Watch Brands Align with Eco-Conservation
by roberta naas
With October’s ScienceOnline Oceans event at the University of Miami, our city’s movers and shakers focus on the wellness of our waters, as top watch brands continue to conserve both the seas and land in jeopardy.
“We all live on this planet, which is mostly water, and have a responsibility to take care of it,” says Stephen Urquhart, president of Omega, a brand that has been involved in The GoodPlanet Foundation since 2011. GoodPlanet was founded by Yann Arthus-Bertrand in 2005 with a mission to educate people about protecting the environment. Together they aim to help the public discover the beauty and majesty of the oceans, understand the dangers to the water and the wildlife therein, and the importance of conserving these natural resources.
Not only has Omega committed a portion of the proceeds from its Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M GoodPlanet watch to funding a project to preserve the mangroves and sea grasses in Southeast Asia, but the brand has also taken an active role in raising awareness through the creation of the Planet Ocean eco-documentary, directed and photographed in large part by Arthus-Bertrand. The documentary, which was released at the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, had a private screening in Miami earlier this year at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and will be available gratis online for educational purposes.
“This movie represents a true look at our oceans and is a worldwide approach,” Arthus-Bertrand says. “We all have an impact on the planet, and we can’t live in denial because we don’t want to believe that the world is changing. The subjects we touch upon in this film—overfishing, pollution, and more—are reality. There is no one solution to these problems. The message in the film is to do everything you can individually and to be responsible for how we live.”
The 90-minute documentary—a global effort—was entirely funded by Omega and took one full year to make. While Arthus-Bertrand brought director Michael Pitiot in on the project for the marine portions of the film, Arthus-Bertrand himself photographed and produced the aerial parts.
“We are such a clever species that we are consuming the planet. We are building bigger and bigger ships, for instance, that fish wider and deeper, and yet half the fish we consume is taken from just 1 percent of the huge boat. We are invasive and we are in the midst of breaking a delicate balance,” he says. “We have to change what we can, or we are going to empty our seas.”
Like Omega, other ecologically minded watch companies have gotten involved with conservation efforts that include support of the world’s oceans, preservation of the Everglades, and other outreach projects around the globe. Some support environmental organizations with donations and by making timepieces that, when sold, benefit certain causes. Other brands are taking an active role in preserving our natural world, as well.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has partnered with Unesco and the World Heritage Marine Program since 2008 to protect World Heritage Sites—one of which is the Everglades National Park. (In fact, the Everglades were the focus of a major push for environmental awareness and protection in 2009.) Jaeger-LeCoultre works closely with Unesco and with the International Herald Tribune in its Tides of Time campaign to bring attention to the marine world, and is even offering a special timepiece to be auctioned annually to raise funds.
“Among the fabulous heritage sites in the world are the marine sites, which are often less known than cultural-heritage [locations] like the Egyptian pyramids or the Taj Mahal. Jaeger-LeCoultre contributes to the protection of the 46 marine sites appearing on the Unesco World Heritage list, sites we call the ‘crown jewels of the ocean,’” says Isabelle Gervais, international PR director for the brand.
In addition to its awareness efforts, every year Jaeger-LeCoultre provides direct financial help to a particular project, such as the purchase of a boat or radar. This year, the brand created a film dedicated to a protected marine area: Fernando de Noronha in Brazil.
The Fernando de Noronha archipelago, off the coast of Brazil, is more than 2 million years old and is part of a large submarine mountain system of volcanic origin. The Jaeger-LeCoultre donation allowed for exploration of this ecologically vulnerable spot and the making of the movie about the threats it faces.
IWC also supports the biodiversity of the planet in its partnership with the Charles Darwin Foundation and its work in the Galapagos. It was in 2008 that IWC first announced its support of the foundation and its efforts to preserve the environmentally rich and vital Galapagos Islands. Due to invasive pests and other non-indigenous species, the Galapagos and its unique wildlife are threatened. In addition to its vast funding, the brand has also created a special Galapagos Islands timepiece in its Aquatimer family, with a portion of sales proceeds benefiting the cause.
Another watch company helping the environment is Audemars Piguet, which has been supporting rainforest conservation and the health of forests worldwide since 1992 through the Audemars Piguet Foundation, chaired by Jasmine Audemars and including a group of scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Rolex, too, is a huge environmentalist brand and supports conservation efforts through its Rolex Awards for Enterprise that foster innovation in ecology and conservation. Girard-Perregaux has struck a partnership with Susan and David Rockefeller to support its ocean preservation initiatives with a variety of different funding methods to raise awareness.
While all of these watch brands are actively involved in ecology and conservation, according to Arthus-Bertrand, individuals really need to do their part. He says the solution rests not just with big companies and governments, but also with people themselves. “I think we need some sort of spiritual revolution—one of an ethical and moral sense. And this has to start with the individual.”
photography by david hannan; Courtesy of OMEGA (watch); Erwan Sourget (bertrand); rené heuzey (whales); jean-philippe hussent (scuba); stefan ciejka (watch); stefan ciejka for jaeger-lecoultre (brazil)