How can we keep track of time—without stealing it from the planet and future generations?
Fortunately, whether you’re on the hunt for recycled watches, fair trade certified watches, or affordable eco friendly watches, innovative brands are making these a reality.
See, like other types of jewelry, more and more brands and consumers are becoming aware of the environmental and social concerns associated with watches. The mainstream watch industry is fraught with environmental degradation, abysmal pay and working conditions, and poor quality products that hit the landfill soon after purchase.
We don’t really have time for that, now do we?
Eco friendly watches are clearly the topic of the hour and so we got our wrists ready to determine which watches are best for the planet. Thanks to our deep dive into sustainable and ethical jewelry, we know the most sustainable watch is the one that you already own.
Next in the order of sustainability, secondhand or vintage is the way to go. Check out our article on the best online thrift stores for some inspiration.
If you are buying new, ethical jewelry brands have minimal impact on the environment, ensure safe working environments and fair pay, and give back to the local community, which brings us to the focus of this article.
For those of you white rabbits checking your pocket watch and squealing, “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date” feel free to use the quick links to jump around. And to read more about how we chose the brands on this list, jump to the end of the article.
We loved all these sustainable watches including Solios for their innovative design and generous give-back programs, TIVC for their transparent sourcing, and TRIWA for using the most unique recycled watch material on this list.
Tick-tock then! We haven’t got all day!
Solios is a Canadian company founded in 2019 after the founders, Alex Desabrais and Samuel Leroux were fed up with fast fashion (we feel you!). They may be new, but they’re committed to changing how we perceive fashion and showing people that sustainable goods are possible.
Inspired by the forward-thinking city they’re based in—Montreal—Solios is driven by things like inclusivity, innovation, and sustainability. When it comes to the latter, that’s where their women’s and men’s sustainable watches with solar powered quartz movements step in.
Every year, more than 300 million watches using a battery-operated movement are produced. If these batteries only last one or two years, that’s 300 million batteries that need replaced every couple of years. No wonder we’re making time for solar eco friendly watches like Solios’.
Solios’ Ethical & Sustainability Credentials
- Materials: All of Solios’ watches use long-lasting Eco Leather (silicone) bands that are free of PVC, PU, and toxic waste. They’re combined with a 100% recycled plastic microfiber inlay, premium 100% recyclable stainless steel body, and sapphire-coated glass face. They’re also currently working on making bands with a hemp fiber strap!
The really cool thing about Solios watches is the solar Japanese movement. It’s not only precise and durable, but it’s also powered by renewable energy! These solar-powered batteries are rated to last 50 years, too. Combine that with the ultra durable materials, and you have a watch designed to last a long time (no planned obsolescence here!).
The even cooler thing is that you don’t actually need to be in frequent sunlight for your watch to work; instead, you can just recharge your watch on your own. After just two hours in the sun, the battery will have six months of power reserve. And it also charges with artificial light.
Their case is made of 316L stainless steel because it is 100% recyclable, more durable and anti-corrosive than 314 stainless steel or other metals, and is hypoallergenic. Solios are actually working on creating a 100% recycled stainless steel case.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Solios chose their suppliers only after taking the time to ensure they were working with a factory that met their strict standards. In China, this involved unannounced visits and Solios only kept suppliers that met their requirements after these visits.
Other suppliers are in Canada, USA, Japan, Switzerland and Hong Kong – all of which meet local and international regulations. Here’s what Solios had to say about their process:
“We decided to visit every single factory working on our pieces, to ask questions, not to take no for an answer, to make our suppliers sign a “Supplier Code of Conduct” and “Responsible Procurement” that we created, ask for certifications and accreditations, and to change what they were used to doing.”
- Green business practices: Solios’ sustainable commitment is reflected in everything they do. The electroplating process they use has been designed to be as sustainable as possible. They limit contamination of soil and water and are actively trying to reduce the number of chemicals needed for the process.
They’ve also done away with any single use styrofoam or plastic used in the production and transportation process. They use recycled, recyclable and reusable cardboard to place all watch heads during transportation
Their packaging also comes from 100% recycled and recyclable cardboard (FSC-certified, to boot!). Everything, down to the natural ink, organic glue, and recycled paper in the booklet has been carefully considered and planned to include sustainability at every step.
They also go out of their way to recycle their organic waste, carbon offset any business trips, and use hydroelectricity to power their office. They have also partnered with Tentree in their Climate+ program.
PLUS, they’re actually in the process of both becoming B-Corp certified and creating a program where old Solios watches can be returned to the company to be fully recycled or refurbished (stay tuned for that).
- Community & charitable giving: Solios contributes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in a variety of ways. They participate in their events, donate money, volunteer, and even contribute a portion of their sales from their Make-A-Wish watch edition.
They also partner with the David Suzuki Foundation with donations, events, and promotional limited edition watch collection and encourage their employees to take one day a month off to volunteer.
Finally, they have formed a new partnership with the Rainforest Trust where 1% of all their sales will go to this foundation.
TIVC stands for: Time IV Change.
According to TIVC themselves, “time is all we have – why not invest in the future? Great motto and great name! It gets better when you learn the brand fulfills this mission by creating original and handcrafted eco friendly vegan watches.
TIVC’s Ethical & Sustainability Credentials
- Materials: TIVC offers a range of classic watches made of recycled material, including those designed out of recycled synthetic eco suede and Pinatex (which we explored when we looked at the 29 best sustainable fabrics). While all materials are cruelty-free and Peta-approved vegan, they don’t do so at the compromise of using plastic and PVC leather alternatives.
The watch faces are all made with stainless steel—most of which have about 60% recycled metals in them.
All materials in their vegan watches are free from Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) indicating they are free from carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxins.
- Supply chain & labor practices: TIVC cares about animals (vegan), the environment (recycled), and the people making their products. These watches are manufactured in a Hong Kong factory that is SA8000 certified.
Their suppliers must adhere to their Supplier Code of Conduct and majority of their suppliers have third party audits. The TIVC team visits all their manufacturers before signing them on and aims to visit every 12-18 months (when we’re allowed to travel again!).
- .Green business practices: TIVC made sustainability a priority and are currently carbon offset all shipping to customers (with offsets for their inbound shipping soon to come!).
When we talked to them, they also let us know that 95% of their packaging is compostable, recycled, or recyclable. The other 5% is reusable!
- Community & charitable giving: 10% of TIVC’s annual profits are donated to various environmental and animal welfare organizations. They also support other causes when the need arises (like the recent bushfires in Australia).
TRIWA was started in 2007 as a joint venture between four friends. What does TRIWA stand for, you ask? Transforming the Industry of Watches, and we’d say they’re doing a pretty good job at that.
Combining Scandinavian simplicity with classic silhouettes and modern style, TRIWA has one mission (whether they’re making eco friendly sports watches or sleeker modern eco friendly watches): “to only produce the products they want to wear themselves.“
TRIWA’s Ethical & Sustainability Credentials
- Materials: For their mechanical environmentally friendly watches, TRIWA’s Humanium range only uses the best and most unique material: Humanium metal. Never heard of Humanium metal? It’s the world’s most precious metal, and is made from recycled illegal firearms! These materials are sourced from local authorities in El Salvador and development organization IM Sweden.
TRIWA has also launched a new line recently, called Time for Oceans, which is made from recycled ocean plastic.
While they’re one of the only brands on this list to use real leather in some of their designs, they source it from Swedish organic tanneryTärnsjӧ, known for its use of chrome-free vegetable tanning processes.
Other ranges includes standard metal choices like polished silver, steel, and brass.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Factories are visited twice every year to make sure that everything is done in line with TRIWA’s ethical requirements.
- Green business practices: Aside from reducing waste through recycled materials, TRIWA is also a very mindful packer and uses the smallest packaging sizes they can!
- Community & charitable giving: Giving back is where TRIWA truly stands out. For each watch sold, they donate additional funds to IM Sweden and their partners in El Salvador. So they’re not only putting weapons to better use, but they’re giving the funds to actually take them away and help stop local violence.
Ksana was founded in 2019 by Claire Cherry when her search for a well designed neon watch came up short. The outcome: A super fun and stylish range of sustainable silicone watches!
The name “Ksana” is based on the bhuddist concept of time and the brand “embodies the desire to have fun without continued stimulation from the “always on”, technologically-connected world in which we live.”
Ksana offers affordable eco friendly watches in essentially one bold and beautiful design. Their range comes in outrageously fun colours and your standard chic black & gold/silver combinations.
Ksana’s Ethical & Sustainability Credentials
- Materials: Ksana’s watch straps are made of silicone, made from sand. The straps are lightweight, durable and recyclable. They offer a recycling program where the straps are recycled into insulation and coating for solar panels
The cases for Ksana’s watches are made from stainless steel. Ksana shared that “at the end of life all components are recycled / upcycled into new watches or solar panels”
- Supply chain & labor practices: Ksana’s manufacturer in Asia goes through a third party audit. We are assured by the Ksana team that this audit confirms no use of child labour, fair wages above the minimum wage (as well as additional family benefits) and no unfair labour practices.
- Green business practices: All Ksana’s packaging is made of recycled and recyclable cardboard. Ksana also takes back all their watches for proper recycling.
- Community & charitable giving: Ksana are members of 1 % for the Planet, giving 1% of all revenue to environmental not-for profits.
Nordgreen is a Danish watch brand founded by two friends, Vasilij and Pascar. As watch enthusiasts themselves, they were tired of searching for brands that combined sustainable design with the highest quality.
So, they took time into their own hands and started creating eco friendly watches for men and women themselves.
Nordgreen’s Ethical & Sustainability Credentials
- Materials: All Nordgreen ethical sustainable watches are made with conflict-free materials and don’t include any toxic ingredients (like phthalate plasticizer or heavy metal stabilizers).
- Supply chain & labor practices: These watches are manufactured in China but are done so under European workforce standards. Here’s what they told us:
“Vasilij and Pascar regularly visit the Danish-owned factory… these regular visits to the factory ensure all Nordgreen watch owners can rest easy knowing their precious watch was made in a building that is spacious, bright, clean, and made by people who enjoy their work.”
- Green business practices: Nordgreen uses FSC-certified cardboard for packaging, recapture, and reuse at least 99% of manufacturing solvents, and have a carbon-neutral office in Copenhagen. Plus, over 90% of their team rides their bike to work every day.
- Community & charitable giving: Through the brand’s Giving Back Program, each watch sold means a generous contribution to one of three different NGOs located in Central African Republic, India, and Latin America,. Customers may choose between providing clean water to those without, funding two months of education to underprivileged children, or preserving 200 square feet of rainforest.
6. VESTIAIRE COLLECTIVE
About Vestiaire Collective
French company Vestiaire Collective claims to be “the most stylish global marketplace for pre-owned luxury and designer fashion.” And they really are!
Vestiaire Collective seeks to extend the lifespan of luxury fashion pieces from around the world, and they’ve provided an online thrift store platform where people can buy and sell such items to their heart’s content. Fashionistas can not only get their hands on some of the best luxury brands for great prices, but they’re also reminded that resale is a smart and sustainable approach to fashion.
In terms of environmentally friendly luxury watches, you’ll find second hand watches from highly coveted designers like Bulgari, Gucci, Chopard, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier
Vestiaire Collective’s Ethical & Sustainability Credentials
- Materials: All of their sustainable luxury watches are quality checked by a team of experts and authenticity is guaranteed.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Since all items are pre-owned, your watch purchase won’t involve any additional virgin materials, nor any mining, emissions associated with manufacturing, or ethical concerns in the supply chain.
- Green business practices: Using circular economy practices, Vestiaire Collective is committed to extending the lifespan of fashion and jewelry in order to keep pieces out of landfills. Plus, each product includes the location of the item, which means that buyers are able to shop locally and minimize emissions from shipping.
- Community & charitable giving: Vestiaire Collective occasionally has Charity Sales where all proceeds are located to local charities.
Founded by Laura and Simon and based in the UK, Votch is a PETA approved (and award winning) eco friendly vegan watch brand with a simple but important set of values:
“We are always striving as a company to do better and to create a product that inflicts no harm to animals and as little to the environment as possible. We are forever researching the most innovative fabrics we can use in our watches matched by our continual desire to develop our designs. We want to make cruelty free accessories more readily available to all, and to show that you don’t need to be cruel to be cool.”
They offer several collections from the classic, beautiful round face to the more unique square faces. Their style is undeniably minimalist with colour combinations like grey & silver and rose gold & black.
Votch’s Ethical & Sustainability Credentials
- Materials: Materials are clearly a big focus for Votch. For their straps they use innovative fabrics like Pinatex, a leather alternative made from pineapple leaves. Their classic collection uses cotton woven microfibre with PU. All the faux leather materials they use are PVC and Phthalate free and include recycled and renewable content
- Supply chain & labor practices: Votch works with a factory in Shenzhen, China which took a lot of research to find, This factory pays their employees fairly and has a safe work environment. It’s a great reminder that China does offer many ethical manufacturing options.
- Green business practices: Votch watches are packed in luxury but recyclable materials with a low environmental impact.
- Community & charitable giving: Votch donate 10% of their profits to charity. They choose new charity partners every three months which are generally focused on animals in need. Read more about their comprehensive approach to giving here.
HOW WE CHOSE THESE SUSTAINABLE AND ECO FRIENDLY WATCHES
Regardless if it’s digital or analog, sometimes it’s pretty difficult to tell the time when it comes to truly eco friendly and sustainable watches. But here’s a hint: It’s definitely not any of those gaudy cheap fashion options that stop working after a week. Longevity and durability is key.
In a world of planned obsolescence, it’s difficult to find anything that lasts. And we may not realize it, but ditching that previous-generous iPhone, last-season dress, or old and broken watch is exactly what many brands want us to do. To be a continuous customer is best for their profits and worst for the planet.
Beyond that, using the same criteria from when we explored all things sustainable fashion, we did the same with watches. We considered things like what materials were used, what types of working conditions workers were exposed to, what green practices were in place for the company, and what ways each brand gave back to individuals and organizations.
By now, we’ve had lots of practice applying these criteria (to everything from ethical jewelry brands to ethical dresses) to find worthy time keepers. But we’ll slow down and take you through each tick.
- Materials: This is the first and best way to determine a watch brand’s sustainability. While wood and in particular, recycled wood would be the obvious choice, we haven’t heard back from the wooden brands we reached out to (we’ll aim to add them in time).
Most on this list use recycled metal and other recycled materials (like plastic), unique vegan-friendly and natural materials, and finally, conflict-free metals.
We also had another interesting consideration to make when it comes to watches—the battery. Obviously, solar recycled watches are the best option. With even the best mechanical eco friendly watches, a conventional battery still means regularly replacing the battery, mining additional resources for said batteries, and eventually discarding the watch when replacing the battery becomes a burden.
- Supply chain & labor practices: A product itself may be great, but would it look as lovely if you knew the business practices that went into making it? The making of products is just as important as the product itself, so we took the time to explore what each brand is doing to keep everything—from product conception to clocking time to the consumer—as ‘good’ as possible.
To achieve this, we checked out some codes of conduct, talked to the brands about how they choose and work with their factories, and ensured that they aren’t involved in anything like child labor, unfair pay, or unsafe working conditions.
We also looked for brands who used certain certifications ensuring their sustainability, enacted workplace practices to make practices greener (like carbon offsets and recycled/recyclable packaging), and had plans in place to only continue getting more sustainable in the future.
- Green business practices: Here is where we really look at how brands ensure their products can stand the test of time. Aside from choosing the best and most durable materials, we love brands that offer programs to fix broken watches and recycle old or unwanted ones.
We also look for brands who go the extra mile on things like carbon offsets, renewable energy, recycling programs and packaging innovation.
- Community & charitable giving: Aside from giving the gift of being able to keep time, some of the most eco friendly watch brands also give time back to the world by supporting organizations solving some of the world’s most difficult social and environmental problems.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY WATCHES
Like with every other product we’ve explored, we’re taking this deep dive into sustainable watches because we realize that every area of fashion—from hat to scarf to pinkie toe ring—is in need of a rehaul.
Fashion is designed to be cheap, easily discarded, and replaced often. What we need are quality products that last forever and remind us that fashion is something to be loved and enjoyed—not just consumed.
Which is why we recommend not buying a new watch unless you need it. Even then, see if you can find a stunning antique or vintage watch first. And if there’s no pre-loved time pieces, well…that’s when this list of great brands will come in handy (er, wristy?).
So, help stop the clock on fast fashion and make time for the companies, practices, and supported organizations that align with the future we want.
Now to you: What ethical watch are you currently wearing? Are we an hour behind or did we jump ahead past some of the best brands?? We’re doing this together so get in touch—let us know what the most sustainable watches are for you!