Green Steel: Introducing Panerai’s Eco-Conscious Recycled Diving Watches

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Green Steel: Introducing Panerai’s Eco-Conscious Recycled Diving Watches

Words by Mr Alex Doak

25 October 2021

As a consumer with a conscience, you want to do right by the planet and what’s living on it. Which, mercifully, is getting easier, whether you’re doing the big, weekly shop or trading in the family car. But when it comes to life’s little luxuries, or for that matter, life’s all-out extravagances? Reasoning every self-indulgence has become, and rightly so, harder work.

In this sense, watchmakers from the valleys of the Swiss Jura have been ahead of the game. The product itself is the epitome of anti-obsolescence – there’s nothing in your wardrobe that’ll last longer, and it’s always fixable. What’s more, nigh on every watch factory conforms to Switzerland’s strict Minergie standards of geothermic or heat-exchange energy efficiency, housing a workforce that’s among the best paid in the world.

You could almost forgive the Swiss watch industry for resting on their snowy fir laurels. But not only have brands such as IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN set recent precedence for carbon neutrality, others including Oris, Ulysse Nardin and Breitling are making exciting, creative strides in recycled ocean-plastic packaging, straps and conservancy fundraising.

Diving helmets off to Panerai, then, for its latest innovation on the sustainability front. The historic “Q Branch” to Italy’s wartime naval frogmen – Florentine in origin, now crafting its iconic cushion-case watches from purpose-built ateliers by Lac de Neuchâtel – has long proved its commitment to the big blue by partnering with sub-aqua eco-warriors such as Mr Guillaume Néry. This year, however, it turns to an initiative distinctly lacking in photogenic seascapes or cuddly, albeit endangered fauna. Namely: recycled steel alloy.

Panerai is calling it eSteel, and there’s every chance the term will stick, given the brand’s strong form in green materials. It started with Eco-Titanium back in 2019, encasing a special-edition Submersible diving watch devoted to Panerai’s other hardman outdoorsman, Mr Mike Horn. That piece harvested turnings and scrap from major aircraft manufacturers, consuming four times less than theconventional ore-based production of titanium. This year, the halo hero is the Submersible eLAB-ID, 98.6 of which is made from recycled materials. (Only the fine mechanics, notably the movement springs, use virgin materials, although that seems to be the next step.)

Launched in parallel back in March, eSteel leans back toward the sartorial side of Panerai’s brute-in-a-suit duality, encasing three briny dial variants of the Luminor Marina – lyrically dubbed Blu Profondo, Grigio Roccia and Verde Smeraldo. Diving headlong into the core collection with such an innovative metal is quite the bold commitment to catalogue-wide eco-switch.

A full 89g of the case and dial are made of recycled-based materials, corresponding to the 58.4 per cent of the total weight of the watch. Not only must they meet the usual rigorous standards of hardness and finish, but also identical chemical behaviour, plus the requisite resistance to corrosion, up to the task of being machined and hand-finished to flawless 300-metre water resistance. That the Lumina Marina eSteel’s recycled PET polymer strap and storage case are simply part and parcel goes to show how far we’ve come already.

“We will be very happy if all our competitors in Switzerland and around the world get in touch with the same suppliers to use the same materials,” says CEO Mr Jean-Marc Pontroué magnanimously. He genuinely wants Panerai’s green initiatives to serve as a blueprint (so to speak) for others to build on, adding: “We don’t want to be the only one doing this – being alone won’t save the world.”