5 investment watches that will last forever
From sweatshops to fossil fuel-swilling supercars, the luxury industry doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to social or ecological responsibility. But then luxury is, by definition, the opposite of an everyday essential. So who needs a conscience?
Well, the Swiss watch industry, for one. In fact, you could argue that watches are made in the most ecologically sound way imaginable. As the name suggests, it’s a highly localised cottage industry making tiny objects, so the logistics barely amount to the odd van trundling around the Jura Mountains.
What’s more, Switzerland is home to some of the most innovative architecture practices going. So with the recent boom in watchmaking, there’s been a concomitant boom in factory buildings that conform to the country’s strict “Minergie” standard of low energy consumption. Some, such as IWC’s new atelier, are carbon neutral.
“Luxury watches are made locally with minimal resources, in workshops where they recycle even their notepaper,” confirms TAG Heuer’s Notting Hill-based chief designer Christoph Behling, whose practice also creates solar-powered vehicles. “In the case of an automatic, it’s powered by the movement of your arm, not a polluting battery. Plus it’s made to last, not to be thrown away. It will live as long as you do.”
(Related: How to invest in watches)
If industrial responsibility wasn’t enough, Swiss watchmakers have a surprisingly good track record when it comes to giving back. TAG’s sponsorship of the all-electric Formula E series is a case in point – a worthy avant-garde move given the brand’s usual association with the highfalutin and high-pollutin’ world of F1.The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Chronograph (£1,550)reverse engineers some of that tech, with lightweight materials such as aluminium in its chassis and super-precise battery-powered quartz under the hood.
But while we wait for Formula E’s (mostly McLaren-derived) innovations to trickle down to your driveway, hard cash is being diverted to the sharp end of environmental conservation. Part of the proceeds fromIWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition Galapagos Islands (£8,250)go to the Charles Darwin Foundation, helping preserve the diverse ecosystem that inspired his theory of evolution (and offsetting IWC’s own involvement with F1 through Mercedes AMG Petronas). And you’re still getting a hell of a lot of watch for your money: self-winding with a 68-hour power reserve and waterproof to 300m, plus a quick-change bracelet so you can easily swap the strap from wetsuit-appropriate rubber to more work suit-appropriate metal or leather.
On the fashion watch front, theShore Projects Project 2 (£115)is as changeable as the weather on the British coast, with easily switchable straps in a rainbow spectrum of colours. It too is in on the green trend: £1 from every sale goes to the Marine Conservation Society and its crucial work protecting our aquatic wildlife and their habitats. It’s a summer watch in more ways than one.
At the opposite end of the watch spectrum is Jaeger-LeCoultre. Since 2008, JLC has been working with global-heritage police UNESCO to protect the 47 marine sites on the latter’s World Heritage list. Every watch from its collection puts a little something towards the cause, but if you had to take the plunge, then theJaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Chronograph (£7,650). Its case will stand up to most maritime exploits, being water resistant to 100m with an indicator that lets you see a glance if your air supply-timing chrono has stopped, while its design dates back to the late Fifties – a golden age of scientific expeditions that Jaeger’s instruments helped keep on track.
For something more timely, try the recently releasedTudor North Flag (£2,430), which draws inspiration from the Oyster Princes worn for the British North Greenland Expedition but turns it into something new, complete with the Rolex sister brand’s first-ever (and very reasonably priced) in-house movement. Tudor is supporting the Hudson River Project, for which furniture maker and creative James Bowthorpe will build a boat from materials scavenged from the streets of Manhattan and row it from the river’s source back to New York City. The point of the exercise – and the Mogwai-soundtracked film being made to document it – is to raise awareness of waste and the relationship between urban environments and natural ones. Or flag it up, if you will.
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