If you’re on the hunt for sustainable eco friendly watches you already know we’re totally on board! They can be such a vibe, but they are also super useful, which is a match made in heaven!
I mean is there anything quite like beautifully crafted, utilitarian items that align perfectly in with our needs, aesthetics, and values?! Watches are unique, adding a distinctive touch only jewelry can.
But how to choose an eco-friendly watch then? What is an eco-friendly watch even? And what do we need to keep an eye out for when looking for the best eco-friendly watches?
What is an eco-friendly watch?
For starters, there are actually quite a few different types of watches to choose from. There are automatic & mechanical watches, quartz watches, dress watches, kinetic watches, analog watches, digital watches, hybrid watches, solar watches, dive watches, touchscreen watches, tactile watches, and – believe it or not – the list actually goes on!
With all this variety, they are still typically made up of similar parts: the movement, the crown, the crystal, the pusher, the lugs, the rotor, the straps, the subdial, the exhibition casebook, the hour maker, and the case.
The case, which holds the movement (or the “engine” of the watch) acts as a kind of protective barrier and can be made of any number of materials including platinum, gold, gold plate, stainless steel, titanium, ceramic, tantalum, or diamond-like carbon (DLC), among others.
It is here that we start to see just how mineral-intensive watches are.
The crystal (or glass that covers the face of the watch) is made from synthetic sapphire, actual glass, or acrylic (the most affordable option of the three). But the hands (which indicate the time) are typically made from metal too; notably gold, platinum, or stainless steel. So is the movement, which is often made of precious metals and/or minerals.
All in all, this adds up to quite a lot of metals to start with — and that’s not including the buckle, or the bezel (the rotating, circular piece of metal commonly found in dive watches).
To get all of this metal, watchmaking, along with other metal-intensive industries like electronics, rely heavily on mining.
Mine exploration, construction, operation, and maintenance are notoriously tied to deforestation, erosion, soil and water contamination, the displacement of wildlife, and an increase in noise levels, dust, and emissions.
Even when they are no longer active, the abandonment or decommissioning of mines can also leave permanent scars on the land, especially if they are not properly remediated.
Alternatively, metals are recyclable. In fact, the aluminum cans we throw in the recycling bin are about 6 times more likely to get recycled than plastics. Precious metals can also be recovered, notably from e-waste.
Therefore recycled metals play a big role in sustainable watchmaking by reducing the need for the mining, refining, and processing of virgin materials. It also reduces the social and ecological cost of mining.
So the safest bet here will be to choose a watch made from responsibly sourced materials, with the help of certifications that back sustainability claims. You can even find stylish eco-friendly wood watches out there now!
How to choose an eco friendly watch
From sustainable shoes and backpacks to t-shirts and everything in between, our ethical fashion criteria work here too. Aside from materials, we also consider ethical sourcing and corporate responsibility.
In this case, better materials will look like recycled metals, recycled PET bottles, ethically sourced leather, and ethically sourced FSC-certified wood.
For those looking for eco-friendly vegan watches, we also want to consider faux leather and cork fabric for the straps of the watch. We would particularly recommend looking out for straps made from recycled content, or faux leather like pineapple or apple leather. But no need to fret. As you will see, there are actually quite a few wonderful options to choose from.
You’re also going to want to keep an eye out for watches that offer glow-in-the-dark features, if that’s something you’re interested in. Previously made from Radium – found to be far too radioactive – a substance called Tritium, with lower radiotoxicity, was chosen as a substitute.
Though “the effects of exposure to ionizing radiation depend on the quantity of energy absorbed by the target organism”, it is probably best to steer clear of any of that unless a safer, more eco-friendly product is used as the source of fluorescence or luminosity.
Fun Fact: the amount of tritium present in our biosphere increased considerably due to thermonuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere and with the development of the nuclear energy industry.
That said, if you are looking for glow-in-the-dark features, the Swiss Super-LumiNova (SLN) ceramic-based compound may be the best choice right now. It is deemed inert and is not radioactive at all.
Ethical sourcing will look like traceable raw materials, fair labor conditions, and/or sustainable manufacturing practices – with an emphasis on transparency.
As for corporate responsibility, we look at what more brands are doing to reduce their environmental impact and also give back to their employees and community. Think carbon neutral shipping, net zero emissions, zero waste packaging, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, environmental remediation initiatives, etc.
Our top recommendations for sustainable watches
A sustainable watch brand founded by Pascar Sivam and Vasilij Brandt, Nordgreen embodies Scandinavian tradition, functionality, and timeless design. At the core of their endeavors, is a passion for life and respect for the environment. The brand even acknowledges that the most sustainable thing to do is not to wear a watch at all. Where that is not an option, they strive to be the best alternative.
That said, based on reviews, their watches are very well-liked by customers who applaud the brand's beautiful designs, as well as how easily straps can be replaced. We should mention that the straps come in different sizes so look for assistance before going ahead with a particular design if you are unsure.
Find watches for both men and women. Choose from a wide selection of color and material options which vary depending on the model. Case color options include Silver, Gun Metal, Gold, and Rose Gold. Dial colors include White, Black, Navy, Green Sunray, Brown, and Rainbow Black to name a few. For straps choose from Mesh, 5-Link, Two-toned Link, Leather & Vegan Leather options— all of which are available in different colors as well.
Nordgreen — fabrics and materials
Nordgreen uses a number of options when it comes to their interchangeable straps including leather, rubber, nylon, and more. Some of the materials used are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the Global Recycling Standard (GRS), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Fairtrade, and the Leather Working Group (LWG). If you are looking for recycled stainless steel watches, one of their watches – The Guardian – is made from 85% 316L stainless steel for the case and the strap.
Nordgreen — ethical sourcing
All of their products are manufactured in a Danish-owned watch factory in China, in line with Danish labor standards. As part of their efforts to produce sustainably, waste such as cardboard, plastic, and paper is recycled, while water and energy use is measured.
To ensure a good working environment for workers, air quality is even tested to make sure it is clean and safe for workers. Their manufacturer also has a labor union and other practices that support the welfare of workers.
Over at their Head Office in Copenhagen, power is sourced from renewable energy sources, and energy-saving tools like LED lights are used to reduce energy consumption. A zero-waste workspace is also one of their goals, starting with the recycling of paper, glass, aluminum, and other recyclables.
Employees are encouraged to cycle to work or to take public transportation. And the office is made entirely carbon neutral through the funding of an UN-certified project that produces clean energy and promotes environmental protection in the Philippines.
Traceability is also super important to the brand. They ensure that all of Tier 1 suppliers (with which they conduct business directly) are fully traceable. They also have some traceability on Tier 2 suppliers, (which supply Tier 1 supplier), as they work toward full traceability of Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers (who are further down the line).
Nordgreen — corporate responsibility
Nordgreen is fully committed to becoming carbon neutral. They offset all of the carbon emissions associated with transporting their products, which is primarily done by air. They’ve also partnered with CleanHub to calculate the plastic footprint of every watch they make, as part of their accountability efforts. In 2021, they also offset all of their employees’ plastic use.
As part of its giving back initiatives, the company allocates 20% of its profits to charity annually – offering customers the option to choose which charity their purchase will go toward.
Price range: $$$$
TRIWA stands for Transforming the Industry of Watches. Designing their watches from a story-based process, the brand aims to transcend the style and status symbols driven standard, by highlighting important issues instead – and we totally love this concept.
Their selection features options for both men and women, with several models to choose from, and colors too. Their divers watch which you can find in the Time for Oceans collection is available in several colors including Orange, Black, and Turtle (a kind of “army green”). Depending on the model, straps are available in Leather, Recycled PET Canvas, Steel Brace (similar to Link straps), and Mesh. They also have different color buckles depending on the straps.
TRIWA — fabrics and materials
Their Time for Oceans collection uses recycled ocean plastic. The Time for Solar and Time for Peace collections are made using recycled PET canvas. The Time for Peace one also features broken down illegal firearms in partnership with the Swedish Development Cooperation. The Time to Talk collection uses Italian leather, and all of its movements are made from quartz.
TRIWA — ethical sourcing
TRIWA sources its quartz movement from Japan as well and its leather comes from Sweden but it is unclear where the watches are manufactured.
TRIWA — corporate responsibility
In an effort to be more transparent and accountable, TRIWA includes the carbon footprint associated with each of its watches. Plus, with every watch sold from their Time for Change collections, a percentage goes to an important issue. Their Time for Peace collection sends 15% of revenues to IM which works with victims of armed violence.
Price range: $$$$
Designed to be a part of your wardrobe for many years, Mondaine’s watches are made using responsible materials and ethical sourcing practices. With options for both men and women, Mondaine offers several collections catering to different styles and needs, with a number of colors, textures, and patterns to choose from. Their Essence collection is the most eco-friendly model in their selection and the most relaxed. It is available in a few different color combinations as well.
Mondaine — fabrics and materials
Find materials like vegan grape leather for their vegan grape leather strap collection, stainless steel, and gold plate. As well as castor bean oil, and recycled PET bottles found in their Essence collection.
Mondaine — ethical sourcing
Watches are produced in a family-owned factory in Biberist, Switzerland, where labor practices are strict, with pay above the industry average. The factory is also outfitted with a solar system that covers 80% of its annual energy needs. The rest is generated by a hydroelectric power plant.
They’ve also long made it a point to recycle, where materials like “waste paper, cardboard, batteries, PET bottles, plastic, and production waste, such as steel or electrical parts have been consistently separated, collected and recycled for decades”.
Mondaine — corporate responsibility
In 2020, the brand became fully carbon neutral. As such, carbon emissions associated with transport, manufacturing, operations, business trips, distribution, and sales are offset. The use of renewable energy sources, reductions in packaging, and more environmentally friendly materials played a big role in this achievement as well. Customers praise the brand for being well constructed, beautifully designed, and comfortable to wear particularly in the case of their cork-lined straps.
Price range: $$$$
2°EAST (read: two degrees east) offers beautiful, durable watches made from eco-friendly materials, sourced as ethically as possible, from carefully selected partners. One of the best options for affordable eco-friendly watches, you can choose from a number of styles for colorful or more minimalist everyday options.
Here options are available for men, women, and children, with different dial and case colors, and different strap options in their Mesh, Leather, and NATO straps. The NATO straps offer the most color variations, with fun patterned options too. We love these guys so much that we featured them in our eco-friendly gift guide.
2°EAST — fabrics and materials
Materials used include stainless steel, recycled PET bottles (for the NATO strap), sapphire crystal, leather, and quartz movements though they do not mention what certifications are used to verify some of these materials — notably the leather used.
2°EAST — ethical sourcing
The brand owns its assembly factory which streamlines processes and contributes to the affordability of its products, in addition to a more direct-to-consumer model that cuts out the proverbial middle man.
They are also committed to an ethical supply chain where the workers making their watches and straps are paid fair wages, under ethical standards based on those set by the International Labour Organisation.
To make their watches, the brand uses sustainable practices like zero waste ion plating which eliminates wastewater, air emissions, and hazardous waste involved in the traditional plating techniques.
Their movements are sourced from the Miyato brand based in Japan, which embraces strong environmental policies. The leather used is tanned using vegetable tanning which is the most environmentally friendly tanning process.
2°EAST — corporate responsibility
For packaging, 2°EAST uses 100% recycled craft paper and craft board which are fully recyclable, as well as eco-friendly ink. They’ve also partnered with Trees for the Future which is an international development non-profit working to end hunger, poverty, and deforestation. Every watch sold contributes to 30 trees planted.
Price range: $$-$$$
Votch is a watch and accessories brand based in the UK — specializing in cruelty-free timepieces and accessories. Not only is this perfect for our vegan friends out there but Votch also makes it a point to use vegan materials with the smallest possible environmental footprint.
Here you will find a collection featuring models in different shapes, along with different color combinations for the case, dials, and straps. Their straps are available in several options including Mesh and Pinatex. They also carry straps for Apple Watches.
Votch — fabrics and materials
That’s why materials used include Pinatex, AppleSkin, Enviroleather, and stainless steel. Enviroleather is made from TPE, polyester, and cotton. All are free of PVC, plasticizers, phthalates, PFC, flame retardants, bromine, and heavy metals.
Votch — ethical sourcing
Their watches are manufactured in Shenzhen, China in a factory that was vetted and selected by the brand based on its ethical standards. Workers are said to be compensated fairly and offered opportunities for growth.
Votch — corporate responsibility
To give back, Votch plants a mangrove with the sale of every watch, in partnership with C Free. Votch also donates a portion of its profits to a different charity on a quarterly basis. Customers really love the look and feel of their watches and the cruelty-free strap options which are compatible with other watches as well.
Price range: $$$-$$$$
Founded by siblings Shaeena Meghani and Amir Meghani, BREDA is a lifestyle brand offering reimagined classics with a modern touch. Designed to be well-loved and durable, the brand also strives to create collections, collaborations, and conversations that are inclusive while celebrating individuality and the ever-evolving nature of personal style.
BREDA offers a varied selection of models in different shapes and styles. Color options play more to classic looks including gold, black, silver, and ivory, but you will also find unique pieces that play with color, light, and texture in a fun way.
BREDA — fabrics and materials
Materials used include stainless steel, leather, Recycled Thermoplastic Polyurethane and Miyota quartz movements.
BREDA — ethical sourcing
Watches are produced in their own studio based in Deep Ellum, Dallas though more information is needed on production and sourcing practices.
BREDA — corporate responsibility
BREDA’s mindfully crafted watches make a wonderful option for more ethically made watches that are also elegant and affordable. We absolutely love that and their customers do too. Reviews boast a quality product akin to luxury brands – meeting expectations to a tee at a fraction of the cost.
Price range: $$$-$$$$
A final word on sustainable watches
Though not perfect, many of these brands offer a better alternative to conventional brands. They invest in the processes and people involved in the making of their products while making better choices for the planet too, and that’s definitely what we are all about.
Though we should expect more from the brands who take it upon themselves to make things, these brands are off to a great start and should definitely be considered on the hunt for sustainable eco-friendly watches.
As always, do check out the secondary market like online thrift stores – you may be surprised what you find. Jeans, furniture, and even eco-friendly electronics are all available with a lighter footprint and best of all, a lower price tag!