Watch Batteries and Sustainability: What You Need to Know

There are two main types of watches —  the mechanical ones like Rolex Day Date or Panerai Luminor and quartz watches such as the TAG Heuer Formula 1 or Longines Conquest. If you have a quartz watch, then you most likely replace its batteries once every few years.

Watch Batteries, Quartz Watch


If you stumbled upon this website because your battery-powered watch stopped working, then you’ve come to the right place. From the different types available, down to their various environmental effects, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about watch batteries and sustainability.

Types of Watch Batteries

Not all watch batteries are created equal. So to help you decide which one is right for you, here are the five types and a brief description of each of them.

types of watch batteries
Photo from Batteries Plus Bulbs

Lithium Quartz Watch Battery

One of the most popular watch batteries is Lithium Quartz. These batteries have a high voltage capability which usually is 3V, a low self-discharge rate, and long storage life. This type of watch battery is perfect for models that require a lot of power, such as quartz watches that have a lot of power-hungry features and functions.

Silver Oxide Quartz Watch Battery

Compared to the previous type, the Silver Oxide Quartz battery has a lower voltage. In particular, it only has 1.55V. Despite that, it is still the most popular type that’s widely used for quartz watches. It has high physical density and stability. Lastly, it is the perfect choice for eco-conscious people as it has a very small carbon footprint compared to the other types.

Silver Peroxide Quartz Watch Battery

Like the Silver Oxide Quartz battery, Silver Peroxide has a voltage of 1.55V. However, it is not as popular as the former, due to its poor voltage stability. But to make up for it, it has a very high capacity.

Solar Cell Quartz Watch Battery

Among the watch batteries listed here, the Solar Cell Quartz is the most environment-friendly. This is because it gets its energy from the sun, as its name implies. This is the battery used in solar-powered watches like the Seiko Astron, Casio Edifice, and Tissot T-Touch. With that said, this type of watch battery completely eliminates the need to dispose of your watch batteries.

Mercury Oxide Quartz Watch Battery

One of the first watch batteries ever invented was the Mercury Oxide Quartz. Technically speaking, this type of battery only has a voltage of 1.35V, which is low compared to the other watch batteries on this list. Apart from that, eco-conscious people might want to stay away from this type as it causes too much pollution. This is one of the main reasons why this type of battery is seldom used today.

How and When to Change Watch Batteries

If you’re wondering when to change the batteries of your watch, the answer is simple. Change it as soon as the watch stops working. Due to environmental issues, it is not advisable to change your batteries if it still works. But before buying another battery, it is wise to double-check if the battery is the problem and not the watch itself.

If you are certain that there’s a battery-related issue, here is a step-by-step guide on how to change your watch’s battery.

watch batteries
Image by Cherie Vilneff from Pixabay

What Would Need:

  1. A new battery that’s compatible with your watch
  2. Flat screwdriver
  3. Tweezers

1. Open the caseback.

Fortunately, a lot of modern watches bear snap-off back panels that have indentations. All you have to do is press down the flat screwdriver into an indentation and pry off the caseback.

2. Locate and remove the old battery.

After opening the caseback, try to find the battery. As mentioned above, it should be round and has a silver colour. Once you find it, try to remember which side it’s facing upward so that you can place the new battery correctly. Then use tweezers to gently ease it out of the case.

3. Place the new battery.

Using the tweezers again, place the new battery into the slot while making sure the right side is facing upward. Gently press down the battery to make sure it is secure.

4. Double check if the watch is now working.

Now that you’ve placed the new battery, don’t close the caseback just yet. First, inspect if the watch is now working. If not, then it’s either you have another defective battery or the watch itself is broken. If it’s the latter, then we suggest bringing your timepiece to a trusted repair shop.

5. Return the caseback.

If your watch is now working, then congratulations! You can now put the caseback in place and enjoy your watch.

Effects of Watch Batteries on the Environment

Watch Batteries, Recycling Watch Batteries

As mentioned above, using watch batteries has environmental consequences that happen even before you pop it into your watch. To explain, your watch batteries are made with materials like mercury and lithium. Unfortunately, these resources have to be mined, which has detrimental effects on the environment.

Apart from that, a big percentage of watch batteries are not being disposed of properly and end up in landfills. These batteries may leak and pollute the soil with the toxic chemicals they contain.

Recycling Watch Batteries

Recycling Watch Batteries

For the eco-conscious people, you can still enjoy your quartz watch guilt-free by recycling watch batteries. Batteries can be a bit confusing to recycle compared to plastic bottles. This is due to the toxic chemicals that they contain. But as a rule of thumb, the best course of action is to take it to a recycling facility.

Depending on where you live, some cities have drop-off sites where you can bring your batteries. Meanwhile, some towns have special programmes where you can just put the batteries in a special bag and place it beside your bin for pick-up.

To add, there are a few companies like Watch Battery Buyers that pay you to recycle those batteries. Simply put, they buy your used silver oxide batteries so they could recycle them. That’s a pretty sweet deal as you get to save the Earth and you earn some beer money.

10 Eco-Friendly Watch Brands to Support

Of course, we all have the responsibility to take care of our planet. And a good way to reduce our carbon footprint is by buying products that are made with eco-friendly materials.

Apart from using eco-friendly materials like recycled PET bottles, some brands like Seiko and Citizen continue to develop efficient quartz movements that require minimal power. One good example is by using solar-powered watches which eliminates the need to replace batteries.

But the above example is just the tip of the iceberg. Each company has its own ways to achieve a sustainable business model. Let’s find out below how these companies help with the fight against global warming.

1. Citizen

To start this list, the Japanese brand Citizen is one of the top players when it comes to sustainability. And as proof, they created the Eco-Drive technology, which based on its name, is eco-friendly. This technology powers some of its watches, including the Citizen Attesa, Citizen Promaster, and Citizen Exceed. As mentioned above, watch batteries from quartz watches can cause environmental problems. This is exactly what the Eco-Drive aims to prevent.

watch batteries, eco-drive technology, Citizen Promaster

Simply put, the Eco-Drive technology powers the world’s first light-powered analogue quartz watch. It allows watches to use light instead of batteries as a power source. When fully charged, the Eco-Drive watch can run for months even in darkness.

For their efforts to reduce carbon footprint, Citizen received an Eco Mark certification, which is a label managed by the Japan Environment Association (JEA). Apart from that, it also won a gold prize at the JEA’s Eco Mark Awards 2014, which is a first for a watch brand.

While it’s been decades since the first Eco-Drive watch was introduced, Citizen continues to innovate. Staying true to their “Better Starts Now” slogan, they carry on with improving their technology to better serve the planet and their customers.

2. Chopard

Chopard has made sustainable luxury its top priority. If truth be told, the brand is even considered the first ethical luxury jewellery brand. They even made a pledge in public to use only sustainably-sourced precious metals like gold.

Chopard LUC, ethical luxury

To start, they have a centralized raw material procurement team in their Geneva headquarters. This team works closely with a dedicated sustainability manager. Furthermore, they make sure that their gold is from small-scale mines that are part of the Swiss Better Gold Association (SBGA). Besides the SBGA, they also get their gold from Responsible Jewellery Council-certified refineries.

The same process is done with their gemstones. For example, the diamonds set on their watches are verified by the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme. This guarantees that the stones used are conflict-free.

There are a lot of challenges that face the jewellery industry when it comes to social and environmental issues. However, Chopard has proven that a luxury brand can make products that are ethically-sourced and environmentally-friendly. Hats off to Chopard for having this kind of initiative! And if you are interested in supporting them, you can check out their collections like the Chopard L.U.C., Chopard Happy Sport, and Chopard Happy Diamonds.

3. Blancpain

Luxury brand Blancpain is known for creating the world’s first modern dive watch — the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. And as a watchmaking giant that excels in making dive watches, it’s no surprise that they are also committed to preserving the world’s oceans. In fact, they even have a name for it: the  Blancpain Ocean Commitment (BOC) program.


Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

With that being said, Blancpain has been working closely with divers, scientists, and environmentalists to entice more people to join their cause. And apart from getting more people to care for the oceans, they have also spent a lot of resources to help keep the oceans safer.

One of their most recent efforts was the launch of the Bathyscaphe Mokarran Limited Edition, which was released in July 2020. This special watch model is dedicated to protecting the great hammerhead shark. The project not only studies the marine animal in French Polynesia, but it also supports the Mokarran Protection Society. For every purchase of the special-edition watch, $1,000 goes to the project’s funds.

Moreover, Blancpain, along with other organizations, helped establish a coral reef biodiversity baseline. This project is a long-term monitoring program that helps study the structure of the reef fish and coral communities.

4. Oris

Another brand that is active in protecting our oceans is Oris. Like Blancpain and IWC, Oris is dedicated to partnering with organizations that prioritize sustainability. A few of those are the Pacific Garbage Screening and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDSC). Apart from collaborating with eco-conscious groups, they also hold events like the World Clean-Up Day.

Oris Aquis, sustainable luxury

Their sustainability is also obvious when it comes to their products. Back in 2018, they introduced a game-changing strap that’s made with recycled plastic. This move helps clean up the planet as plastic pollution is prevalent. To boot, some of their watches even have casebacks made with recycled PET plastic.

Furthermore, a lot of their Oris Aquis models were made in partnership with certain eco-conscious organizations and causes like the Point No. 1 Lake Baikal Conservation Project. Of course, a percentage of their profit goes to the said cause. And apart from the monetary assistance, they also help spread awareness about marine conservation and the importance of recycling.

Based on their history, the Swiss brand has been doing this for years. Indeed, Oris is an ethical luxury watch brand that deserves your support. Besides doing their part in making the Earth a better place to live, they also make great watches. What more can you ask for?

5. IWC

When it comes to sustainability, IWC is definitely ahead of the game. In fact, they have plans to become the most sustainable and ethical luxury watchmakers on the planet. To boot, the Schaffhausen-based manufacture was the first-ever watch brand to use the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) as a benchmark for their first sustainability report.

IWC Portugieser

Based on their sustainability report, a few of their 2020 objectives include reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 10% and attaining the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) Code of Practices recertification. Of course, these are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their journey to sustainability.

To explain how they reduce their carbon footprint, IWC uses 100% renewable energy. Yes, they not only try to be eco-friendly when it comes to the production of their watches, but they also use renewable sources for their headquarters’ electricity needs. Furthermore, their boutiques use energy-saving lightings too. Considering that IWC has a lot of boutiques worldwide, imagine the amount of energy that’s being saved.

All things considered, the brand truly deserves the title of being the “Luxury Brand to Trust” since 2014. So if you want to support IWC or simply sport an eco-friendly wristwatch, a few collections you should consider are the IWC Aquatimer, IWC Big Pilot, and IWC Portugieser.

6. Rolex

Rolex is good at a lot of things and that includes staying eco-friendly. In 2019, the watchmaking giant launched an environmental campaign called the ‘Perpetual Planet’. This initiative consists of supporting research on environmental issues like climate change. Apart from that, it also includes collaboration with the National Geographic Society.

Rolex Submariner

To expound on how the program works, they organize the Perpetual Planet Extreme Expeditions. The goal here is to observe and document the changes that take place in Earth’s most remote and vital environments. Data gathered from the trek can help track the health of the Himalayan water systems.

Moreover, Rolex also gives support to biologists like Sylvia Earle. Her project, which is called the ‘Mission Blue initiative’, aims to protect the oceans through marine-protected ‘hope spots’. Due to this, a lot of marine species and endangered animals are being saved. Rolex has been supporting this project since 2014.

There is no doubt that aside from creating high-quality timepieces, Rolex is also dedicated to saving the environment. If this made you admire Rolex even more, check out their popular models like the Rolex Datejust, Rolex Explorer, or Rolex Submariner.

7. Seiko

Seiko is known for making both quartz and mechanical watches. And if you’re more a fan of the former, it’s nice to know that the Japanese watchmaker also offers more eco-friendly models. To be more specific, the Seiko Prospex and Seiko Astron collections both have solar-powered watches. This completely eliminates the need to replace and use watch batteries.

Seiko Astron, solar-powered watch

However, if the model you want is not solar-powered, you don’t have to feel guilty. Even their battery-powered ones are more eco-friendly than the average quartz watch. In 2011, they launched a program called ‘Clean Energy’, which makes the watch energy-efficient, thus minimizing the need to replace the batteries often.

To make this possible, they use a hibernation technology which stops the watch from moving when not worn. When you put it back on your wrist, it remembers the time it stopped and automatically corrects the time and date. This technology uses less than 3% of the energy that a normal quartz watch uses. Imagine the number of watch batteries you will save if you plan to keep the watch for years.

Of course, the watches are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Seiko’s commitment to sustainability. Even in their offices, Seiko is taking measures to minimize energy consumption. These steps include using LED lighting, using a more efficient temperature setting for the air conditioning systems and using printers that are environmentally efficient.

8. Breguet

Breguet is known for its maritime timekeeping ever since its founder was appointed as a horologer to the French Royal Navy in 1815. With that said, the brand’s affinity to the oceans was expected, which is why their chosen environmental cause is saving marine life.

Breguet Marine

In 2018, the brand announced a five-year partnership with Race for Water. It is a foundation that creates solutions to minimize plastic waste in the ocean. Furthermore, they have a programme called the ‘Odyssey’, where a vessel sails around the world to raise awareness and educate people about preserving the Earth’s water.

The vessel itself is also eco-conscious. To illustrate, it gets its energy from hydrogen, the wind (through a kite), and the sun. It not only reduces its carbon footprint but also proves that getting clean energy is possible. Apart from that, Breguet also held an event where volunteers collected garbage at the beaches of Hong Kong. From this event, they were able to collect about 10,000 pieces of rubbish like plastic bottles.

To celebrate their partnership with Race for Water, Breguet even released a limited-edition watch. Although this may be hard to find nowadays, you can also check out their other Breguet Marine watches which are just as nice.

9. Ulysse Nardin

Another eco-conscious watchmaker that we should talk about is Ulysse Nardin. To reduce their carbon footprint, they are building a sustainable innovation lab where they aim to root out materials that have a lower environmental impact.

Ulysse Nardin Executive

That being said, one of the materials they are using is called ‘Carbonium Gold’. Producing carbonium creates a 40% less environmental impact than other carbon composites. Apart from being friendly to the environment, it also has a stunning marbling effect caused by the fusion of Carbon and Gold. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone! This material can be seen in the Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton X watches.

Moreover, Ulysse Nardin has been a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) since July 2019. Its membership ensures that the materials used in the watches were sourced ethically. Apart from that, Ulysse Nardin supports the ethical gold industry. Since 2017, they have been procuring their gold through the Kering Responsible Gold Framework (KRGF).

Before the year ends, the brand is also hoping to release a new model that emphasizes recycling. For now, we don’t have any more information about the watch, but it should be on every eco-conscious watch lover’s radar.

10. Panerai

Last but not least, we have Panerai. Back in 2019, the brand started using EcoTitanium construction for their watches. Simply put, the timepieces are made with recycled aircraft materials, which they got from scrap yards.

Panerai Luminor

In addition to that, they made a Mike Horn Edition, which has a recycled watch strap. To be specific, these straps are made from PET plastic bottles. And if that’s not enough, the boxes that come with the watch are also made of recycled ABS plastic.

Most importantly, the brand also tries to cut its carbon footprint by making its boutiques and offices environment-friendly. For instance, they use LED lighting. Furthermore, they encourage their employees to share documents via email instead of printing them to reduce the use of paper.

If the brand has gained your admiration when it comes to sustainability, their Panerai Luminor and Panerai Radiomir collections are all worth a look.

Final Notes

Like most things we own, our watches may have harmful effects when it comes to the environment. But that doesn’t mean we should give up our hobby entirely. Thanks to technology, a lot of watchmakers have found solutions to reduce the environmental effects that these watches make.

From using efficient watch batteries to making watches with recycled materials, each company has its own way of defining ethical luxury and sustainability.

All things considered, supporting a sustainable brand is a win-win situation since you get to enjoy a high-quality watch and you help save the Earth at the same time.

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