Before I start, I’ll have to mention that I have a particular approach in regards to how I like to cover topics like this in the watch industry. I don’t like making immediate commentary on current affairs mostly because there’s not much I can say that several other outlets with far larger audiences haven’t said already – and that’s just taking into account that people haven’t slightly re-worded a press release. I prefer to wait until the dust has settled and details have come to light; giving me an opportunity to pool my own thoughts together.
It’s that time of the year again where I cover the latest wacky horological exploit carried out by the watch industry’s enfant terrible: Moser & Cie
By now you’ll be familiar with Moser’s SIHH flagship novelty: the Nature watch. In a nutshell – (or in this instance a Steel case) the watch is a bizarre hybrid of plant life and traditional horology. I’m not an expert on horticulture so I’ll let Moser summarise it:
“succulents, moss, mini Echeveria, cress, spiderwort and onion sets, with a dial in natural mineral stone and lichen from the Swiss Alps, and a strap made from grass.”
The rundown is that the watch is an emblem of Moser’s stance of environmental conservationism. Under the tagline #makeswissmadegreenagain Moser is committing itself to restructure its own supply chain – in its sourcing of fair-trade and conflict free minerals and materials. It is also putting efforts in reducing the company’s carbon footprint through embracing more efficient production methods and offsetting its current the residual footprint through green carbon credits. The label has also partnered with the NGO Room To Read which is dedicated to improving literacy and gender equality in education by building libraries and providing books. Moser also promised to donate a number of books for ever visitor that stopped by their SIHH booth.
With the overview complete, I have my own thoughts on the matter – both the direct views on the campaign and what Moser is achieving in the wider picture.
The core message of the nature watch is probably the least controversial of all of Moser’s previous exploits. You don’t have a leg to stand on in terms of finding immediate fault and complaining about preserving the environment, helping those in vulnerable positions and also promoting sustainable business practices. In this regard, Moser wins full brownie points.
I saw the watch myself in Geneva during the very beginning of the fair as well as an impromptu after-hours visit. I was rather amused by how Moser had set up a mini greenhouse at the back of their booth which was dedicated to literally growing the watch. The ‘donating books’ promise is actually going to be a cash donation which I have no qualms with as this is the most practical way of fulfilling the promise. As long as the directors of the charity don’t own a fleet of Ferrari and Aston Martin supercars, the gesture is still something to be commended.
The watch and jewellery industry has possibly one of the largest carbon footprints in terms of proportioning actual participants to footprint size. The supply chains involved are extremely complex. If you take into consideration of distribution of raw materials – whether you want to talk about precious metals and gemstones, or manufacturing and transporting steel and sapphire crystals then the figures surrounding environmental damages rack up quite a bit. The business of mining Gold, Platinum and Rhodium requires the destruction of immense landmass and the refining processes use up extremely large amounts of energy and chemicals that are very harmful to the environment. Let’s not forget the human cost in that a lot of minerals come from countries that are currently under conflict or political instability. Diamonds are infamous in this regard. For immediate context, the computer or smartphone you’ll be reading this article with has traces of Gold, Tantalum, Tungsten and Coltan – all minerals which are found in countries such as the DRC.
The luxury sector is constantly under fire from activists and government organisations for not doing more to control their contributions towards environmental damage and choosing their raw material suppliers more carefully. I remember a remark from Adi Soon from ISO CHRONO explaining how the topic of being more cautious with the environment shouldn’t be an exclusive Swiss issue – this is a point that I agree with. However, it must also be noted that Swiss companies are a sizeable player in the precious minerals industry and the economies of scale are much more condensed compared to other global mass manufacturing industries such as mobile technology. The act of creating a timepiece using Swiss plantlife is a way of sending a message that there is an immediate ‘Swiss responsibility’ of preserving the environment and promoting sustainable business practice. As a random anecdote, Moser’s press kit this year was a dual collaboration with their sister brand Hautlence and the USB Stick was made of sustainable pinewood instead of the usual laser etched steel.
So that’s part one complete. The next part will cover my view on the wider picture of Moser as a brand (Since I always have good fun exploring this area)