The vast majority of the news we see doesn’t have any direct effect on our lives, so it must be manipulated in a way that appeals to our primal instincts. The most effective of these is fear. If you say there are people dying in some far-off land, you will hear noises of sympathy. If they are dying from an epidemic that could be coming over on the next scheduled flight, you will really get people’s attention.

Fear is a great way to get people to listen, but it only works for so long, especially if consumers feel they are being played. We are asked to worry about so many things that, after a while, we just think that if we can’t solve all of them, we may as well just whistle and walk the other way.

It’s Nigh Time to Fear for Our Oceans

Unfortunately, hidden among manufactured concerns about victimless crimes and overblown health scares, there are some things that we really do need to worry about, things that nobody can escape. And nothing is more pressing than the vast quantity of plastic that we continue to throw into the ocean on a daily basis.

By 2050, plastic in the ocean is expected to outweigh all of the fish in the sea
By 2050, plastic in the ocean is expected to outweigh all of the fish in the sea

Plastic production has soared over the past half-century, from 15 million tons to well over 300 million tons every year – a weight roughly equivalent to 900 Empire State Buildings. Every year, at least 8 million tons go into the ocean, equivalent to a full garbage truck every single minute. There is currently estimated to be over 150 million tons of plastic in the seas. By 2025, the ocean will contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish, and by 2050, plastic is expected to outweigh all of the fish in the sea.

More people do finally seem to be waking up to the seriousness of choking the world from the sea upwards. Says naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, “For years, we thought that the oceans were so vast that nothing we could do could have an effect upon them, but now we know that was wrong. It’s clear that our actions are having a significant impact on the world’s oceans.”

Sir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough

Watch Companies on Campaign

The problem is now getting a good deal of attention in the watch world, too. Watch companies caring for the oceans is nothing new. Back in 2012, Rolex took part in James Cameron’s DeepSea Challenge, sending an experimental diving watch on the film director’s submarine voyage to study the deepest reaches of the ocean. Jaeger-LeCoultre has been supporting World Heritage’s marine conservation work for over a decade. IWC Schaffhausen supports the Charles Darwin Foundation in preserving the incredible but fragile Galapagos Islands. Blancpain’s Ocean Commitment initiative has backed a variety of conservation programmes, such as Pristine Seas, which establishes protected areas where marine life can thrive. Omega in turn helps the GoodPlanet Foundation promote sustainability and waste reduction and from this year, Seiko will be working with Fabien Cousteau and the Ocean Learning Center.

Fabien Cousteau of the Ocean Learning Center, wearing a Seiko Prospex SNE498
Fabien Cousteau of the Ocean Learning Center, wearing a Seiko Prospex SNE498

But this is no time to start thinking: “Let’s not worry about it, these guys have it in hand.” More watch companies are stepping to the fore, sharing the burden of caring for our oceans.

Bremont: Keep Hawaii Clean

A conversation with Mark Healey, a free-diver, surfer, adventurer and environmentalist who is working with Bremont, helped explain to me why the problem of plastics is so urgent, making the very stark that no matter how far you travel in the world, you will see piles of plastic. “It is heartbreaking,” Healey said. “I’ve spent my life going to find the most far-flung beaches in the world and you are 100 per cent guaranteed that there will be trash all over them. That fantasy of pulling up to a beautiful island and seeing a clean, abandoned beach is just that – a fantasy.

Mark Healey
Mark Healey

“In Western countries, we have people that go and clean up the beaches, which is great. But it hides the urgency. The plastic is not going anywhere. It is just breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces and working its way through the food chain. We really should have been acting two decades ago, but now it is truly critical. Every little decision we make can impact on the problem, just voting with your dollar by not buying things that are irresponsibly packaged, and making sure we dispose of what we do use in the correct way.”

Bremont Waterman limited-edition dive watch developed in conjunction with Mark ‘Waterman’ Healey. The watch has a specially developed sapphire caseback – no mean feat for a watch that is water-resistant to 500 metres. A percentage of proceeds goes to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii – a charity that inspires local communities to care for their coastlines through beach clean-ups, recycling and educational programmes
Bremont Waterman limited-edition dive watch developed in conjunction with Mark ‘Waterman’ Healey. The watch has a specially developed sapphire caseback – no mean feat for a watch that is water-resistant to 500 metres. A percentage of proceeds goes to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii – a charity that inspires local communities to care for their coastlines through beach clean-ups, recycling and educational programmes

Bremont is supporting Healey and the charity Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii in a bid to stress the urgency of tackling the problem. As well as warning people of the dangers, Healey, who is from the Hawaiian island of Oahu, is also aiming to inspire people to love the ocean. “I absolutely believe that people will only protect something if they value it,” he said. “And it’s my life’s mission to inspire others to value the ocean the way I do.”

Breitling: Someone Needs to Pick the Trash

Although clearing plastic from beaches can hide the problem from ignorant eyes, it is still a vital part of the vast clean-up job we have created for ourselves. Breitling is organising beach clean-ups around the world as part of its support for Ocean Conservancy, an environmental charity that has its origins in the Save the Whale movement of the 1970s. People of all ages will be invited to participate, and they will be offered advice on how they can help restore the health of the ocean and prevent pollution. Everything collected will be disposed of in the most ecologically responsible way.

Breitling & Ocean Conservancy Bear Pool (Image: Christopher Michel)
Breitling & Ocean Conservancy Bear Pool (Image: Christopher Michel)

Breitling CEO Georges Kern is particularly impressed by the work Ocean Conservancy has done over the past 45 years. “As global corporate citizens, we are thrilled to be able to support Ocean Conservancy’s mission of maintaining a healthy ocean,” Kern says. “The organisation has an impressive track record of accomplishment, mobilising millions in support of healthy beaches, and is passionate in its fight for our ocean, its wildlife, and coastal communities.”

Breitling is bringing out a special limited-edition watch in the Superocean Héritage collection, with a proportion of sales to go to the charity Ocean Conservancy. The limited edition will be launched in November
Breitling is bringing out a special limited-edition watch in the Superocean Héritage collection, with a proportion of sales to go to the charity Ocean Conservancy. The limited edition will be launched in November

Ocean Conservancy has organised tens of thousands of coastal-clean-up operations across 153 countries. It attracts the support of hundreds of thousands of volunteers and has been responsible for an enormous growth in the public awareness of the pollution of the planet’s ocean and beaches. Since 1986, more than 12 million people have picked up over 100 million kilos of rubbish as part of Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

Oris: Saving Clipperton Island

Commitment for the long haul is key. Oris has a long history of supporting various marine conservation organisations. It is currently backing an expedition to Clipperton Island, an uninhabited coral atoll in the Pacific. Clipperton is an incredibly isolated location almost 700 miles south of the Baja California peninsula. It is so remote and difficult to access that more people have scaled Mount Everest than have stepped foot on Clipperton Island. The surrounding waters are a critical migration corridor for a number of threatened species of shark and other marine life.

Clipperton Island
Clipperton Island

The trip to Clipperton involves an arduous 80-hour boat journey. Despite its remoteness, the French-owned island and its unique ecosystem are under threat because of pollution from plastics and commercial fishing. Fragile ecosystems like these should be viewed as the whole marine environment in microcosm, as no part of the ocean is immune.

Ulrich Herzog, Chairman of Oris, says: “We need to continue to tell the tragic story of what is happening to our oceans, the effects plastic is having on the eco-system and the devastating outcome if we don’t collectively make a conscious effort to change it. Once people are aware of the impact single-use plastic has on the environment, we can then work to change their behaviour.”

Limited to 2,000 pieces, the Oris Clipperton Limited Edition is a series of 2,000 watches, based on the second-generation Aquis collection launched last year. The watch features a 43.5mm stainless-steel case water-resistant to 300 metres, a Sellita-based automatic movement
Limited to 2,000 pieces, the Oris Clipperton Limited Edition is a series of 2,000 watches, based on the second-generation Aquis collection launched last year. The watch features a 43.5mm stainless-steel case water-resistant to 300 metres, a Sellita-based automatic movement
The screw-down caseback embossed with an outline of Clipperton Island and its coordinates
The screw-down caseback embossed with an outline of Clipperton Island and its coordinates

But it is not just individuals that need to change their behaviour, as Herzog adds: “If global brands with influence make a stand, so too will the consumer. At Oris, we produce watches in support of marine conservation, but we also try our hardest to make a difference in smaller ways such as our packaging. Our Clipperton Limited Edition watch comes in a presentation box made using environmentally friendly, regenerative algae. The story of the world’s ocean and marine life affected by plastic is tragic and shocking, but not irreversible. We hope and believe that through our continued support of marine conservations we will continue to set an example to others that change is possible and we can help to save precious eco-systems.”

Certina: Eye on the Turtle

Whilst creatures at all levels of the food chain suffer from plastic pollution, the delightfully photogenic turtle is one of the animals that has become an emblem for ocean conservation. Certina has been working with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to help safeguard the safety of turtles via research and education programmes throughout the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific. One STC initiative that Certina is supporting is Tour de Turtles, a tracking programme that allows the public to follow sea turtle migrations online.

Tour de Turtle 2017

David Godfrey, of the Florida-based STC, said: “It is alarming how much plastic is already showing up in the gut contents of all kinds of marine life. We are seeing dead turtles in many parts of the world with plastics blocking their digestive tracts.  And there are many more that may not be killed directly, but are weakened by the accumulation of plastic in their bodies, which slows them down, decreasing their reproduction and lowering the viability of turtles as a species.”

Certina is supporting the work of the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) with a special edition of the DS Action Diver. Beneath the STC livery, the watch has the usual DS Action Diver features with an ETA automatic movement in a 43mm stainless-steel case, water resistant to 300 metres. A portion of proceeds goes directly to the Sea Turtle Conservancy
Certina is supporting the work of the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) with a special edition of the DS Action Diver. Beneath the STC livery, the watch has the usual DS Action Diver features with an ETA automatic movement in a 43mm stainless-steel case, water resistant to 300 metres. A portion of proceeds goes directly to the Sea Turtle Conservancy
Certina is supporting the work of the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) with a special edition of the DS Action Diver. Beneath the STC livery, the watch has the usual DS Action Diver features with an ETA automatic movement in a 43mm stainless-steel case, water resistant to 300 metres. A portion of proceeds goes directly to the Sea Turtle Conservancy

Godfrey added: “The STC works to try and shift attitudes, getting people to change their behaviour. Little things like getting restaurants to switch to using paper straws and only offering them on demand are ways they reduce the amount of plastic waste, but also get people to think about their behaviour in other parts of their life.”

Breguet: Upcycling

Breguet has teamed up with Race for Water to raise awareness of ocean preservation in general, but also to help turn plastic waste into energy. With Breguet’s support, Race for Water has embarked on a five-year-long mission that it calls the Odyssey of Hope. A team of experts are travelling all over the world in a specially designed hydrogen-and-solar-powered boat visiting some of the areas worst hit by plastic pollution. The aim is to promote a system for collecting plastic waste and turning it into energy.  Breguet is committed to supporting the new Odyssey through its completion in 2021.

Race for Water’s hydrogen-and-solar-powered boat
Race for Water’s hydrogen-and-solar-powered boat

Marc A. Hayek, Breguet President, says: “We are proud and pleased to be able to support Race for Water, a Swiss project making a significant international contribution into the marine research and demonstrating that concrete solutions exists for the preservation of the ocean worldwide. In the early 19th century, timekeeping played a pivotal role in maritime navigation. We are continuing that tradition by supporting an Odyssey of vital importance for our common future.”

In celebration of the partnership with Race for Water, Breguet has created a special edition of its Marine 5517 timepiece. It is set in a titanium case with a custom blue dial that features a clous de Paris motif of Race for Water’s hydrogen-and-solar-powered boat. The special edition watch is worn by the Race for Water team, but there are no plans currently to make it available for sale
In celebration of the partnership with Race for Water, Breguet has created a special edition of its Marine 5517 timepiece. It is set in a titanium case with a custom blue dial that features a clous de Paris motif of Race for Water’s hydrogen-and-solar-powered boat. The special edition watch is worn by the Race for Water team, but there are no plans currently to make it available for sale

Everyone needs to do their part to save our ocean, and changing our habits is obviously of vital importance, but what about all the plastic that has already accumulated deep in the oceans? There are various deeper clean-up operations in place, such as the technology being deployed by a Dutch company called The Ocean Cleanup, which will use vast pipes more than a mile long that float on the ocean surface gathering waste. It is hoped that within five years they will have halved the size of the vast accumulation of plastics and other rubbish known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Ocean Cleanup conducting trials in the Pacific
The Ocean Cleanup conducting trials in the Pacific