IWC has long-standing credibility of being an advocate for sustainability in the Swiss watchmaking industry. In 2018, the company challenged the industry by being the first brand to release a Sustainability Report in line with the best practice standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), providing a transparent window into the world of a Swiss watch company that had never been offered before. In March 2021, IWC became the first Swiss luxury watch brand to attain Chain-of-Custody (CoC) certification from the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) confirming the gold and platinum used in its supply chain are sourced responsibly.
Franziska Gsell has been the chief marketing officer for IWC Schaffhausen since 2015 and is also the chairwoman of the company’s Sustainability Committee. She explains, “The long life of our products is matched by our long term thinking. Our work for a more sustainable future has such an important focus for IWC that it’s always rewarding to talk about it.” She goes on to emphasize that IWC collaborates with various external organizations including suppliers, non-profit organizations and others in the industry. “Our collaborative and transparent approach to the topic ensures it’s incorporated into every aspect of our business,” Ms. Gsell states.
IWC is no stranger to innovation when it comes to material engineering. They were among the first pioneers working with ceramics and titanium and even developed their own titanium and ceramic blend, Ceratanium. This time, the Swiss watchmaker is exploring a new source of material for their watches: paper.
“Throughout our 153-year history, IWC has led the way in product design, material invention and manufacturing methods. From our formative years, using hydropower provided by the River Rhine, to our early adoption of titanium, ceramics and the creation of Ceratanium, our pursuit of innovation has yielded remarkable advances. Naturally, we wanted to apply this same pioneering spirit to finding further high quality alternatives for our clients who don’t wear animal leather,” explains Gsell.
There are many synthetic leathers available today, but most are plastic or petroleum-based and they do not deliver a luxury aesthetic or provide for long term wearing comfort. IWC offers several animal-free straps in stainless steel, textile and rubber, but they remained serious about finding a true alternative for their current line of responsibly sourced leather.
TimberTex straps are composed of 80 percent plant fibers and the cellulose utilized comes from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified trees from sustainable, responsibly managed forests in Europe. The FSC is a non-profit organization committed to ensuring that manufacturers working with forest products are encouraged to work with suppliers that manage deforestation with certified techniques. This helps to ensure that the forest products we consume do more than just avoid damage to the environment, but work actively to restore and maintain our forests.
The straps are manufactured in Italy and call upon traditional papermaking techniques that have their roots as far back as the 13th century. The process has over 60 stages and results in a material that resembles grained leather and is water resistant, durable and beautiful. The addition of recycled microfiber padding enhances the comfort. Each strap is dyed with natural plant-based dyes for a blue, brown or black option and finished with recycled thread.
The strap currently complements four models: the Portugieser Chronograph, Portugieser Automatic 40, Portofino Automatic and Portofino Chronograph.