Cupid has joined the chat! As we weather through January’s notorious post-holiday blues, we fast approach the day of Saint Valentine – a somewhat unofficial holiday in celebration of love and romance. We write cheesy cards, buy roses and chocolates, even watches, jewels and other trinkets, to express our feelings to the person we’re in love with. But as we rake through the pinks, the reds, the pricey, the cheap, the heart-shaped gimmicks of our beloved V-Day, we also can’t help but face ourselves with the reality of what’s going on in the world: Mounting climate urgency, the still-lingering effects of Covid-19, inflation, and other geo-political turmoil all force us to question our consumption habits. What is it we buy, how much of it, for what reasons – and at what cost?
Sentiments like these trickle into every sphere of commerce – the watch industry among them – and summon a steadily growing portion of both consumers and providers of goods to rethink the market, the roles they play within, and how to improve it. As a Deloitte survey recently put forward, more than 60% of customers take sustainability aspects into consideration when buying a watch, and the percentage here only ascends the younger those asked, with more than 71% of Millennials, specifically, wanting to invest in greener quality over quantity.
While the influx of awareness for the titular concept is great, it has also caused it to dilute in meaning, with companies hopping aboard the buzzword train before ever really doing anything profound to educate themselves or their customers on what “sustainability” even means in the context of a timepiece – or can even mean in the greater context of capitalism in general. All that said, we took it upon ourselves to unwrap the terminology at play here and guide you through your process of purchasing the kinds of presents that actually keep their promises and bring long-term joy to you, your loved ones, and the environment.
PS: Read until the end to secure a special V-Day Deal on one of our list's top-contenders!
4 Expert Criteria To Choose A High-Quality Sustainable Watch
A Brand’s Dedication to the Cause
Stay away from brands that religiously use positive keywords like “sustainability” on their website without giving concrete examples of how they are engaging in sustainable practices. Instead, take to brands that share the specificities of what they do, are somehow charitable and/or donate to causes that fight pollution, promote education, alleviate malnutrition, or the like.
Attention to Detail
Sustainability also means longevity, and longevity is tied to quality. One of the best ways to appraise the quality of a watch is to look at the level of detail of each of its parts – case, crown, hands, et cetera. If you look at a watch and see that each of its parts has been precisely crafted, using a very distinctive shape, then you can be confident this watch was made by a quality watchmaker.
A Brand’s CSR-Transparency
Supportable brands apply ethical labor standards in the country of production, even if the watches are manufactured overseas. The less concrete information there is about this, the more suspicious the brand. Another factor is whether they disclose anything about their carbon footprint. Progressive companies typically communicate how they offset their carbon footprint. This can pertain to carbon neutral offices, recycling, et cetera.
Watches made with eco-conscious, recyclable materials have the least environmental impact. Take, for instance, 316L stainless steel: it’s 100% recyclable, more durable and safer from corrosion than other metals. On top of that, 316L is highly resistant to shocks, and is fully hypoallergenic.
Our Specialized Ranking System
This specialized ranking system carefully measured the value of the products by evaluating the design, quality of materials, price/benefit-ratio, craftsmanship, and customer satisfaction. These factors, combined with the insights from watch makers and designers, allowed us to unravel whether or not the following products – each of which prominently feature green jargon – actually deliver on their promise to satisfy both the wearer and the environment.
The Top 5 Sustainable Watches On The Market Today
1. Nordgreen – Philosopher
The Philosopher is a high-quality, elegant-looking yet casual unisex watch made by renowned Scandinavian watchmaker startup Nordgreen. This sleek, smart and modern timepiece was designed by Jakob Wagner, an acclaimed designer known for his work at Bang & Olufsen, Hay, and Capellini, among others. He is also a five-time recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including IF’s Designer of the Year. His Nordic watches are textbook examples of a timepiece that combines highest quality with sustainability:
- Case entirely made of premium, 100% recyclable 316L stainless steel, carefully polished to give the watch a sharp and robust look. It also comes with a high-quality, Greenguard-certified vegan leather strap that contains no organic pollutants and no toxic by-products.
- Asymmetric second-hand: it is shaped like a blade, slicing through the minutes and hours of the day. According to the designer Jakob Wagner, this unique shape serves as a metaphor to illustrate how we are in constant motion through time.
- Nordgreen only uses FSC-certified cardboard for packaging, reuses at least 99% of manufacturing solvents to minimize waste, and completely offsets its office carbon footprint. The company manufactures its watches in Danish-owned factories in Hong Kong, where it enforces European labor standards to ensure fair pay and an ethical working environment.
- Transparent about sustainability commitments, namely through the Giving Back Program: a charity that has established several partnerships with three leading NGOs in the health, education, and environmental sectors. Every Nordgreen watch purchased contributes to a good cause, chosen by the customer, to either provide clean water to people of the Central African Republic, education to children in India, or protect rainforest lands in Latin America.
- Brand distances itself from buzzword usage, opting for “responsibility” to highlight their awareness for how true sustainability is a myth when it comes to capitalism, but that there are better ways to make, market and sell products than those employed in the past.
2. Solios – Solar White
- On the minus side, we find the watch a bit too simplistic compared to others here and its price range, as it doesn’t have any clearly differentiated features, nor is there any mention of better labor practices that may warrant its higher price tag. That said, it still remains a satisfactory choice for those seeking a high-quality and sustainable watch with a simple design.
Made by trusted Canadian watch brand Solios, the Solar White is an original, distinctive watch that ticks many boxes of the ideal sustainable timepiece. The watch is made of high-quality green technology and durable materials to offer a clean and elegant look, while making a positive impact on the environment.
- Uses a solar cell to recharge itself, functioning for years without having to change the batteries. The case is made of recyclable 316L stainless steel – a clear sign of high-quality and robustness.
- Brand uses 100% recycled and recyclable FSC-certified cardboard to limit its carbon footprint. The Solios Solar is also resistant to dust, ink, heat, and has a water-resistance rating of 3 ATM.
- Company takes very practical steps to ensure that every watch purchased is serving environmental causes. Every year, Solio allocates some of its profits to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Rainforest Trust.
3. TIVC – Pinatex
- Design is extremely simple. Therefore, it may not appeal to those looking for a distinguished timepiece with unique, signature markings of craftsmanship.
TIVC stands for “Time IV Change”, a watch brand well known for designing excellent eco-friendly watches – their Pinatex model among them.
- Strap made of Pinatex – an innovative, natural fabric which is a by-product of pineapple harvest. This material is entirely biodegradable and hypoallergenic. It is obtained from pineapple leaf fibers, gathered by farming cooperatives in the Philippines.
- Watch case is made of 100% recycled aluminum to reduce carbon footprint, although it should be noted that information on case material is somewhat limited. Same goes for information on packaging.
- In terms of environmental activism, TIVC donates around 10% of its profits from its vegan watches to support seven high-impact charities, promoting the protection of the environment and animal welfare. Also, TIVC watches are produced in a Hong Kong factory that is SA8000 certified – which ensures fair labor practices. The TIVC Pinatex is vegan friendly and cruelty-free.
4. Tense Watch – Small Hampton
- However, the company is very shy about disclosing information on the type of packaging it uses – surprising for a brand that seems to position itself at the forefront of sustainability.
- Even though the watch does stand out, it doesn’t display any clear sign of truly unique craftsmanship. We find this absence of “watch personality” slightly disappointing, especially for a timepiece of this price range.
No selection of sustainable watches is complete without a good-quality wooden watch! Among all wood-watch brands, we think Tense Watch is one of the best, most reliable ones. The Tense Small Hampton is one of their flagship models, made from 100% natural wood reclaimed from Africa, America, and Canada.
- Wood is never extracted from living trees, but instead comes from recycled wood.
- High-grade Japanese movement made of stainless steel, unlike other comparable wood watches that use plastic. This gives a nice, healthy weight to the watch, on top of increasing its durability.
- Company takes active steps towards sustainability, by being a member of the 1% For The Planet. That means that the company has pledged to donate 1% of its sales to global and local organizations acting to create a healthier, cleaner planet. Each watch is manufactured in ethical working conditions, completely by hand, in a workshop in Vancouver.
5. Ksana – Jet Black
Trustpilot review non available
- Company generally not as transparent as other sustainable watch brands – such as Nordgreen and Solios, for example. As a rule of thumb, one should prefer brands that are fully transparent and specifically guarantee a healthy and fair working environment.
- Design of this watch lacks a clear distinctive feature – although it might not matter that much for someone looking for a very simple, sustainable watch.
Another good quality timepiece pairing sleek design with sustainability is Ksana’s Jet Black. Ksana is a very young watch brand providing a fresh and stylish range of sustainable silicon watches.
- Eco-friendly watch with a minimalistic design. It uses a black strap made of silicon, which is lightweight, durable and 100% recyclable. The case is made of stainless steel, though there’s no mention of the specific type of stainless steel.
- Company follows strong sustainable practices: it offers a recycling program where the straps are recycled into insulation and coating for solar panels. The watch’s packaging is made of recycled and recyclable cardboard, to minimize carbon footprint. Ksana is also a member of 1% For The Planet, donating 1% of all revenues to environmental charities.
- In terms of labour practices, we only know that watches are made by a manufacturer in Asia that is frequently audited. This audit guarantees no use of child labour, fair wages, and no unfair labour practices.