This watch shows how beautiful recycled plastic can be

Recycled plastics are often hidden inside our devices, but not with this stunning watch from Swiss brand Oris. It’s called the Aquis Date Upcycle and the dial is made from recycled plastics, using a process that generates a unique look every time. There will never be two identical dials, and the result is much more artistic than you think.

Recycled materials in electronics aren’t new, but they’re rarely used outside of a product like they are here. Seeing the Oris Aquis Date Upcycle in person makes me hope that will change soon.

The recycling

The surprising appearance of the dial comes from recycled polyethylene terephthalate plastic, better known as PET plastic. It is typically used for packaging, including water bottles and food containers that have since been removed from the ocean. Plastic waste entering the ocean is a huge problem, with 11 million tonnes of plastic ending up there, according to a 2020 study, a figure expected to double by 2040. However, everything is fully recyclable and can be melted down to produce a range of new products such as clothing, rope, auto parts and packaging.

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That’s where Oris comes in. The company is well known for supporting green causes and is no stranger to using recycled plastics in its products. In the past he has window dressing for its conservation-focused watch releases using a similar method and used a material called r-Radyarn – a filament yarn created from recycled PET plastics – to make a strap for its Divers Sixty-Five watch. The dial of the Aquis Date Upcycle is a continuation of its efforts to help raise awareness of the need to clean the oceans of plastic waste.

The watch

It’s the dial that’s made from recycled PET bottles, and it looks more like an abstract watercolor than something made from recycled material. The dial seen on the watch in our photos is mostly blue/grey with flecks of white and a streak of red and gold. The more you look, the more color variation you see. It’s shiny without being overwhelming, but still very different from almost any other watch face you’ll find.

The Oris Aquis Date Upcycle watch on the wrist.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This particular dial design has no legibility issues, but on dials with more white spots or streaks, the white hands can be a bit lost and hard to see at a glance. The slightly domed sapphire crystal completes it with a magnificent brilliance. It is really beautiful. Right now it’s on my desk as I write this, and I keep looking at it.

This is a modestly sized diver’s watch. The version you see in the photos has a case size of 41.5mm and is pictured on my 6.5 inch wrist. If it seems a little too big, you can also get a smaller 36.5mm version. The case is stainless steel, the bezel has a ceramic insert in a matching and very swish gray color, and the case back has a window to view the Oris 733 automatic movement. It has a 38 hour power reserve, but don’t expect any connected features because it’s not a smartwatch.

The caseback of the Oris Aquis Date Upcycle watch.
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The bracelet also needs a special mention. It’s also made from stainless steel, and I like the polished side sections paired with the brushed middle sections, but most of all I like the comfort. I find that many stainless steel bracelets get uncomfortable after a while, but Oris seems to have avoided this problem altogether, and I can wear it all day without feeling the need to take it off.

Inside and outside

By using recycled plastics in such creative and visually interesting ways, Oris draws attention to our need to clean up and protect the oceans, as well as the importance of using recycled materials in new products. For me, it is particularly refreshing to see the materials usedand used attractively, rather than needing to be told, as they only reside deep within a device.

For example, Samsung used recycled fishing nets to produce some of the plastic parts of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, except you would never know because the components are hidden inside the device. It’s a really fascinating process and just as environmentally interesting as Oris’ efforts, but since plastic is used for the stand that holds the volume keys in place and the interior section containing the S stylus Pen, you never see them.

Smartphone maker Realme is taking a step in the right direction. It is the first consumer electronics brand to use a bioplastic material called LNP ELCRIN EXL7414B – a catchy name, I’m sure you’ll agree – and he made it into the rear panel of the Realme GT 2 Pro. This sustainable material is made from 50% waste and helps Realme reduce its overall emissions. Working with Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa, the panel was given an unusual texture and paper look.

Show it

Realme is on the right track, but now all I want to see is a smartphone with a back cover made with the same material and using the same technique as the dial of the Oris Aquis Date Upcycle. If not, why not make a case of it? It’s really eye-catching, I love that everyone is unique, and now that most of the industry seems to have embraced brightly colored phones, it would also help make a new device stand out.

The bezel of the Oris Aquis Date Upcycle watch.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The watch industry is actually showing the way for many manufacturers, as Skagen recently unveiled the Aaren Ocean, a watch whose case, strap and dial are made from recycled plastic mined from the ocean. Companies like Lenovo and Bang & Olufsen promote circularity and sustainable product design, and while many incorporate recycled materials, few present them in the way Oris and Skagen watches do.

In the meantime, it’s going to be very difficult to return the Oris Aquis Date Upcycle. It’s a beautiful watch, and although it’s smaller than I usually like, the really gorgeous dial makes up for it. Despite having a unique element, the Aquis Upcycle isn’t a limited-edition watch, and Oris says it will continue to make them as long as there’s demand. This is available for purchase now for $2,300 or £1,600.

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