Next week will see the launch of a new Kickstarter brand called Gyre. We’ve seen quite a lot of initiatives like this in the last five years, but this one promises to be completely different. Its founder is Bernard Werk, a man whom I’ve known for more than fifteen years, a man who (back in the days) gave me the chance to write for his magazine. Bernard is a seasoned watch journalist and the owner of Watching, the oldest watch publication in The Netherlands. With Gyre he plans to raise awareness for ocean pollution while raising money for its clean-up as well. I spoke to Bernard about his fresh idea and how that turned into a three-year obstacle course now finally nearing completion with the launch of the Gyre SeaCleaner.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – I’ve known you for a while, but never as the founder of a watch company. What inspired you to do this?
Bernard Werk, founder of Gyre – Well, because there is just so much plastic floating around in the oceans. I heard Dutch inventor Boyan Slat talk about these plastic islands in the Great Pacific. Apparently they’re as big as France, Spain and Germany combined. He founded the company The Ocean Cleanup and we wanted to work with the plastic they got out of the ocean. So the first idea was pretty straight-forward: just collect the plastic, press it into blocs, chop them into small slices and make watch cases out of that. Well, welcome to the real world.
Obviously, it wasn’t that easy.
No. The plastic has eroded heavily under the influence of the sun and the salty seawater, weakening the material. So we had to look for other materials that would serve the same cause. And that wasn’t hard to find. A lot of places on Earth are awash with worn-out fishing nets and animals are dying in them. So instead of using the ‘plastic soup’ we decided to make watches out of fishing nets.
How does that work?
The fishing nets are collected in the seas and on beaches by local initiatives. These are processed in granulate, which will be reinforced with fibre so it can handle temperature variations much better. We wanted the material to be very rigid and tough. Take for instance a G-Shock; when you press your fingernail into the surface, you will see it. Since they work with an inner case, that was never a problem. But I wanted to work with a case, without an additional inner case, to house the movement, dial, etc. And I wanted this watch to be a practical sports watch that had to be water-resistant to 100 metres. Hence the reinforcement of the material used for the case. Or take for instance the Nato strap, that is made from recycled plastic bottles!
What is your goal with this entire project?
We mainly just want people to start talking about this cause. You’re not going to solve the plastic soup with a watch case weighing 7 grams. But a watch can be a great conversation starter. Additionally, we raise money; 5% of the revenue goes to The Ocean Cleanup.
The company name is Gyre. Where does the name come from?
A gyre is a spiral, or vortex. A sort of very big whirl. And that is where the plastic collects in the ocean so we felt it was the appropriate name for our brand. Apparently there are five large gyres in the oceans and there’s just soooo much plastic gathering in these gyres. Once the plastic is good enough for us to use, we will do exactly that.
Did you do everything by yourself?
Not really. I work closely with some people in the media world, and at least as important, I got some help from people in the watch world who have been of instrumental help. And there was someone else, from an entirely different industry; this person is Serge Cosenza, who is a designer at Renault. He did this as a private project and he has a lot of great ideas. We also got some help from people in the Swiss watch industry to help us find a reliable partner for the production and quality control of the watches.
How did that collaboration come about?
Some years ago, I was seated next to a Renault designer at the Red Dot Design Awards. He told me he had a colleague who had made his own watch. I stored his contact details and decided to contact him about this project. Cosenza immediately started drawing the first sketches and the watch took shape quite quickly. He really made what I had in mind, and he just kickstarted it all.
The case reminds me a bit of 1970s watches because of the case shape and the crown at four o’clock, yet it is a bit too small and thin for that. Could you tell us some specs about the watch?
It is a sporty watch, not a diver. It has a 42mm plastic case, with a steel caseback but no steel inner case. It’s 100m waterproof, has a sapphire glass and a Japanese solar-powered movement by Seiko-Epson. This is the quartz calibre vs42a, which has a frequency of 32,768 Hz. It shows the time and date. This movement was an obvious choice because it runs on renewable energy. The watch will be assembled in The Netherlands and its price is EUR 289.
Last question: when will the Gyre SeaCleaner be launched?
The crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter will start on 5 May. The Super Early Bird price is €189, Early Bird €199. So, for now, people can register and they will get a signal (err… an email) when the campaign is started on the 5th of May.
Closing thoughts: well, that’s very affordable compared to the watches we usually cover here on MONOCHROME! I’m going to buy two of these watches; one for myself and one for my five-year-old son. I’m already looking forward to wearing it as a father-son thing for sports activities and holidays. Please visit the Kickstarter page to support this project.