What is your background and how did you get involved in watchmaking? (Nicolas Freudiger, Co-founder and CEO at ID Watches) One of the co-founders, Cedric Mulhauser, is one of my best friends. We got to know each other when we were kids growing up in Geneva. When he was 14, he started his apprenticeship at Vacheron Constantin, and I witnessed his journey. I also had the opportunity to do a day or two of discoveries at Vacheron Constantin and really fell in love with the world of watchmaking. At the age of 15, we were already talking about how we would build a brand at some point in our lives. That’s how we became involved in watchmaking. I worked as a digital and e-commerce manager at Coca-Cola in Zurich for about three years. When I turned 30, I told myself it was time to try starting my own company, so I quit my job in Zurich and returned to Geneva. At Coca-Cola, I learned a lot, and I met some great people there. However, in terms of daily impact, I was focused on selling more Coca-Cola online, so I decided to do something different, to create something positive, something I truly wanted to do. When we were 14 and 15, we said we wanted to make a significant impact. We didn’t have the exact concept we are launching today, to be honest, but we knew we wanted to do something that would genuinely make a positive mark on the industry. I believe that’s our entire mission today.
“Swiss-made watches account for 95% of watches sold worldwide priced over 1000 USD, which is a significant responsibility.”
How can sustainability and luxury watches coexit? (NF) Great questions. I was also asked how sustainability can affect the image of luxury. I don’t believe it has a negative impact. Luxury products are typically associated with durability and quality, and our mission right now is to change the narrative of luxury by incorporating sustainability into it. The industry is quite traditional, and we’ve been working with materials and partners for hundreds of years. The idea is that, especially for Swiss-made watches, when it comes to materials like gold or diamonds, we need to take more responsibility and change our approach. Swiss-made watches account for 95% of watches sold worldwide priced over 1000 USD, which is a significant responsibility. We are often referred to as an impact-native watch brand in the industry. Instead of being digital natives, we have embraced an impact-native ethos from the beginning. Our hope is that we can also inspire other brands to consider the traceability of the materials they use.
What are the materials being used in the watches? (NF) For the watch case, we use stainless steel that is 100% recycled, and achieving 100% recycled steel is of utmost importance to us. We promote a call for less extraction, which means reducing the extraction of materials from the earth, such as coal, to create new materials. By using 100% recycled steel, we effectively eliminate the need for material extraction. In the Circular S collection, we take an additional step forward by utilising a solar furnace in France to remelt the steel, significantly reducing the carbon footprint to 160 times less than the industry average. What’s interesting about our steel is that on the back of the watch case, in the top left corner where you typically find an 18k gold marking, we have a marking of either 4441, which is 100% recycled. The quality of 4441 is equivalent to Rolls-Royce stainless steel. We collect waste from the Jura region and carefully select only the best pieces, some of which were also used by brands like Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. This quality is symbolised by the marking on the back of the watch case. We also incorporate a solar steel mark to represent the remelting process using a solar furnace. The solar furnace utilises a large 13-foot diameter mirror to harness the direct power of the sun for the remelting process. This is where our laboratory edition is created, highlighting an artisanal approach to watchmaking.
(NF) For the movement, using the ETA 2824 movement. We source the best ‘new old’ stock from other brands, completely refurbish it, and select the finest pieces for our watches.Moving on to our straps, they are crafted from wine residue sourced from a startup in Milan. Currently, we are also working with vegetable compost for our straps. At the end of their life cycle, we take them back, and industrially compost them in Switzerland. These straps are created using 100% green waste. Notably, this is the strap used in the watch that Leonardo DiCaprio wears, and it’s entirely plastic-free.
How big is the production of ID? (NF) This year, we aim to produce around 600 pieces, and for the next year, our projection is approximately 1000 pieces. While these numbers represent a relatively small quantity, our growth is organic and strong.
“In 2021, during an interview with a journalist from The New York Times, I shared my dream of working with Leonardo DiCaprio within the next three years.”
How was the initial connection with DiCaprio established? and how did that eventually lead to an investment? (NF) It’s a relatively simple story. I’ve always emphasised to people the importance of having a positive impact and being ambitious; that’s what I’ve shared with my team. I often spoke about Leo and vision for our product, about who should be wearing it. In 2021, during an interview with a journalist from The New York Times, I shared my dream of working with Leonardo DiCaprio within the next three years. After the article was published, Leo didn’t reach out to me. But, I took the initiative to find the right contact myself. Eventually, we were introduced through mutual contacts with his teams. We met in LA this summer, where we presented the project to him, and he not only liked the project but also the product itself. We decided to partner up.
“I always encourage my team to manifest and vocalise their objectives.”
(NF) I always envisioned working with him, but not just as an ambassador. I never liked the idea of paying someone to wear our watch, as it can come across as insincere. However, when you have an investor who believes in the product, it speaks about the authenticity of the endorsement. I always encourage my team to manifest and vocalise their objectives. We should dream big, and I believe this is an excellent example of dreaming big and making it a reality. I mentioned to Leo this summer, ‘let’s dream big and make a positive change in the industry.’
What has been most memorable moment since you started the company? (NF) I’d say the most memorable moments were when the three co-founders met and decided to move forward, which was quite unique. Another powerful moment was when we conducted our crowdfunding campaign in December 2020, during the COVID pandemic, and we successfully reached our objective within 48 hours. This was significant as it demonstrated a strong demand for our products. We are also the first Swiss-made watch brand to be B Corp certified. This certification is a powerful verification of our standards.
What is the goal with ID for the next years? (NF) My goal is very clear. Of course we are going to be commercial as a brand. But more than that we are here to create an impact, we are dedicated to create impactful collaboration within the industry to accelerate the transition and that’s what we are working on. And we want to find right partner to develop the brand globally.