ID Genève: Circular Identity

ID Genève: sustainable 'Swiss made' watches from recycling materials

Let’s talk about sustainability: How about if we could take care of the environment whilst not needing to give up on luxury? What if there was a wristwatch based on the principles of recycling and sustainable raw materials? One that was manufactured locally and only created a low carbon footprint? But didn’t make any compromises in terms of its design and quality? With these thoughts in mind, entrepreneur Nicolas Freudiger and designer Singal Depéry collected enough capital via crowdfunding to start a company. Together with watchmaker Cédric Mulhauser they dived into the adventure of making a 'green' watch. ID Genève was born.

Their story of the path towards an environmentally friendly wristwatch begins with the extraction of the raw material. A high-quality watch requires high-quality stainless steel. That’s logical. But where do you get it, without consuming an enormous amount of energy? You can find the solution among the manufacturers of premium chronometers in the Canton of Jura, Switzerland. The steel waste, sorted into single-origin material, forms the raw material, which can be melted down and reworked. This is where the innovative company Panatere comes into play; they are able to process the steel to produce the high quality required. But this too requires energy and it is provided by: the sun. One hundred per cent free of charge. The sun’s energy is captured and concentrated using a special solar smelting furnace. 'There are those who want to go to Mars, we go with the sun!' joke the company founders Nicolas and Singal. A solar smelting furnace in France is still being used, but an equivalent is already under construction in Switzerland. Now we have the CO2-free steel, but we still don’t have a watch. But Panatere can also manufacture the case. It is built using a modular technique so that the different watch parts can be easily substituted if necessary. This is part of ID Genève’s sustainability concept as it means that the design can be adapted to the individual wishes of the buyer with a minimum of effort. Do the strap lugs need to be flexible? Is there a request for the laterals to have a grooved pattern on the outside? Everything stays in the circular lifecycle. Now we have the casing, but how do we fill it? It’s clear that we can’t simply integrate a new movement (watch mechanism), which would create a lot of manufacturing energy, while existing movements remain unused. ID Genève has a smart concept here and uses the expertise of recognised manufacturers by reconditioning their reliable, certified movements. They are 'skeletonised', which means the brand name is removed. This means self-winding watches are created without resources being wasted. Footnote: Why use a battery containing poisonous materials if the watch can be self-winding?

A self-winding watch 1OO % sourced from the circular economy

The founders of ID Genève and their team follow a policy of transparency towards their clients throughout the entire value chain, and are open about how the costs are compiled. Here it shows that the manufacturing costs in comparison to other watch brands in this price segment are relatively high. This is because the 'Swiss-made' company really does manufacture all parts in Switzerland and not just the mandatory proportion to be able to stick this label on their products. At the same time, the figures show that the proportion of manufacturing costs lies above what is usually priced in, ensuring significantly higher profit margins. The ID Genève philosophy shows that it is possible to resist thoughtless consumption and operate a local circular economy, in which alleged waste products are seen as valuable raw materials. It’s not for nothing that the 'solar steel' used is referred to as 'Jura gold'. The smart upcycling approach makes the company really interesting. To put it in a nutshell: the motto is sustainability rather than complications. This works in an interplay of different stakeholders, who have the same aim and in the process create something new together.

Costs + Origin

Circular movements
- Share of costs: 10.8 %
- Costs: CHF 120
- Origin: Jura, Switzerland

Dial + applications
- Share of costs: 7.2 %
- Costs: CHF 80
- Origin: Jura, Switzerland

Clock hands
- Share of costs: 1.3 %
- Costs: CHF 15
- Origin: Jura, Switzerland

Watch case
- Share of costs: 53.8 %
- Costs: CHF 600
- Origin: Jura, Switzerland

Watch straps
- Share of costs: 4.5 %
- Costs: CHF 50
- Origin: London, GB / Italy

- Share of costs: 1.8 %
- Costs: CHF 20
- Origin: Esher, GB / Switzerland

Encasing / quality control
- Share of costs: 2.7 %
- Costs: CHF 30
- Origin: Geneva, Switzerland

Design & Development
- Share of costs: 3.4 %
- Costs: CHF 150
- Origin: Geneva, Switzerland

Cost of capital
- Share of costs: 4.5 %
- Costs: CHF 50
- Origin: Geneva, Switzerland


Production costs 100%
Total excl. VAT: CHF 1.115

Sales prices
incl. VAT: from CHF 3'770

Straps made with 1OO % green waste from London parks

Now we are only lacking the strap to complete the watch, which of course must also fit into the holistic scheme of things. The founders have selected a special kind of vegan raw material for this purpose: waste from nature and agriculture. The British company Biophilica uses 100% green waste from London’s parks for its material, which it calls 'leaf leather'. Another manufacturer, Vegea from Italy, uses grape skins from wine production as its basic material. The strap is then given a buckle made from Panatere steel. Finally, we still need to talk about the packaging. As studies have shown that the usual beautiful and elaborate watch boxes are actually never used, ID Genève has decided to deliver its watches in compostable packaging from the British manufacturer Magical Mushrooms. So it’s clear: ID Genève is pursuing the idea of stirring up and fundamentally revolutionising the watch market, and it has the potential to actually achieve this.

'Circularity is the Super League of sustainability.'
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