Welcome to Dialed In, Esquire’s weekly column bringing you horological happenings and the most essential news from the watch world since March 2020.
Watch companies—especially those with spiritual ties to the ocean—have been quick to embrace initiatives to ally with adventurers and naturalists promoting action on climate change and w0rking to protect and preserve ocean habitats. It’s a facet of the watch industry that has only gathered pace in the past decade. A natural, market-friendly offshoot—and a cool way for the market to join in—is making watch straps made from recycled ocean plastic. But very few brands have taken the recycling idea and applied it to the watches themselves. Panerai, however, shows what can happen when a brand decides to fully explore the possibilities of pushing the technical limits of recycling to a mind-bending degree.
You could argue that as 60 to 70 percent of all steel in circulation is already technically recycled from previous uses, we’re doing great already. But that’s without trying. What if we could go further? Like say, 98.6 percent of a watch? That’s the percentage of recycled materials (by weight) in the Panerai Submersible eLab ID, launched officially this week at Watches and Wonders. In fact it’s not made of steel but from titanium, or, as Panerai calls it, EcoTitanium, a lightweight, recycled, aerospace-grade alloy. It doesn’t end with the case. The woven strap and buckle are recycled, too. And inside the watch, the sandwich dial and the bridges on the movement inside use the same recycled EcoTitanium.
Here’s where things get really granular. In the movement, the silicon parts in the escapement are fully recycled too. Even the SuperLuminova deposited in dial and hands is recycled. Both are derived from small-scale operations harvesting raw material waste. What about that annoying 1.4 percent left over? According to Panerai, that small bit is made up primarily of the springs in the movement which cannot (yet) be recycled to perform with the accuracy required of a high-end watch.
Like the concept cars developed to wow the automotive world, the result of Panerai’s project might seem somewhat remote to the end users who might be inspired by it. The production, which won’t start until next year, is limited to just 30 watches. And at an estimated €60,000 price, clapping eyes on one, still less slapping one on your wrist, is not going to be daily occurrence. That’s not really the point here. It’s good to know it’s there. Proof of concept—and, critically, a real watch you can actually buy (if you had $70k lying around)—is a major step in exploring a new way to look at the creation of luxury watches.
If you just can’t wait until 2022, or you doubt you will have the spare moolah, October 2021 sees the release of a new Panerai Luminor Marina range in eSteel, with dials in deep blue, emerald-green, or rock gray for a more accessible estimated €8,500. With up to 58 percent of the watch by weight using recycled stainless steel and upcycled polyester straps, it’s a start.
To underline the point, Panerai’s Laboratorio di Idee (or “Idea Lab” in English) that developed the prototype eLab-ID is making public all the micro-specialists in material science the company worked with to create it. Trickle-down is one thing, a call to action is another. If brands can spend millions to develop in-house movements, why not the infrastructure to explore recycling, too? Says Panerai’s CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué, “We don’t want to be the only one doing this. Acting alone won’t save the world.”
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Source : Esquire