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Watch Makers Design for the Environment

gmtmodelPrestige watch manufacturers are increasingly boosting their green credentials by building eco-conscious factories and sponsoring environmental initiatives, reports the NY Times.

Although the Swiss government helps mitigate the potential damage from watch manufacturing, including wastewater with hydrocarbon-based lubricants, by enforcing strict environmental standards, it does not cover Swiss brands fabricating their components in China, according to the NY Times.

Wyler Geneve introduced the industry’s first carbon neutral watch, a G.M.T. model certified by the CarbonNeutral Co., based in London. CarbonNeutral manages two carbon offset projects for the watch maker — a reforestation program in the Brittany region of France and a methane capture project at a derelict coal mine in Pennsylvania, according to the NY Times article. The initiative complements the company’s carbon neutral strategy started in 2007.

But certification is not an easy process. Wyler Geneve’s managing director Ryan St. George told the NY Times that certifying the company was considerably easier than certifying the watch, because Wyler Geneve buys its components from outside manufacturers that it does not control.

The NY Times reports that a host of other watch makers also are implementing green initiatives. Rolex recently upgraded its facility in Plan-les-Ouates, near Geneva, installing rooftop gardens designed to capture rainwater and glass facades to optimize the penetration of natural light; Jaeger-Le Coultre began a bus service for workers at its factory in Le Sentier, Switzerland, along with a car-pooling program to reduce carbon emissions, and IWC, which was certified carbon neutral two years ago, helps its employees to calculate their personal carbon footprint and then offset it by contributing money to a climate project.

These brands have also spent millions of marketing dollars to support celebrity environmental causes to give a more public face to their environmental efforts, according to the NY Times.

As an example, Audemars Piguet honored the 20th anniversary of its iconic Royal Oak model by creating the Audemars Piguet Foundation, dedicated to forest conservation. Last year, Jaeger-LeCoultre inaugurated a three-year “Tides of Time” collaboration with the Unesco World Heritage Center to protect the biodiversity of marine ecosystems around the world, and IWC signed on as the chief sponsor of a unique ocean voyage by David de Rothschild, an environmentalist whose company in London, Adventure Ecology, organizes expeditions to environmentally-challenged regions. IWC also designed a limited-edition watch in honor of the voyage, called the Ingenieur Automatic Mission Earth Edition “Adventure Ecology.”

For boutique brands that lack the budget, they are focusing on grassroots marketing to communicate their environmental support.

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