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Commitment is at the heart of their activity. These women and men are inspired by the world to act differently and sustainably, and to make their environment a path of expression, creativity, innovation or solidarity. Finance, culture, crafts, industry and the media are all fields embodied by these personalities, who have agreed to take part in the Proust questionnaire La Mèche. What are their lasting secrets? For you, they "let la mèche out of the bag".
Production: Cornland Studio

Nicolas Freudiger is the co-founder and CEO of ID Genève Watches. After completing his studies at EHL in 2015 and a short career in the corporate world, Nicolas decided to pursue his childhood dream and create a new identity in the world of watchmaking, based entirely on sustainable development and the integration of circular materials with a carbon footprint below the industry average.

As a true agent of change, the brand injects a positive force into the world of watchmaking, striving to prove that luxury, watchmaking expertise and sustainability are not mutually exclusive concepts, but can on the contrary engender a new vision of watchmaking that meets the challenges of our time, provided we have the courage to question our achievements and explore new avenues, sometimes beyond the boundaries of the industry. ID Genève watches are not mere accessories, but true statements of style and conviction.

I think it really clicked when I asked myself, "What do I do every day and what impact do I have on society?" 


Who are you and what do you do in life?

My name is Nicolas Freudiger and I'm the co-founder of ID Genève. This is a new identity in the watchmaking world, based on a value chain that promotes sustainable development.

What is your current state of mind?

Quite dynamic I must say! We're in the middle of our launch, we launched in December and now it's April* and I still feel like we're in the starting blocks.

What's your main character trait?

Very resilient. When I set myself an idea or a goal, I normally achieve it. It's an important thing for me.

What does it mean to be green today?

I don't think being green is enough anymore. I always say in English that "now sustainability is cool", but I think the idea with a circular economy is to go further than that. We want to go one step further than sustainable development and think in circular terms.

Who inspires you and why? 

I think it's mainly our parents before we start with other celebrities. Our parents inspire us in everyday life. My father, a civil engineer, always inspired us about recycling, long before the "sustainability is cool" movement. My co-founders inspire me every day with their thinking, and it's nice to have two other co-founders who think differently and have other lifestyles.

How did your desire to get involved come about, what was the trigger?

For 4 years I worked in corporate, I was at Coca-Cola Switzerland in Zurich and I think the real trigger came when I asked myself the question: "what do I do every day and what is my impact on society?" I had to ask myself this question during a workshop to analyze our motivation for coming to work every day and that's when I realized, despite the fact that it's a very good school, my impact on Digital transactions because I was in the digital and e-commerce team. It really got me thinking about the daily impact I'll have, if I'm lucky, in the next 40 years. This questioning is a routine that enabled me to get out of that environment, not by saying Coca-Cola is bad, but I wanted to find a project that more closely resembled my daily values, and that's what I do today, every day.

You've said it in part, but how does this commitment manifest itself on a day-to-day basis?

I think it's an attitude, it's resilience, because there are a lot of shortcuts you can take in the world of sustainable development, particularly shortcuts that lead to greenwashing, so we really ask ourselves this question every day: "at every stage of our project, is this the right step, the right next step for us? And then we also set ourselves a few safeguards, we've drawn a red line for our identity because we really think that if it's a quality project, that's the one that's going to live in the long term. So it's really a matter of having this red thread and also respecting the values we set out at the beginning and reflecting on them every day.

How do you integrate the notion of sustainability into your work?

A watch is sustainable par excellence I think, and even more so in the luxury sector. When you consume a product for x thousands of francs, I think you have a responsibility, and it's also a very good vector: you have a watch on your wrist 365 days a year. But in terms of volume, for the record yesterday we weighed each component of the watch and we're at around 80g for the watch, so it's not huge, but in fact it represents a lot in terms of value. Today we're talking about affordable ethical jewelry in three words, that's what we represent on the market and that's what we want to represent in the future.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

In the watchmaking world, there are obviously a lot of barriers to entry. The fact of using participatory financing to launch this first collection, to have this community effect, to be able to test the product, to know if people want a watch that is eco-responsible, was really one of the barriers for us. Now, within the industry, there's the traditional side of the Swiss watchmaker who's always done it this way for 50 years or more. Fortunately, we've created some great collaborations so far, and we've noticed that it's often personal values that come first, before corporate values. That's why we always say that we really put our personal values into this project, those of recycling, of the circular economy, of the impact we want to see in our society in any case.

What concrete solutions have you put in place?

This is the first watch to use 100% recycled steel, which is also collected locally in the Jura region. We have set up a collection network with a partner, Panaterre, which collects surplus production. We don't really like to talk about waste, but I think it's a term that will evolve over time. We're talking about 4441 stainless steel, which is a bit like the Rolls-Royce of stainless steel. This steel is stored, insulated, flashed (controlled) and then remelted within a 200 km radius. This steel is certified 10 times lower in terms of carbon footprint and here the idea is really to make sure, as an entrepreneur, that the solution we create is better than the status quo. It's also a good question about projects, how to make sure we're going in the right direction. With regard to this certification, we spoke to Quantis, who certified us through a steel life-cycle analysis.

That's just one initiative, I can describe others, including the bracelet which isn't made of leather but of wine marl, mainly made from post-wine eco-composites. This was created by a small start-up in Milan, which dries these grapes and then tans them into eco-leather. We're also working on different alternatives, there are also a lot of innovations coming up in the next few years and we're in contact with a lot of startups, mainly European, including one in London called Treekind with whom we're going to launch a 100% compostable bracelet made from 100% plant waste from London parks. The material is their invention, and we're adapting it to watchmaking in view of the identification vector that is a watch.

 I see myself as an agitator, and I see all our supply chains as agitators too, in the sense that one of the missions we've set ourselves is to influence the industry, humbly of course, towards greater sustainability.

How do we get back to the human element in the process?

This is something we like to emphasize in the collaborations we have with our partners, we really try to connect differently, not just on price, which we'll talk about of course but not only. We've also launched a "Circular Swiss made" label, which is affixed to our dials. For us, this label consists of four criteria: a carbon footprint criterion per watch component, a geographical distance criterion (which is part of the first criterion, but not quite the same), the third criterion, which is price, and the fourth, which is quality, because here too we make no compromises, because there's the question of durability over time; for us, this watch must last at least 100 years, it must be that trans-generational object that we love. We grew up in Geneva with one of my two co-founders, who is the project's watchmaker and has been my best friend for over 27 years. It's these values that we want to pass on to the next generation, with a positive impact on the materials we use, the production processes we use, and transparency. We asked ourselves how we were going to remain authentic on this project, and for us that starts with total transparency.

How has the pandemic changed your relationship with the world? 

I thought about how I was going to travel perhaps during this period, I also thought about all the trips I had planned and I asked myself if it was really necessary to launch a watch brand. For our company, this has had a bit of an impact in terms of lead times, but because of this short circuit, we're much less affected in the end, and that's what's so interesting. In fact, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment has said that the circular economy is a band-aid for global pandemics if we enhance the value of these short circuits. I shop at farms here in Geneva, for example, and I've had friends tell me that they discovered this during the pandemic. There has been an effect here, and I hope it will be lasting, but only time will tell, because I don't have a crystal ball.

Tell me about your fondest nature memory

In the summer of 2020, a group of friends and I went on a tour of Switzerland. We used soft mobility, i.e. trains, bikes and huts in Ticino and Grisons. It was a really great experience.

If you were a tree, which one would you be?

Maybe not on the local side and it's not necessarily a tree, but I really like aloe vera. I have a lot of it at home and I use it especially in the summer when I go outside and it soothes the skin when you get sunburned.

What capacity or ability of nature would you like to have?

I always say "nature will always win" in the sense that nature will always come back and will always win. You can really see it in the worst places in the world: she comes back, she adapts and she wins. I always remember that, and in any case I'd like to have this resilience of nature, this adaptability of nature, it's a characteristic that would suit me well, if I could choose of course.

If you were a source of energy what would you be? 

I think I'd be the wind, it's always fascinated me without knowing why. I think of the different characteristics of wind, the fact that it cools in the summer, it has its uses and I think it's still much underestimated at the moment in terms of energy neutrality.

What's your favourite season?

In summer, I'm more of a sun person.

Your favourite landscape?

The Swiss mountains are a truly unforgettable experience. Every time we travel to the other side of the world, when we come back to Switzerland, we realize how lucky we are to have this landscape in front of us every day.

What does preserving the planet mean to you?

These are day-to-day tasks, it's a routine to put in place and it's up to each and every one of us to feel comfortable with it. I think it's also up to us entrepreneurs to propose alternatives and to be agitators in certain industries. I really like that term, I consider myself an agitator and I consider all our supply chains to be agitators too, in the sense that one of the missions we've set ourselves is to influence the industry, humbly of course, towards greater sustainability. And also to change people's perception of recycled materials, because if I say, here's a watch made from recycled materials, and you notice it in the discussions you have in this traditional industry, it can shock people on the qualitative side. What we really want to do is change that perception.

What solution for the planet are you looking forward to?

We're really going through a crisis, and we need to think about the next generation and see what we're going to leave them. There's a lot that can be done through innovation, of course, but also through individual daily routines. I'm always reminded of the story of the Hummingbird we all know, who brings his drop of water to the fire to put it out. I tell myself that if we get millions of hummingbirds to think as a group, I think we'll be able to put out the fire, and I think that's where the forest really burns.

What's the one anti-sustainable gesture you find hard to give up?

Travel! I'm well aware of that. It's a question we asked ourselves when we launched our brand. We wanted to do an international launch, but in view of Covid we focused on the local, and I've learned a few lessons from that, notably to ask ourselves what types of travel we're going to do in the future in certain markets, and how we're going to do them too.

Which green sin do you find most indulgent? 

I'd say the car. Inevitably, there's this individual need to get from point A to point B. There's public transport, of course, but at some point you have to find other solutions, such as shared mobility and carpooling. I think there are other possibilities and that they are still under-exploited today. But I don't think we'll have a choice in 20 years' time.

What's missing from your kitchen?

No more plastic bottles, mainly. This is something we have implemented in our project with the desire to avoid all plastic in this watch. We took part in a circular economy incubator in 2020 and we were lucky enough to be coached by circular economy experts, and for them the best solution is not to use any at all. I think there are still too many one-off initiatives using recycled PET. I'm not against taking this plastic out of the ocean, but I think we really need to find alternatives, because if we put it back on our wrists it's complicated for the future; it's really just a band-aid.

What environmental action makes you feel good?

I like to recycle, so I don't know if it's good for me, but it's good for the planet. And I really encourage everyone to recycle vegetable waste too. The Swiss are very good at recycling, but there's still room for improvement on a daily basis. There's a fairly innovative garbage can that I like to use. Upgreen has come out with this garbage can, which avoids odors, and for me, who lives in the city, I no longer have to worry about odors with this garbage can. Now I can walk into my kitchen and it smells so good.

What's your sustainable motto?

We talk a lot about total transparency with maximum responsibility. That's something we always have in mind, trying to find out which is the best stage, the best supplier, the best option, what is the most coherent for the environment in the end.

What's your idea of happiness? 

So for me, happiness is more about the journey than the destination, and that's something that's very clear to me. It's a daily joy to do something you love. Today, I'm very happy thanks to this project, to my co-founders and to our first community of founding members. We raised 315,000 francs in pre-sales through this campaign, which has enabled us to exist as a brand, and I'm already at a level of happiness I'd never imagined before.

How can we act at an individual level to make a difference?

We've seen during this crisis - and this is a very good example - that individual acts of purchasing can make a difference. Local agriculture has been in great demand. One theme I'm really passionate about is "social gastronomy", i.e. how we can have an impact through what we eat. What we wear in terms of clothes too. I think it's really about asking yourself these questions at every moment. It's complicated, so I really encourage people to start with their passion. I started with watches because that was my passion, and then social gastronomy, which I'm very interested in because I went to the hotel school in Lausanne. I concentrate on these two industries and being curious, I really want to understand where this food comes from, how it's produced, under what social conditions, and that's important to me.

What is your utopia? 

A world without plastic! I think it's going to be very complicated. I had a discussion about this utopia of thinking that we shouldn't see plastic as gold and cherish it so that in the end we stop throwing it away, because it's really by throwing it away that it has a negative impact. I'd say a world without plastic would be my utopia, but I think there's still work to be done to find alternatives, and we can see that.

More realistically, what three things do you think are essential to changing the world?

It's a bit of a magic formula, the "one million dollar question"! I'm going to take it down to a slightly more simplistic level. I'm encouraging you to do some simple things that can have an impact: carry a glass bottle of water in your backpack all day long, to avoid the temptation to buy a plastic bottle of water when you're on the go. Then, on a more general level, there's the need to rethink mobility, whether it's soft mobility or shared mobility. There's no real judgement to be made, it's a question of individual needs. Thirdly, I'd say diet. You can have a big impact three times a day by choosing your food, and prioritizing quality over quantity. Be curious! I'd really like people to be even more inquisitive, because it's by being inquisitive that we'll often ask the questions and get the information and transparency we're entitled to. That's what we've forgotten: we're the customers, we're owed that, and it's up to us to remind the brands of it.

What should the new world community look like to you?

It must be a community that isn't necessarily "tree huggers" as I call them. We don't necessarily need to hug trees in the forest to behave ecologically, so I'd just eschew the green cliché for something that makes sense in terms of our individual needs. As I said, there isn't really one solution, there has to be a multitude of solutions and behaviours to adopt, and everyone has to come up with their own passion, like us agitators in the watchmaking industry, and there have to be others in other industries, so that in the end we all come together and all industries are impacted.

Many thanks Nicolas! 

Thanks to you!

*This interview was filmed in spring 2021 as part of a global project to give a voice to the actors of change.

You too can tell us your stories that can inspire us all! If you want to try your hand at the Proust questionnaire or share your experience, your commitment, your tips or your gripes, go to the "Share with us" discussion forum on the La Mèche platform:

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