Jewelry and Watches

Ethical watches: what you need to know

Ethical watches: what you need to know
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Want to make an eco-sound choice in your watchwear but don't know where to start? Here, we find out what constitutes an eco-friendly watch and how to buy one in confidence.

As well as being reliable and looking stylish, more and more of us are seeking out watches that meet high levels of ethical production too.

While finding a watch that is entirely sustainable might require more legwork than a standard shop piece, there are plenty of watchmakers and designers going the extra mile to ensure their products make a positive impact and at the very least, are committed to raising their standards of ethical production.

From wooden dials, to straps made from recycled ocean plastic and toxin-free timepieces, the diversity of options on the sustainable watch market is expanding and so too are the price bands; from affordable high street collections, to more luxurious offerings.

Considering how often we look to our wrists throughout the day, it’s high time our fashion choices are aligned with our morals too.

And in some cases, it’s not just the materials that are benefiting from an ethically sound practices, but the people behind them too; with the sales of some timepieces going to worthwhile causes.

The shift towards environmental consciousness is something that Jeremy Hobbins, Deputy Head of the School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University, has seen throughout his career in the jewellery trade.

“There’s no doubt the ethics behind a product are becoming increasingly important to consumers,” he explains.

“Customers surveyed in the Company of Master Jewellers (CMJ) Consumer Retail report were asked how important it is for items to be made ethically. 44% responded that it influenced their purchases.”

But does choosing a sustainably-produced watch mean scrimping on style? Madeline Petrow, the owner of MAMOQ, an online retailer putting sustainably-made products at the heart of their operation, doesn’t think so.

“It’s upsetting that people perceive ethics as a compromise on style,” she says. “At MAMOQ, this is a misconception that we are really trying to prove wrong, because it’s simply not true.”

And it should be something every business acts upon.

“Ethics should be a minimum requirement of the brands we support,” she says. “There are a growing number of young brands proving you don’t have to sacrifice ethics or style.”

True though that might be, choosing a sustainably-produced watch will mean taking a bit longer to ascertain how the piece was made to understand if it is as green as it purports to be. But the pay-off is worth the work.

To truly get to grips with the story behind your watch, give yourself time to ask the retailer questions about it.

“Consider the sourcing of the precious and non-precious metals, the packaging, and possibly even the power sources behind the production processes,” says Jeremy.

“How is the metal sourced? Is it ethically mined? Is the workforce fairly paid? Do they have equal rights? Recently the use of recycled materials such as metals from airplanes and pineapple leaves turned into vegan “leather” have been popular and are marketed as evidence of an ethical product.”

Even if the retailer claims the product is ethically-made, be sure to query any claims of sustainability that don’t ring true.

“Avoid brands that use the word “ethical” as a marketing tool,” says Madeline.

“Dig deep into the story of the brand and how they make their watches in order to see if their version of “ethical” matches your own.

“Try to discover as much as you can about the production of the watches, including the materials and where they came from. The more you know, the easier it is to assess for yourself if you believe they are being made in a way that aligns with your values.”

Perhaps one of the best ways of being sustainable is to reduce the number of watches bought over a lifetime. That means really considering styles that truly suit you and will take you through the ages, even if it does mean shelling out a bit more than you would on a fast fashion item.

“Arguably [to make a sustainable choice] buy once and buy well,” says Jeremy. “Avoid the throwaway fashion item and look for a quality product, whether it be a restored vintage mechanical timepiece or a well-made modern marvel. Ensure they are designed to be serviced by skilled watchmakers, and they will potentially last for generations.” he concludes.

Words: Keeley Bolger

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