Traceability of raw materials, destruction of products, working conditions: like every other industry, luxury must answer for its ethical and environmental practices. Where does this leave fine watchmaking, a discipline built on excellence, rarefied materials, time taken and the human hand? Largely dependent on supplies of precious metals and precious stones, it too is part of the debate. In January 2021, a new regulation comes into force across the European Union targeting tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. Trade in these four minerals has been linked to forced labour and the financing of armed conflict. The objective of this regulation is to ensure that importers of these minerals within the European Union comply with international responsible sourcing standards as set out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Meanwhile, in Geneva, at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2019, panel discussions brought questions of ethical and sustainable sourcing of diamonds and gold out into the open. Speakers debated the industry's self-regulation through globally recognised standards that govern both the supply chain and production, to protect the human and environmental factors that underpin the watch industry. Andrew Bone, Executive Director of the Responsible Jewellery Council, which has over a thousand members, spoke of support given to small-scale and artisanal mines, and to social and environmental projects that benefit these mining communities, thanks to which ethical gold is estimated to cover 73% of eco-responsible jewellers' needs compared with 17% three years ago. Whereas the majority of fashion houses have understood the importance of including environmental issues in their marketing strategy, it's still rare for fine watch brands to communicate on the subject beyond the ocean conservation programmes they support through ambassadors and their links to the marine world. This will likely change as watchmakers respond to increased consumer demand for transparency and traceability, along with expectations for businesses to demonstrate environmental and ethical responsibility.
Fondation Haute Horlogerie