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Sustainable Shifts in Luxury Watchmaking: A Race Against Time

LifestyleFashionSustainable Shifts in Luxury Watchmaking: A Race Against Time

Tradition is the bedrock of the watchmaking industry. However, as sustainability becomes a central concern for consumers worldwide, particularly for the upcoming Gen Z, this centuries-old industry faces pressure to evolve. Recent studies reveal that millennials and Gen Z are increasingly valuing sustainability when purchasing luxury items, including watches. In regions like India and China, the emphasis on sustainable goods has become even more pronounced.

Yet, the watch and jewelry sector’s historical practices stand in stark contrast to these eco-conscious preferences. The industry’s environmental footprint is considerable, especially in mining raw materials such as gold and diamonds, which significantly impact ecosystems. For instance, mining operations contributed to a staggering 10% of deforestation in Brazil’s rainforests between 2005 and 2015.

However, the younger generation’s inclination towards sustainability has introduced a booming second-hand watch market in Asia. Brynn Wallner, the founder of the women’s watch platform Dimepiece, observes that younger consumers show a heightened interest in pre-owned and vintage models over new luxury items.

Despite the slow pace of change, some traditional watch brands are beginning to acknowledge these shifting consumer preferences. The industry’s premier event, Watches & Wonders, recently showcased various brands highlighting sustainability. Notably, Tag Heuer introduced watches with lab-grown diamonds, Cartier unveiled apple-skin vegan leather straps, and Hublot showcased a case made from recycled aluminium, including coffee capsules.

While these are steps in the right direction, genuine sustainability extends beyond a few eco-friendly models. Authentic change requires a comprehensive overhaul of materials, processes, and sourcing methods. Chopard, a leading brand in the luxury watch space, has taken significant strides towards this, with initiatives like using 80% recycled steel for its watches and ethically sourcing gold for its products. They aim to utilize at least 90% recycled steel by 2025 and ensure that the suppliers for these materials are located near their primary manufacturing unit to reduce transportation emissions.

Chopard’s partnership with sustainable business consultancy Eco-Age birthed the “Journey to sustainable luxury” program, a pioneering initiative in luxury jewelry and watch space, aiming to bolster the brand’s environmental and social impact. This move not only elevated the brand’s eco-friendly status but also reportedly enhanced customer engagement and sales.

However, while some brands are making commendable progress, many remain entrenched in tradition, prioritizing materials like platinum and gold. The slow shift towards sustainable materials is still in its infancy.

In conclusion, the luxury watch industry stands at a crossroads. The integration of sustainability practices and catering to a new generation of consumers while preserving tradition presents a challenging but necessary journey for the future of the sector.


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