For many years, a small and dedicated group of watchmakers have focused their attention on ocean conservation and marine protection. Blancpain supports the Pristine Seas Expeditions and the World Oceans Summit. Doxa has partnered Project AWARE for over a decade, which works with scuba divers across the world to clean up the seas on every dive.
IWC previously worked with the Charles Darwin Foundation to protect the Galapagos Islands (today, they partner the Cousteau Society) and Breitling‘s partnership with Kelly Slater’s EcoNYL even manages to engage the press in beach cleanup projects, as well as offer reusable, recycled plastic packaging and watch straps. And Oris has championed the Australia Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Reef Restoration Foundation for several years, an organisation that restores healthy coral reefs at the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef limited editions by Oris — the third was launched this year — are the result of discussions between Michael Meier, the regional manager for Oris and Peter Borghouts, the managing director for Oris Australia. The third is part of the brand’s Oceans Project for 2019.
The project has strong support from CEO Rolf Studer, who commented to Revolution about the importance of ocean conservation on both a personal and corporate level. “My grandfather was a shipbuilder on Lake Lucerne and I used to spend my childhood summers on his shipyard. Since these days, I have been fascinated by the underwater ecosystems. I have been sailing on that lake and on the Mediterranean since I was a child. Everything water is dear to me,” he expressed.
Plastic, Plastic Everywhere
The Oceans Project provides funding and publicity support to various non-profits thinking up 21st century solutions to a 20th century legacy issue of marine plastic waste, which continues to this day. An estimated 22 tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans each day. One unconventional design solution is by Pacific Garbage Screening (PGS), whose founder Marcella Hansch designed a way to sieve out plastic waste (including microplastics) without hurting marine life using an architectural design platform.
Studer explains, “Over many years now, we have supported projects that have bring concrete change for a specific cause. With the Oceans Project we went more general. To show that recycled PET that was trash before can become part of luxury object is a strong message. Things can have a second life and the product can be beautiful. To not have this plastic in the oceans will benefit specific species such as the blue whale. Everything is connected.”
The project aims to recover and re-use the plastic found in the oceans, but also confront the issue of marine dumping at its source. Says Hansch, “we know that around 80 per cent of plastics enter the oceans through 10 of the world’s rivers.” Thus she intends to develop the prototype into a solution usable in rivers and estuaries. “[Oris and I] got in touch through the International Oceans Film Tour and started thinking about a partnership related to raising awareness of the importance of clean oceans… we’re working on a campaign to raise awareness of plastic pollution,” she added of the collaboration.
The partnership led Oris to introduce a special edition, called the Clean Oceans Limited Edition. Based on the Aquis, the watch is fitted with a plastic medallion on the caseback made from recycled PET plastic, which is most commonly seen in plastic bottles. (Newsflash: PET plastic is in fact rarely accepted at recyclers, and so is often not properly recycled. So rethink your plastic bottle drinking habits.)
Why Ocean Conservation Matters to Oris
While the watch is a beautiful and well-priced buy, it’s not what drives Oris’ focus on ocean conservation. Says Studer, “The [watch] is a symbol of our commitment to ridding the world’s oceans of plastic. Oris continues to work with agencies for positive change… we believe that together, we can make a difference.
“At Oris, we do things based on three pillars: we support projects that have a direct impact on marine life and protection. Then, we want to raise awareness for change for the better. This is where I think we have the biggest leverage. The luxury goods consumer, our customer, is the one who can make a difference as he has the means to use in a more or less harmful way.
“When we replace the plastic that we use in our boxes by 30% algae, the immediate impact is not huge but it shows what is possible. If it makes people think about their own lifestyles and makes them adjust their own behaviour, then we have helped to make a difference.
“Third, we change things here in Hölstein. We have banned plastic at the factory. No more plastic cups, no more plastic bottles. We have given each employee a re-fillable bottle so everyone can drink tap water. In a country like Switzerland it really makes no sense to bottle water and then use energy to transport it. It’s small steps, but they are concrete and they add up.”
Hansch adds, “we are all involved in the problem as consumers, and so we should all be responsible for solving the problem. Everybody can and has to reduce the amount of plastic they consume every day!” A fitting reminder on World Oceans Day.