ike the rest of the business world, Switzerland’s watch industry is embracing the principles of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) at a steadily growing pace. Better than any “green” initiative, possibly the strongest signal so far this year has been the arrival of ID Genève, a brand that advocates the principles of a circular economy, at Watches of Switzerland, one of the world’s leading watch retailers.
Launched in December 2020, ID Genève is a young brand whose core concept of environmental responsibility is built into every one of its watches. This newcomer is already gaining an audience and can expect to attract even more interest following the announcement, in March, of a retail partnership for the UK and the US with Watches of Switzerland: the group is one of the few retailers that employs a Head of Sustainability.
A promising London launch
So how did the two meet? In his role as Executive Director for Global Buying and Merchandising, Eric Macaire selects the brands Watches of Switzerland stocks. He explains how “We’re always on the lookout for new brands that bring innovative designs, a powerful story and are relevant. ID Genève immediately caught our attention. They are perfectly aligned with the values we promote.”
“When considering any development at the brand, we look at two factors,” adds ID Genève co-founder Nicolas Freudiger. “They are alignment with our values, which is essential, and global reach. Watches of Switzerland ticks both those boxes. Their entire management team supports ESG, which is a great encouragement.”
- Watches of Switzerland has opened a showroom in London’s Battersea Power Station.
The partnership officially launched in London in March, at Watches of Switzerland’s Battersea Power Station showroom. Joining ID Genève were the brand’s partners, Notpla (which makes solid packaging from seaweed), Biophilica (which transforms green waste from London parks into straps) and Magical Mushroom Company (which makes fully compostable, mycelium-based outer packaging), among others. For Nicolas Freudiger, the event was a success for many reasons: “Having so many highly motivated, sustainable companies there proved the power of the circular economy. The teams at Watches of Switzerland were asking all kinds of interesting questions and there was no shortage of customers in attendance!”
An event such as this shows that people are willing to get behind environmental themes. Eric Macaire certainly believes so: “The launch was a real highlight, for the location itself, at Battersea Power Station, for the ID Genève watches and the entire ecosystem surrounding them, but most of all for the way our staff and customers responded. We’re learning a lot from a pioneer such as ID Genève and are ramping up our role as a voice for environmental responsibility across the industry.”
A matter of governance
What motivates a fast-growing retail giant to embrace environmental issues? “The decision to address the issue was first taken at top management level,” answers Eric Macaire. “It is an integral part of our values. Customers are also more demanding in this area and it’s our role to help them with their choices.” A reminder that ESG is about more than greenwashing and the occasional communication drive, and must be supported at the highest level.
What will the next stages in the partnership be? ID Genève’s objective is clear: “We need to build on this partnership wherever we can. The brand’s launch in New York in May is a crucial step. Watches of Switzerland is already listing our entire Circular One and Circular S ranges. We need to get the message out to as many people as possible and continue to make the environment and circularity central elements of our value proposition.”
Kesah Trowell, Group Head of Sustainability & ESG at Watches of Switzerland, has this to say: “The group is driven by the desire to offer new products to our customers while respecting our colleagues, our communities and our planet, hence environmental impact must be a part of every decision we take.”
Under the umbrella of sustainability, environmental responsibility – and the real-life action it implies – looks set to become a value that brands will highlight on a par with legacy and expertise. For Nicolas Freudiger, there can be no doubt: “It’s fundamental to who we are. Not only do we want to convey this message successfully; we want to reproduce this notion of circularity and a virtuous ecosystem locally.”