When you are from the watch industry as I am, you cannot help but be fascinated by the words of Cedric Bellon, the man who invented the mechanical sustainable watch.
A mechanical watch is an endless product by definition because to work, it just needs the movement of the wrist. Isn’t that magic and sustainable at the same time?
Why a mechanical watch is also sustainable?
A mechanical watch is definitely a mysterious intrigue of components that are a great example of how a sustainable ecosystem works.
Every single part of the mechanism is interrelated with the other spare parts that let the watch tick. If only one stops the machine crashes. The same happens in life, in biology. It is only through the perfect combination of all the elements that make up a community that can exist and work harmoniously.
Is the durability the driver to go for a sustainable watch?
Well, many luxury watch brands made of this characteristic their credo. It is infact well-known the slogan of Patek Philippe:
Loosely translated as: you are not going to buy a good watch every week, so if you want something for life (and longer), then Patek Philippe is the way to go.
But the real question is how long and complicated is the road for a watch to arrive in the store?
Have you ever asked yourself how many suppliers, transportations, chemical treatments, packaging etc are in between?
This is where Cedric Bellon focused his attention creating Cedric Bellon Sustainable Watches.
When I interviewed Cedric my first question was “Considering your actual important position as job designer for luxury watch brands, why did you decide to create a sustainable watch?” and the reply was incredible: “Because it makes sense to me”.
This is what in sustainability we call “Finding the Purpose” of a project, but indeed Cedric had much more to say.
Cedric Bellon Sustainable watch pillars
Cedric Bellon watches are not only nice and with an absolute luxury design, but they are also sustainable in their DNA.
The Production process
- LOCAL PRODUCTION: the process is all digital and it takes place in-house powered by renewable energy. Production is on demand and this helps to not create unwanted waste of raw materials which are sourced locally or in Europe. A very short supply chain helps in reducing enormously the emission of CO2 in the atmosphere due to the reduced use of airplanes for transportation.
- FAIR WAGES: the watchmakers and operational staff are employed at Swiss social conditions and so they are paid accordingly
- MOVEMENTS: Cedric Bellon watches make use of deadstock materials, so for the movements they mount repurposed unused stocks of movements
- THE CASE: made of 100% recycled and 100% recyclable stainless steel
- STRAPS: vegetable-tanned leathers, linen stitching, natural water-based glues. All handcrafted in a Swiss workshop nearby the manufacture.
The distribution process
The distribution process is based on the concept of COLLABORATIVE PRODUCTION (CROWDMANUFACTURING) and on the “early adopter” system. If a customer buys on sketch they get the cost price, if the customer buys once the design is done they pay the wholesale price.
Watch Angels, the platform through which watches are exclusively sold (online), follows the model of the collaboration between The Creator (the designer) – The Enthusiast (the buyer) and the Manufacturer (watch angels).
Watches are produced only when sold.
Cedric, what is your background and when did the idea for a sustainable watch occur?
I’m a watch designer with more than 15 years of experience working for watch brands like Bell & Ross, Hermès, Longines, Ebel, TAG Heuer just to name a few. As a father of nine-year-old twins, I live in a village in the vineyard of Nantes, West France and I love to keep in touch with nature.
It was in 2005 when I talked for the first time about a sustainable watch to Guido Benedini, my current business partner. However, at that time the Swiss watch industry (fashion and luxury too) was not aware of environmental issues and so the project remained in a drawer.
In 2019, Guido offered to make it happen thanks to Watch Angels, the watch-creators-dedicated platform he was working on. That’s how CB watches started, in artisanal mode first, supported by the idea of crowd-manufacturing (a cyclical collaboration between a creator, a manufacturer and a community of enthusiasts).
What is your proposal to make the watch industry sustainable?
Conceptually, by spreading the awareness that a sustainable watch industry is possible.
Concretely what we can do is:
- Remove or at least decrease everything that isn’t essential to make good, precise, nice and reliable watches
- Produce only what needs to be manufactured, avoiding stocks and subsequent waste
- Work locally and invest in more virtuous sourcing and collaborations
- Giving people in the companies the opportunity to make all of this happen
Brands are made of real people who are are much more aware of the problem than the whole system. When the topic makes sense to them, people are motivated and are able to do great things.
Many people say that considering a luxury watch is forever, it is already sustainable by definition. Do you agree?
That’s exactly why I started with a mechanical watch – and not from a luxury one. A mechanical watch is already the most durable watch possible (long life and no energy needed to work).
But as already explained, the problem is the way they are produced.
Why did you decide to embrace this path towards sustainability?
Actually, I don’t really think we will « save the world » with small daily moves. At the same time however it is very important to do them because our children are tomorrow’s leaders.cedric bellon
If they grow up surrounded by diversity and inspiring ways of life, they will be brave enough to take environmental, social, economical and political decisions that my generation and the previous one are still unable to take.
Talking to Guido Benedini, Watch Angel’s CEO, we asked him:
Is the watch industry ready for a sustainable shift?
Sustainability is indeed becoming a key topic also for the watch industry, simply because there is an ever-increasing consumer demand for it.
We receive more and more requests to produce watches integrating sustainable components (recycled or recyclable) and the watch supply chain is starting to develop more sustainable processes and offer more sustainable materials.
It is in fact a big opportunity for the “Swiss made” label because the Swiss industrial and social ecosystem is already among the most virtuous (Switzerland ranks in the top 3 in the EPI of 2020) and it is therefore ideally placed to respond to the demand for sustainability.
That said, the challenge is to reconcile sustainability with affordability, series production and aesthetics.guido benedini
With the production of Cedric Bellon Sustainable Tool Watches, we have shown that the industry is ready to produce more sustainable watches by re-designing production in function of circularity and by producing more in-house and in Switzerland.
Sustainability is becoming one of the new dimensions of luxury and the Swiss watch industry is now actively shifting its ability to produce high quality to producing sustainable high quality.
Of course, 100% sustainability is currently not achievable to make and finish an object whose main function is to shine and be beautiful, but over the next years we will see giant leaps in terms of a more sustainable watch industry.
Can’t wait to wear Cedric Bellon Sustainable watch? The watches are on sale up to January 15th and for our readers there is a 10% discount. Just send us an email and we will provide you with a promo coupon – Only for the first 10 to write!
CedricJanuary 5, 2021 at 6:47 pm
Thank you so much Francesca for your great article, and thanks to The Sustainable Mag team. It was a pleasure to talk with you and share thoughts about the watch industry and its future. Environmental issues cannot be ignored anymore at a global scale, but even a small industry like this one can play a role. First by being responsible with its practices and questioning its production processes, then by showing that it is possible to really do things and, hopefully, inspire other industries.
So thanks again for your support, you’re part of the chain by spreading our vision of a more virtuous way to produce and consume.
I wish you all a very nice year.