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This watch shows how beautiful recycled plastic can be

Recycled plastics are often hidden away inside our devices, but not so 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. No two dials will ever be exactly the same, and the result is far more artistic than you may expect.

Recycled materials in electronics are nothing new, but rarely are they used on the outside of a product like they are here. Seeing the Oris Aquis Date Upcycle in person makes me hope this will change soon.

The recycling

The dial’s startling look comes from recycled polyethylene terephthalate plastic, better known as PET plastic. It’s usually used for packaging, including water bottles and food containers that have since been pulled from the ocean. Plastic waste entering the ocean is a massive problem, with 11 million tons of plastic finding its way there, according to research from 2020, a figure expected to double by 2040. It’s all completely recyclable, though, and can be melted down to produce a range of new products such as clothing, rope, car parts, and packaging.

A close-up of the Oris Aquis Date Upcycle watch's dial.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This is where Oris comes in. The company is well-known for supporting ecological causes and is no stranger to using recycled plastics in its products. In the past, it has made presentation cases for its conservation-focused watch releases using a similar method and has utilized a material called r-Radyarn —a filament yarn created from recycled PET plastics — to make a strap for its Divers Sixty-Five watch. The Aquis Date Upcycle’s dial is a continuation of its efforts to help raise awareness for 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 painting than something made from a repurposed material. The dial seen on the watch in our photos is predominantly a blue/gray color with flecks of white and a streak of red and gold. The more you look, the more variation in color you see. It’s bright without being overpowering, yet still very different from almost every other watch dial you’ll find.

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

This particular dial design has no issues with legibility, but on dials with more white patches or streaks, the white hands may get a little lost and hard to see at a glance. The slightly domed sapphire crystal finishes it off with a wonderful sheen. It’s truly beautiful. Right now, it’s on my desk as I write this, and I keep glancing down 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 looks a little too big, you can also get a smaller 36.5mm version. The case is made from stainless steel, the bezel has a ceramic insert in a matching and very swish gray color, and the case back has a window to see the Oris 733 automatic movement. It has a 38-hour power reserve, but don’t expect any connected features as this isn’t a smartwatch.

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

The bracelet also needs special mention. It’s made from stainless steel too, and I love the polished side sections paired with the brushed center sections, but most of all I like the comfort. I find many stainless steel bracelets get uncomfortable after a while, but Oris seems to have avoided this issue entirely, and I can wear it all day without feeling the need to take it off.

Inside and out

By using recycled plastics in such a creative and visually interesting way, Oris draws attention to our need to clean and protect the oceans, as well as the importance of using recycled materials in new products. For me, it’s especially refreshing to see the materials used, and used attractively, rather than needing to be told about them because they’re only found deep inside a device.

For example, Samsung has used recycled fishing nets to produce some of the plastic parts on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, except you’d never know because the components are hidden inside the device. It’s a really fascinating process and equally as interesting from an ecological standpoint as Oris’ efforts, but because the plastic is used for the bracket that holds the volume keys in place and the inner section holding the S Pen stylus, you never see them.

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

Show it off

Realme is on the right path, but now all I want to see is a smartphone with a rear cover made with the same material and using the same technique as the dial on the Oris Aquis Date Upcycle. Failing that, why not make a case from it? It’s genuinely eye-catching, I like that each one would be unique, and now that most of the industry seems to have embraced brightly colored phones, it would help make a new device stand out, too.

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

The watch industry is actually showing many manufacturers the way forward, as Skagen recently revealed the Aaren Ocean, a watch where the case, bracelet, and dial are made from recycled plastic pulled from the ocean. Companies like Lenovo and Bang & Olufsen are promoting circularity and sustainable product design, and although many do integrate recycled materials, few show them off in the same way as Oris and Skagen watches.

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

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