Plastic G-Shocks and other similar affordable watches made from synthetic and semi-synthetic materials based on polymers are excellent, in part because of the many beneficial properties of plastic, including affordability. But it’s generally assumed that spending more means you’ve graduated from that material and its “cheap” associations.
That’s why five-digit watches that make heavy use of plastic, like the new Ulysse Nardin Diver X Ocean Raceare interesting — and a bit controversial.
The high-end Swiss watchmaker, of course, isn’t just using plastic as a cost-cutting material: no, it’s all for the benefit of the planet, and specifically the oceans. In partnership with The Ocean Race yachting competition, Ulysse Nardin has made a watch with a 44 mm wide case made of 60% recycled polyamide (a kind of plastic) from salvaged sea fishing nets. The other 40% is made up of the brand’s carbon composite material called Carbonium, which the brand says is also environmentally friendly.
The material should be very light, like other carbon watches (and, hey, plastic ones too), and also durable. It looks like nearly every part of the watch has incorporated recycled materials, including its in-house UN-118 automatic movement inside. This movement is responsible for much of the cost/value ratio of these high-end watches, and it includes other technical materials for which Ulysse Nardin is particularly known, such as silicon. The parts of the case that use steel are also made from 80% recycled materials.
The webbing is made from 100% recycled fishing nets and the packaging is made entirely from other ocean plastics.
Ulysse Nardin is not the first watch brand to start using recycled ocean plastic in its watches, but it is the most premium example we know of. You’ll find affordable watches using it from Nixon to Luminox, and Swiss watchmaker Alpina has even made a recycled plastic version of its $1,700 diver with a Sellita SW-200 automatic movement inside.
Ulysse Nardin also touched on this space in other ways. It previously made wristbands from recycled plastic, and in 2020 it produced a not-for-sale prototype in the material. He finally introduces such a watch into a larger production and makes it available in a limited edition of 200 pieces.
With the Diver X Ocean Race, Ulysse Nardin packs an impressive amount of durability into a product that can fit on your wrist. Plastic may not look sexy, but its use here takes it into the realm of the exotic. Think about it: surely this required a lot more technical research and development than making the same watch out of a traditional material like steel.
Does that justify its $11,500 price tag? It’s your call, but you get a 300m waterproof dive watch from a prestigious brand that is also chock full of talking points.
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