This is Greenwatch, a weekly insight into eco-friendly watch brands creating a space for a more sustainable future in watchmaking.
How green are wristwatches? While it’s true that given the often hefty price tag, a watch harnessing a long lifespan, often becoming an heirloom, it’s eco-conscious capabilities don’t just stop there. While watch brands today are targeting the vital need to acknowledge their ecological footprint, this is often sought out through charitable allegiances and partnered campaigns for specific causes.
The consumer demand for sustainability has forced brands to embrace, and with some haste, alternative approaches to lesser conscious history, which meant finally turning to watch materials. The advent of this came through watch straps and the soaring demand for plant-based methods that cause less harm and use less resources in the environment than leather straps. But what comes next?
Everything we wear has a carbon footprint. To quote journalist Russel Sheldrake, “a Swiss-made timepiece could hardly be considered a disposable product – it’s designed to be passed down the generations,” but it’s not enough to rely on lineage to keep the planet going. It’s about making sure that the product which will be passed down eventually, is as sustainable as it can be.
In 1999, Tissot joined the digital ratrace, becoming the first ever watch manufacturer to bring touchscreen technology into watchmaking. Launching the Tissot T-Touch (points for innovative naming), the timepiece used solar power through sensors to animate the screen. How? Here comes the science: with miniscule sensors that detect variations over a surface, created by skin contact, and determine the touch zone. Hence a finger press on the screen is detected over 7 zones on the touch-sensitive glass, and then the information is analysed by the watch program,which activates the function corresponding to the zone touched.
The first generation of touch screen watches, much like the brick of the first iPhone, the tactile timepiece might go against the grain of mechanical watches and tradition, but if evolution and technology is the means to save the planet over tradition, then Tissot takes the lead. Defined as ‘innovators by tradition’ the energy needed to run the quartz usually comes from a battery, but here the energy comes from natural or artificial light. This sustainable technology is enabling Tissot to create watches that run for several months without ever needing a recharge.
Fast forward 20 years and the expansion of the Tissot T-Touch sees the display, electronic components and hand motors specially developed to reduce the electrical consumption. These ingenious systems,combined with recharging of the accumulator by solar cells, give the watch a near- perpetual autonomy when in regular use. In ECO AUTO mode, the Tissot T-Touch Solar uses its compass to detect whether it is moving. This means if it is not worn at night, it switches off its LCD screen to reduce consumption. The Tissot T-Touch Solar can be taken out of ECO mode simply by pressing one of the push-buttons or activating an alarm.
Not only does Tissot consider its footprint, it recognizes that every timepiece tells its own story between the watch and the wearer, a relationship heightened by the personalization of digital preferences. Improving watch ergonomic, the technology offers an array of functionalities ‒ compass, altimeter, weather, alarm, chronograph ‒ without an abundance of buttons or complex sub-menus. Not forgetting the actual composition of the watch, built with ceramic, recognised to be one of the hardest substances, has been used at Tissot for decades. It is perfectly suited to the external parts of a watch that is exposed to daily scratching and impacts. Ceramic ingredients include aluminium oxide and zirconium, which means that it will never oxidise no matter how much time passes. That means the watch will never lose its shine, which the orthodox aficionados amongst us often live in fear of. Could this be the remedy to a more thoughtful approach to watchmaking? Votes in.