watchmaker to create a timepiece in Fairmined gold, taking their Journey to Sustainable Luxury into the world of horology. But maybe you’re not exactly sure what constitutes Fairmined gold and why it is an important step on the path to sustainability, or honestly, why that even matters. Hopefully this will explain a little bit better.

When gold is deemed or even certified as Fairmined, it means that it comes from responsible, artisanal, and small-scale mining organizations, which ensures social development and environmental protection in said mining areas. Thanks to a concept known as the “Fairmined Standard” there is now a clear and concise layout of what is required and expected by both mines and brands carrying the label, Fairmined. The gold used in many of Chopard’s watches and High Jewellery creations has been awarded the Fairmined certificate, guaranteeing that the metal was produced in accordance with social, environmental, and ethical standards. What goes a step further, however, is that the same environmentally-friendly selection process applies to the provenance of the diamonds set into Chopard’s High Jewellery pieces, too, and they’re now looking to do the same with their colored gemstone selections.

With this being said, one of the highlights of Baselworld 2018 for me was attending the Chopard press conference where Livia Firth sat down to talk to co-presidents Caroline and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele about the Sustainable Luxury initiative; something all three speakers hold very near and dear to their hearts. Also on-hand were friends of the brand, actress Julianne Moore – one of the first award-winning A-list actresses to wear Chopard’s Green Carpet collection – and Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth. And while not every watch or piece of jewelry in Chopard’s collection is made using Fairmined gold just yet (there are still very small amounts of gold in the world right now that are certified as “Fairmined”), the brand is doing what they can to use alternate eco-friendly and ethically-sourced materials; a decision for which they should be applauded. Oh, and one additional note: Chopard introduced a handful of new watches in their L.U.C collection at this year’s Baselworld, but in my opinion, the most impressive was the gray version of the L.U.C. Full Strike; the minute repeater that took “Best in Show” at the 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (and yes, as if you didn’t already figure it out, the watch’s case is made using non rhodium-plated, 18K ethically-sourced white gold which is certified as “Fairmined”).

Time Doesn’t Stand Still for Sea Life

Since 2010, Oris has done their part in helping the environment – particularly as it pertains to our oceans – this year’s release of the Clipperton Limited Edition proves they're continuing on the path to helping protect our sea life.  

Clipperton Island is a remote piece of land about 1,100 km south of the tip of the Baja Peninsula on the west coast of Mexico. Yet while not inhabited by mass amounts of humans or even being a tourist destination, the French-owned island and its ecosystem – including waterways which are a migration corridor for a fair amount of now-endangered species of shark – are in danger because of illegal commercial fishing and mass amounts of pollution.

According to a release from the brand, ORIS announced a “citizen-science” expedition earlier this year which gathered a group of scientists and conservationists and brought them along for an 80-hour expedition by boat to the remote island. The idea was for the group to experience firsthand the role Clipperton plays in the migration patterns of these endangered species, as well as to collect information that will inevitably help develop shark migration theories in order to aid in the preservation of Clipperton’s ecosystem.

This initiative and its accompanying limited edition timepiece (the brand is releasing the version in 2,000 pieces with a percentage of the funds raised eventually going toward the protection of the world’s oceans) is the next step in ORIS’s goal to raise awareness about the plight of our environment and our oceans; in addition to the Clipperton piece, last year was saw limited edition watches made in partnership with the Coral Restoration Foundation, and another with the shark conservation program, Pelagios Kakunjá

But the “cherry-on-top” to buying the ORIS Clipperton Limited Edition dive watch is that the watch comes packaged in a presentation box made with environmentally-friendly regenerative algae, which to me, proves again that when ORIS goes into doing something right, they go in full force. For almost a decade, Oris has been taking steps to give back to the environment with their ocean conservation limited editions. 

Big Cats Need Protection, Too

Swiss watch brand Hublot announced in late 2016 that they’d be partnering with the Black Jaguar-White Tiger Foundation which was established in Mexico and have since released a handful of novelties in conjunction with that collaboration, including the Big Bang “Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation” limited edition watch in stainless steel.

The Black Jaguar-White Tiger Foundation is a charitable organization that was established in 2013 by businessman Eduardo Serio with the purpose of protecting cats such as lions, jaguars, tigers, leopards, lynxes, pumas, and others from a life of abuse in circuses, zoos, pet stores, with breeders, or even in homes where they’re looked upon as “pets.”

According to the Humane Society of the United States, because of a massive uptick in popularity, there are now an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 tigers in the United States alone, with fewer than 400 of those housed in zoos which are accredited by the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums.) Unfortunately, when big cats are held in captivity, they tend to suffer from being confined to cages that are often too small and/or from lack of outdoor space with which to roam naturally.  

As it stands, the Black Jaguar-White Tiger Foundation has currently rescued or received 295 of these big cats from grave conditions and it continues to work with the Mexican government to assure that these animals and others are cared for and that their species are preserved.

Putting More Women in Positions of Power

Beside the fact that IWC Schaffhausen does everything they’re able in order to achieve their RJC (Responsible Jewellery Council) Code of Practices recertification – an acknowledgement they’re received since 2014 – the brand has taken responsible practices to the next level this year by being the first to publish a biennial sustainability report utilizing the best-practice standards of the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative.)

In reference to this achievement, IWC CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr stated, “By publishing our first sustainability report in accordance with the GRI’s global best-practice standards, we are taking a pioneering step in the Swiss luxury watch industry by closely measuring and actively managing our progress. We are committed to demonstrating transparency and accountability regarding the impact of our business on the economy, the environment and society.”

And while IWC has long backed its reputation, product, and watchmaking skills with its obligation to ethics, this year, they’ve additionally committed to doubling the percentage of women in management positions; a target they’ve set to accomplish by 2020, along with a reduction of both greenhouse emissions by 10%, and primary packaging weight and volume by 30%.

Using the Resources We’re Given for Good

It was refreshing to see these and a handful of other brands – particularly those making dive watches – partnering with companies in order to do what they’re able to make this world a better place for our children’s children. We have seen recently that even the smallest of voices and the youngest of minds can create an impact as great as a tidal wave, so it would be heartwarming to watch as more luxury brands with powerful voices and positive stature step up and get involved when it comes to this planet. But I genuinely feel that with companies like those above leading the way, that’s the exact direction in which our industry is headed.

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