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How to be an ethical watch consumer? When it comes to sustainability, the watch world is taking action

Whether you’re shopping for groceries or your next watch, chances are high that you’re going to give more than a passing thought to sustainability as part of your decision. This is as it should be. Between the growing global population, climate change, and a host of other concerns, it’s never been more important to use your dollars to support the companies and causes you believe in. This is just as true of watches as it is of any other kind of consumer goods, and a little bit of advanced research can help you pick one that aligns with your values and does some good for the world.

The best place to start your journey as an ethical watch consumer is at the source: the brands themselves (and the corporate families they belong to). Just about every major watch brand has an official stance on sustainability and philanthropy, whether that’s a partnership with an NGO working to clean up the oceans, or an extensive annual sustainability report created by a dedicated in-house committee. Swiss watchmakers have a well-earned reputation for secrecy about what goes on behind closed doors, but when it comes to sustainability they are increasingly transparent and willing to share. For example, when Panerai released its Luminor Marina eSteel – a watch with many components made from majority recycled steel – it published its supplier list to encourage other brands to follow suit.

That brings us to the next major place where watchmakers can show off their sustainability cred: materials. While materials like gold and diamonds have been used in watchmaking for generations, only recently have brands begun to make a concerted effort to ensure an ethical and transparent supply chain. Independent luxury watchmaker Chopard was among the first to introduce Ethical Gold, while IWC has signed on as a member of the Responsible Jewelry Council in their ongoing efforts to certify their entire component supply chain as ethical and sustainable. These are far from the only examples, and the more consumers start paying attention to these details and requesting further action, the more there will be.

As good as it is to know that the watch you’re buying was made by a company that’s doing its best to be ethical and sustainable, however, none of that matters if you don’t love the watch you buy. Fortunately it’s easier than ever to find a watch that speaks directly to a cause you care about, whether that’s cleaning up the oceans, supporting conservation, or other worthy causes. Among the best examples in recent years include Oris’ Aquis Date with a unique dial made from ocean-bound plastic, and Breitling’s SuperOcean Outerknown editions, which feature straps made from discarded carpets and fishing nets. Up-cycled materials like these are becoming increasingly commonplace, and watchmakers are becoming ever more savvy about giving back – and making it easier than ever to be an ethical watch consumer.

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