Most watch brands today do more than make watches. Many get involved with important causes to help save the environment, preserve the Earth, help make clean water accessible, and to support so many other endeavors. Additionally, many brands opt to help the underprivileged or those in need of medical or educational assistance. Sometimes this work is done in cooperation with their brand ambassadors.
Often, their charitable side is also the quieter side, with many brands not even promoting their giving spirit. Some watch brands get involved with large organizations, while others support grassroots efforts. Because we believe that watch brands, like watches, have a heart, we are taking a look at several brands and their charitable causes and social initiative involvements.
Omega and Orbis
While Swiss watch brand Omega gets involved in a host of different philanthropic and environmental causes, its work with Orbis is one of the more impressive feats. Orbis is an international non-profit organization that brings doctors and medical services together with individuals in need in an effort to fight avoidable blindness via a Flying Eye Hospital that travels the world. Just this month, Omega released two new 40mm steel Tresor watches in support of Orbis. On their dial, instead of the numeral 8 on the date indicator, the watches boast an Orbis Teddy Bear – a nod to the stuffed bears given to children who are undergoing eye surgery. For each watch sold, Omega raises funds to assist the organization’s medical professionals in their efforts.
Oris and Movember
Swiss watch brand Oris is a huge supporter of saving the environment with its proverbial hands in multiple grassroots and global pots. However, the brand recently worked with Movember to support men’s health and awareness. In fact, Oris worked with the New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone to help raise awareness of the struggles men go through, from prostate cancer battles to suicide and to listen and respond to them. The pioneering men’s health organization strives to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25 percent in the coming decade. Oris has teamed with Movember for several years now, and creates a special edition Chronoris watch, with proceeds from the sale going to the cause.
Frederique Constant and DonorsChoose
For several years now, Swiss watch brand Frederique Constant has supported the organization called DonorsChoose, which enables individuals to pick any one of a number of charities to donate to – all under the same umbrella roof of education. Frederique Constant has developed a gift-with-purchase card that enables its watch buyers to pick the educational teachers’ projects they most want to support. It is a way to bring classroom supplies and equipment to grassroots levels.
Audemars Piguet Foundation and Brazil Family Farming
In the savannah of Brazil known as Cerrado, mining has left the region ravaged and the local farmers are unable to succeed with their crops or to feed their families. The Audemars Piguet Foundation is financing a program by the Entraide Protestante Suisse that helps to create family nurseries. With this, a training program is also implemented to help families in poverty learn to grow crops and live off of their reclaimed land. Because the project is financed by the Audemars Piguet Foundation, there is no watch-related aspect. However, the brand deserves recognition for its many efforts, as the Foundation supports dozens of initiatives around the world.
Rolex Awards for Enterprise
Another brand that supports the spirit of enterprise, creativity, and determination, without tying a specific watch collection to it, is Rolex. Via its long-standing Rolex Awards program (created in 1976), the brand recognizes exceptional people and their pioneering efforts in a host of scientific and other fields. By investing in these laureates, Rolex hopes they can make changes for the future. One of its recent laureates, Gregoire Courtine, is working to find a way to help paralyzed people walk again by developing an electronic connection between the person’s brain and the spinal cord. Another laureate, Brian Gitta, has developed a rapid malaria test that does not require blood to be drawn. The list goes on and on but suffice it to say that the competition to win a Rolex Awards for Enterprise spot is steep and demanding.
Cartier’s Women’s Initiative
Founded 14 years ago in 2006, the Cartier Women’s Initiative aims to empower women entrepreneurs. It is an annual international entrepreneurial program that is open to women-owned or operated businesses anywhere in the world. Via regional awards and the recently launched Science & Technology Pioneer Award created for 2021, the initiative supports women impact entrepreneurs to further their scientific innovations. Other Cartier initiatives come from the Cartier Philanthropy Foundation, which works to improve the lives of those most vulnerable, especially women and children in underdeveloped regions.
BVlgari and Arte di BVlgari After School Program
For quite some time now, Bvlgari has been partnering with the Save the Children Foundation. From that work together, the brand has continued to form new programs that benefit children in underprivileged areas. Just about a year ago, the brand worked with Save the Children to create the Arte di Bulgari After School Arts Program that supplies schools in America with art supplies and teachers for an after-school program designed to encourage children to express themselves via any form of art from dance to theater, painting and more. To help support the cause, Bulgari donates a portion of the proceeds of its custom-designed Save the Children pendant to the cause. Thus far, no watch is related to the luxury brand’s efforts.
Hublot and Best Buddies
For the past five years, Hublot has been actively supporting the non-profit organization Best Buddies®. The organization is devoted to trying to be more inclusive when it comes to those with developmental or intellectual disabilities. It is a global volunteer movement dedicated to creating one-on-one friendships at a grassroots level. The organization was founded by Anthony K. Shriver in 1989 and now has nearly 2,900 chapters around the world in middle schools, high schools, and colleges. Hublot creates a special watch with Best Buddies logo on the case back, with a portion of the proceeds going to the cause.
IWC and Laureus for Good Sport
In addition to its conservation efforts, IWC Schaffhausen has been one of the main sponsors of Laureus Sport for Good for the past 15 years. The Laureus organization consists of the Laureus World Sports Academy, the Laureus Sport for Good, and the Laureus World Sports Awards. Together they aim to use the power of sport to promote social change. The Foundation supports initiatives in vulnerable communities. IWC plays an active role in supporting Laureus and regularly creates watches with case backs that support a current Laureate, such as this Portugieser Hand-wound Monopusher Chronograph “Laureus Sport for Good” watch that features a drawing on the back by the 15-year-old Chinese Special Olympics participant Yi Xin.
Only Watch and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
Perhaps one of the largest charitable events in the watch industry is one in which dozens of watch brands participate by creating a single one-off edition of a watch to be donated at the Only Watch auction. Held every other year, the auction proceeds (99%) go directly to research projects for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Over the past seven editions, more than $40 million has been raised for this cause. The auction takes place in Monaco under the patronage of HSH the Prince of Monaco and with Luc Pettavino, President of the Association Monegasque Contre les Myopathies. The 2021 edition takes place in the fall and we expect as many as 50 watch brands to participate.
As this cursory look at the efforts of less than 10 brands demonstrates, the industry that puts a heart and soul into its watches puts that same effort into giving back.
About the Author
Roberta Naas is a veteran watch and jewelry journalist who began her career in the early 1980’s, and was the first female watch journalist in the United States. She is the editor and founder of the authoritative watch blog, ATimelyPerspective, has written six books on watches, writes for numerous consumer publications (including Forbes and Elite Traveler) – and always brings forth in her work the essence of what makes watches tick. She tirelessly travels the world in search of watch news and stories that she turns into compelling and enlightening articles.