Tom Ford on How His Personal Sustainability Choices Influenced New Watch Design
Tom Ford's recent lifestyle changes toward veganism and reduced plastic waste manifested in a new sport watch design made from ocean plastic.
Tom Ford in a recent portrait by Simon Perry.SIMON PERRY
Tom Ford’s personal evolution toward a more sustainable lifestyle is influencing his designs.
The designer, after reducing his personal use of plastic and switching to a vegan diet, has released one of the first fully automatic watches made of recycled ocean plastic. The Ocean Plastic Sport style was released on Tuesday as a more functional follow-up to Ford’s runaway hit Ocean Plastic watch that was first unveiled in 2020.
“Personally, we do not use any single-use plastic products in our house, nor do I allow single-use plastic bottles or plastic containers at the office. Reducing single-use plastics has been a personal evolution as I have become increasingly aware of how serious of a global issue plastic pollution in our oceans is. I got rid of plastic straws. I drink iced coffee every morning, so I always use a straw — now I use metal straws. At around the same time I started to become aware of the ocean plastics problem, I also watched a documentary called “What the Health.” I shortly after became vegan and have been so ever since. It is a constant work in progress,” Ford said of the changes he began making around 2017.
He considers this new watch style an important benchmark in his company’s sustainability journey and represents a larger strategy to appeal to a new generation of watch consumer. He sees the Ocean Plastic Sport watch as a reflection of our times — particularly how global circumstances have influenced consumer culture. “I feel like people are craving activity and nature and the combination of it being a sport timepiece while also preserving our oceans was something exciting to me,” he said.
Tom Ford’s new ocean plastic sport watch.COURTESY/TOM FORD
“The sport timepiece is a luxury timepiece, but with a more casual appeal,” added Ford. “I am into this concept of a glamour that is chic but in a more relaxed way. You see it in the way people dress now — customers are wearing designer pieces with sweatpants. My spring 2022 collection was heavily influenced by sportswear, and this was a natural evolution for our timepiece collection as well. People want to spend more time outdoors after being inside for so long.”
Each Ocean Plastic Sport watch purchased is equivalent to around 35 plastic bottles being removed from major waterways. The style contains no virgin plastics and its plastic materials are traceably sourced. Its packaging is fully recyclable as well.
The Ocean Plastic Sport is a follow up to the original Ocean Plastic collection that has been “hugely popular with customers,” according to Ford. The original watch’s first run, “sold out worldwide within eight weeks of pre-launch. We had to place a reorder almost immediately before they even shipped to the stores. We have since launched new colors of straps and they sell out again so quickly before they even arrive to stores. Our customers are sophisticated cosmopolitan customers with a heightened awareness of the issues facing our planet and the responsibility we have to protect it,” the designer said.
The style is priced at $1,495 and is available for purchase on Tom Ford’s website and in select Tom Ford boutiques. The sport watch — produced in Switzerland as part of Tom Ford’s ongoing partnership with watch licensee Bedrock Manufacturing — is offered with a white or black rotating bezel and a jacquard strap produced in five colorways: black, white, yellow, blue and orange.
Ford said the Ocean Plastic Sport was created without any particular gender in mind and this more fluid design approach laid a framework for the style’s interchangeable strap concept.
“Even with the ready-to-wear collection, I have always loved the idea of men’s clothes on women and non-traditionally masculine clothes on men, and timepieces in particular are made to be adaptable to our customer’s personal style,” he said. “One of the key elements in all of my timepiece collections is the interchangeability of the straps, which allows you to style your watch depending on your mood and what you’re wearing — so, of course, with this new timepiece, we continued with the strap wardrobe concept.”
For the designer, who founded his namesake line in 2005, “sustainability is a critical and pressing issue in our lives today.” He now aims to create different initiatives and products to both draw awareness to climate issues as well as reducing his company’s overall impact. The Ocean Plastic Sport release is tied to the larger Tom Ford Plastic Innovation prize, which was created as a search for more sustainable plastic materials and was launched in 2020 with the release of the first Ocean Plastic style.
“Between the plastic pollution in our oceans, deforestation and global warming, we need to consider the ecological impact of our decisions in all aspects of both our personal and business lives,” he said.
“As a designer, my focus on sustainability translates into the timelessness and philosophy behind my designs. They are meant to last and evolve, rather than be tossed aside each season. That, in my opinion is true luxury. We find that our customers appreciate the quality and timelessness of our pieces and pass them down from generation to generation.”
That mentality carries over to Ford’s approach to watches, in a world where the designer admitted, “we have a million ways to tell time.”
He elaborated more frankly: “The question everyone asks is ‘Why do I need a watch when I can just look at my phone?’ But there is history in timepieces. They are an heirloom. It is an accessory that has evolved from a tool into a status symbol.”
“Today’s customers are motivated to buy watches as part of their wardrobe — a piece of luxury for everyday wear. And my opinion, ethical luxury is the greatest luxury of all. To know that you are not only wearing a high-quality product, but by simply owning the product, you are also taking direct action to improve the planet is incredibly appealing,” he said.