Panerai Ecologico Recycled Materials Tech: Making Recycling Work With The Submersible eLAB-ID And Luminor Marina eSteel
Our planet earth is not doing so swell.
To be fair, there are swaths of the approximately 15 billion hectares of the world that appear to be pristine and entirely natural, untouched by humans. Almost 17 percent, nearly 3 billion acres, are estimated to be completely untouched by human hands or feet (mostly because these areas are inhospitable or incredibly dangerous to reach). But that doesn’t mean they are completely pristine – or untouched by the effects of humans.
It’s been estimated that there is now no place on earth that has not seen some impact of human society, mainly through artifacts of pollution. In most cases this is atmospheric pollution settling on every earthly surface, so if we are sticking to the precise definition of pristine: pristine earth is possibly no more.
Sure, there are still completely sealed-off caves that might be free of human impact, but there has been mounting evidence that through the water cycle and chemical leaching even many of these have likely been contaminated as well.
Some companies (though not enough) and many organizations are working hard to combat this using a variety of techniques. One obvious method that probably comes to your mind would be recycling, the easiest and oldest way to keep “trash” out of places it doesn’t belong.
But if you have been paying attention to the news, it turns out that recycling is possibly one of the biggest con jobs ever sold to the public.
Recycling is not what we were told it is, and most “recyclable” products are never recycled. In 2017 only around 33.6 percent of total recyclable paper, glass, and plastics were recycled – and the worst of those – plastics – only accounts for 2.6 percent. Not good.
Worse, paper is only recyclable five to seven times before it can’t be used as paper. And plastics can only be recycled once or twice – and nearly never into new food containers. In fact, most plastic food containers are not even recyclable with current practices, meaning all the good intentions behind recycling your soup container from your takeout is entirely wasted as it ends up in a landfill.
But there is some good news: glass and metal can be recycled indefinitely as long as there are places that do the recycling. Virgin glass is still cheaper to produce than recycled glass, so this cost savings means a lot of glass just ends up in landfills again. But metal is the real winner of recycling. In most cases, outside of special alloys, it is usually much cheaper to produce recycled metals, and way more energy efficient.
Money often still drives progress so metal recycling is a booming business, and companies using recycled metal both can both save money and reduce their carbon footprints relating to manufacturing emissions once the entire value chain is taken into consideration.
This can have a huge impact for some companies, while for others it is just a small part of an overall move to constantly push beyond tradition or the status quo.
So with that in mind, and with Watches & Wonders 2021 having just ended, I wanted to highlight some of the new materials and conservation efforts from Panerai through its new releases.
Panerai Submersible eLAB-ID
The first highlight is the Submersible eLAB-ID, the recycling king of the new lineup this year. The eLAB-ID hits the stage with 98.6 percent of its weight consisting of recycled materials. That number can be a little deceiving so let’s run through what it means.
The eLAB-ID is first and foremost a watch made largely from EcoTitanium, a recycled titanium alloy consisting of more than 80 percent recycled content. Titanium isn’t as widespread to recycle as aluminum or steel (global volume being the driving factor), but it still only uses 25 percent of the energy needed to create aerospace-grade titanium alloys from raw ore, saving at least 100,000 tons of CO2 emissions by recycling.
The material comes from Panerai partners Aubert & Duval and ERAMET, who produces EcoTitanium under a subsidiary named, unsurprisingly, EcoTitanium.
The material is not only used for the case, it is also used in the dial, movement base plate, all the bridges, and the buckle, making it a primary material for the eLAB-ID.
The use of EcoTitanium is where a majority of that 98.6 percent recycled weight comes from; the remaining weight is found in the other sources of recycled material. Most aspects of the movement and overall watch have been touched in some way.
The escapement wheel and anchor, both silicon, are made from 100 percent recycled material. Silicon components, which are produced in an extremely precise and advanced way, require perfectly pure silicon for the process to work.
While these parts are small, they are undoubtedly crucial to the operation of a precision timepiece, so creating them with recycled material could have caused a major headache for the brand and suppliers. To some the effort required may have been more than the value obtained, but when the goal is to be as recycled as possible no detail is too small to be overlooked.
Small details like the next recycled material, Super-LumiNova. All the spots where you find Super-LumiNova on the eLAB-ID are created with 100 percent recycled luminescent pigments. Working with Monyco, who collects scrap Super-LumiNova pigments, and RC Tritec, who used said pigments to create new, recycled material, Panerai was able to maximize the use of a material many would probably overlook.
Monyco was also the supplier who applied the recycled Super-LumiNova to the hands and dial once the EcoTitanium dial was manufactured by another partner, ProCadrans.
These were some of the major challenges, but not the end of the recycled content. The sapphire crystal comes from supplier Novo Cristal, who produces a recycled sapphire crystal rough before shaping.
Various movement and case components also feature recycled steel components thanks to another partner, Ugitech, a French steel manufacturer.
Finally, the strap is made from recycled plastic from supplier Morellato, an strap manufacturer specializing in recycled fibers for leather and fabric straps these days.
The number of components in the eLAB-ID that are recycled or contain recycled content is truly impressive and showcases a clear intent. The project is also meant to inform and inspire other brands to take steps to reduce waste and develop a more circular supply chain.
With that in mind it has been developed as an open-source project, with Panerai highlighting and sharing information on where it got the material and how it used it so it will be easier for other brands to participate.
For more information, please visit www.panerai.com/us/en/collections/watch-collection/submersible/pam01225-submersible-elab-id.
Quick Facts Panerai Submersible eLAB-ID PAM1225
Case: 44 mm, EcoTitanium
Movement: automatic Caliber P.900e, 3 days power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Availability: expected in 2022
Panerai Luminor Marina eSteel
The next recycling effort comes to fruition in the Luminor Marina eSteel. This watch sought to use recycled steel for the case, dial, and buckle, which many might not consider to be a big deal.
But recycled steel is often used in applications where precise alloy configuration is less important and in more general alloys. The eSteel was required to meet the criteria for the corrosion-resistant and highly polishable steel regularly used in the watch industry such as AISI 316L stainless.
It required close coordination with suppliers to ensure the material matched the physical properties of the other virgin materials.
But, like with most recycling, the advantage is the reduction in energy usage and environmental impacts of the recycled material over processed newly-mined metals. Ore extraction and refinement take a lot of energy, so melting down already created steels and working to carefully recreate alloys uses much less energy than refining from scratch.
Even if the practical advantages aren’t dramatic and world changing, the shift to recycled material, if embraced by everyone, could be.
Another nice feature on the Luminor Marina eSteel is the addition of a recycled strap made from PET plastics, a form of plastic most commonly found in plastic bottles for water, soda, and other food packaging. Since this represents a significant polluter of the oceans, a place we all know Panerai loves, this is an obvious choice to help (however small) reduce ocean plastic pollution.
Expected to hit shelves in late 2021, the Luminor Marina eSteel will be available in three strap-and-dial color variations named after Italian waters: Blu Profundo (dark blue, PAM1157), Verde Esmeraldo (green, PAM1356), and Grigio Roccia (black, PAM1358).
For more information, please visit www.panerai.com/en/collections/watch-collection/luminor/pam01358-luminor-marina-esteel-grigio-roccia.
Quick Facts Panerai Luminor Marina eSteel
Case: 44 x 15.45 mm, eSteel
Movement: automatic Caliber P.9010, 3 days power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Availability: October 2021
Continuing with the desire to help clean up the world’s oceans as well as helping to combat effects of climate change through sustainability, Panerai announced a partnership with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) to work over the next decade as part of the UN’s Decade of Action.
A broad coalition of 17 sustainable development goals, the Decade of Action is focused on “a universal call to end poverty, protect the planet, and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.”
The specific goal for the IOC-UNESCO and Panerai is the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which will work from 2021 to 2030 to promote science-based management of the ocean and marine resources to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development first outlined in 2015.
Working toward Sustainable Development Goal #14 (conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources) and #4 (quality education), the Panerai and IOC-UNESCO partnership is attempting to shift public consciousness around the entire idea of a clean ocean and a sustainable economy, no small feat in the best of times.
It’s clear that Panerai is intent on spreading knowledge and awareness of the current plight of our oceans, and as a watch company founded as much in the water as in the workshop it makes perfect sense for the brand. In combination with its other recycling efforts and desire to spread its practices across the industry, Panerai is taking a solid step toward becoming an industry leader on the entire topic of ocean and climate conservation.
If the push works, it will hopefully encourage other manufacturers to adopt recyclable and sustainable supply chains, which is vital for every industry, even one as small as the watch industry.
Even with the massive volume of watches produced every year, horology still only accounts for a small fraction of global resources. Also, working with the profit margins of the luxury industry is easier than the pennies many other industries rely on with economies of scale, so the impact should be smaller and easier to absorb.
But even if you aren’t the world’s largest producer of consumable goods it doesn’t mean you can’t be (or shouldn’t be) a torch bearer for the cause.
Eventually enough companies could follow suit, not just in the watch industry (including suppliers) but across other industries so that a dent could be made. The UN’s Decade of Action is already a massive call to action for the world, and I’m glad to see someone making at least a modest attempt at participating within the luxury watch industry.
While not every new watch Panerai makes is focused on these initiatives, the fact that the brand is committed to oceanographic causes will always be a highlight for me.
For more information, please visit www.panerai.com/us/en/panerai-luminor-watchesandwonders-2021.