With Pops of Color, Swiss Watch Brand Maurice Lacroix Moves Toward Sustainability

A new version of the popular AIKON model comes in a material upcycled from ocean plastic

This weekend, Swiss luxury watch brand Maurice Lacroix debuted the vibrant, innovative AIKON #tide watch collection. A quartz variant of the maison’s critically and commercially successful AIKON Automatic watch, the new series was developed in partnership with #tide, an organization crafting upcycled composite materials from recovered ocean-bound plastic. In fact, the cases of these 40mm wristwatches, as well as the packaging of each finished product, are composed of 17 upcycled plastic bottles. This isn’t an average plastic watch with pops of color for personality; it’s a textured timepiece with premium finishing (like the dial’s “Vague du Jura” motif that calls to mind ocean waves) and it strictly adheres to the brand’s rigorous Swiss watch standards.

With Maurice Lacroix’s original AIKON release, the Swiss brand experienced a tidal wave of attention—especially from young buyers. “It wasn’t only a product launch. It rejuvenated the whole brand,” Stephane Waser, Maurice Lacroix’s managing director, says. “The communication and the whole company culture changed with the AIKON. That was in 2016. Now we are in 2022.” This time, with a lower price point and a mission to continue on a path of sustainability, Waser intends to speak directly to younger people.

When they began to ideate on the next iteration of AIKON, materials were the first component considered. “We knew we had to do something with materials that are sustainable,” Waserman says. “We started working on this two years ago. Looking for solutions, the only thing we could change at that time was packaging and we weren’t satisfied. Then, about a year ago, we met Thomas with #tide.” The discussion was electric and an idea turned into a longterm partnership.

Regarding the watch itself, #tide provides Maurice Lacroix’s case-manufacturing partner with granules from upcycled plastic. A composite is formed with fiber glass. The brand went through six or seven material prototypes to find the right mix, to achieve their high quality standard and to yield a lightweight material that is “five times more resistant than plastic and twice as hard as plastic,” according to Waser. This case is then coupled with a sapphire crystal lens, a screw crown and straps that feature Maurice Lacroix’s easy exchange system. The brand intends to launch #tide watch bracelets in the next few months.

Of course the of-the-moment colorways grab attention, but they were also chosen mindfully. “Neon is big again,” Waserman says. “We looked into doing neon but as our concept is about sustainability, we skipped it. You can’t do a sustainable plastic or composite and put stuff in it that alters it.” The bright colors they feature, including the fluorescent pink and yellow, do not affect the material’s recyclability.

“We at #tide try to avoid any toxic materials and chemicals,” Thomas Schori, the organization’s founder and captain, adds. “The ultimate target we have is to be able to recycle the watch again. If we add too many additives it’s getting more and more difficult to recycle it.” Schori notes that although these watches could be recycled if they were dismantled, the real sustainable move for owners would be to keep them and continue using them.

“For us, this is a start,” Waserman says of the AIKON #tide. “We are learning every day, working with them and our producers.” Maurice Lacroix will continue to evolve and advance the collection, though it is just one part of their broader portfolio (which includes their Masterpiece and Pontos styles).

Founded in 2018, #tide partners with many brands on its quest to create environmental, social and business impacts. Schori says, “350 million tons of virgin plastic is produced each year. Close to 10% is recycled. 300 million tons are left. We can make use of that.” #tide partnered with the Swiss University of Applied Sciences to develop a decentralized management system. For instance, what’s collected in Asia is processed in Asia.

“At #tide, we focus on the environment,” he continues. “We make sure that we collect at a maximum of seven miles from the coast. Our ultimate aim is that no new plastic comes into the ocean. This means we have to get rid of uncontrolled landfills that spill into rivers and seas. Second, we get rid of the plastic in the ocean. Third, we get rid of the plastic on the beach.” Right now, they operate in Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines.

“We pay local fisherman to collect that plastic,” Shori adds. “Since we pay almost the same price for plastic as others do for fish, we have an unlimited source of material. People are motivated to collect. It’s an important part of some people’s income. We try to create a circular business model where everyone can profit.”

Beyond the AIKON #tide, Maurice Lacroix has committed to assist the organization in gathering 10 million bottles. This ambitious program not only includes incentivizing collection, but also building the ecosystem of warehouses and longboats, as well as sending children of fishermen to school and teaching people how to manage plastic. 20% of the production cost of the AIKON #tide goes toward this. And this is just the start.

Images courtesy of Maurice Lacroix