This is a paid review. All opinions expressed are the author’s own. Learn more about our policies.
As smartphones monopolise our attention by inundating our lives with emails, messages, buzzes and notifications, it’s understandable that the last thing anyone would want to wear on their wrist is more of the same. Modern society’s overexposure to the digital world explains the enduring nature of analogue watches.
Hong Kong-based watch brand 2°EAST founded by Australian entrepreneur Sally Lim produces analogue timepieces for everybody – women, men, children, non-binary folk etc – that are designed with ethics and environment in mind. Offering smart-looking designs conceived to enhance both sustainability and style, a 2°EAST watch is more than just the sum of its components.
The form seems simple and straightforward enough, it looks like a watch, performs like a watch, but below the (metaphorical) surface, meticulous design is everywhere.
First, there is the simple lines and minimal branding which is, well, on brand for me. Like many millennials who have a disdain for overt signifiers of conspicuous consumption such as visible branding and logos, 2°EAST is on point with its discreet luxury and affordable price point.
The sourcing of high-quality components and sustainable materials is also apparent. There’s the sapphire crystal glass to ensure the watch doesn’t scratch. The 316L stainless steel non-corrosive casing. The rose gold which has been applied using a zero waste dry plating process that eliminates air emissions, waste water and hazardous waste. Then there’s the Japan-made Miyota movement built with precision and accuracy. Not to mention the vegan-friendly watch straps woven from yarn made from recycled plastic bottles that feature exclusive floral patterns and animal prints.
As part of the product review, I was given the opportunity to select my own watch to try out. After reviewing the range and sizing up watches against my personal tastes, skin complexion and day-to-day style, it took me less than two minutes to decide that 002 – Mesh in size 36mm was the timepiece for me. This watch priced at just $130 USD is ideal for people with champagne tastes but budget constraints.
When I received the delivery (to my astonishment it was super quick, what felt like less-than-a-week quick, I hadn’t expected it to arrive from Hong Kong that soon with the pandemic and all) I noticed the product’s presentation immediately, since most times the unboxing of a product is dull and lacklustre. With 2°EAST, it’s as if the presentation is as important as the product itself. From the slimline rectangular box, packaging that I later discovered is printed with eco-friendly ink, 100% recycled and recyclable craft paper and board and a packaging designed to take up minimal space when shipped, the attention to packaging detail is evident.
Efforts to stand out didn’t end there. The folded piece of paper in the box, the ‘Owner’s Guide’, contained printed instructions with illustrations that helped me to understand the configuration process of the interchangeable straps and why there was a silver tool in the box. I didn’t understand its use when I initially saw it, and the ‘aha’ moment came to me as I began reading the manual. The tool was needed to assist in the attaching of the mesh straps, adjusting the straps, and then disassembling the mesh ones so that I could change it to the recycled PET straps. In the beginning, it took about five minutes to change them over as I was worried I’d break something, but I soon got more proficient. Setting the time was quick and painless too thanks to those instructions.
The craftmanship of the watch combined with the rose gold plating looked good in person as it did in the images on the website and I was struck by how comfortable and lightweight the mesh strap felt on my wrist. I have a tiny wrist and a chunk of metal weighing my left wrist down and annoying me as I go about by day-to-day business is a nightmare situation for a busy woman, which I gladly won’t be facing with this watch thanks to the functional design. The watch also fit properly, another brownie point since I’ve had problems with jewellery and accessories fitting my small wrists.
In terms of appearance, it gives an air of being delicate, the colour exuding fine jewelry vibes but its robust design offers the feeling of durability since the components have been intentionally selected for longevity. The luxury design is also classic enough that it can be paired with any outfit and worn to any event – not just a watch to be worn on rare fancy schmancy occasions.
Switching to the colourful patterns of the NATO straps the mood changed; going from everyday sophistication to weekend fun. The bold straps make the right kind of statement, injecting style personality without being too fashion. The blues in both the Tropical and Books patterns match perfectly with my casual wardrobe since there’s many shades of blue in there (blue is my favourite colour). I was a little apprehensive about the strap’s recycled plastic fibres because I have super sensitive skin prone to irritation when up against synthetic materials, but so far, I have had no issues at all. That the straps are machine washable is something I hadn’t considered either but glad it had been preempted in the Owner’s Guide since the last thing I need is to have to give a sustainable watch away because of visible sweat stains on the band (which is a foreseeable event since I am based in the sub-tropics of sunny Australia and sweating comes with the territory).
Reading through the pamphlet, I learned even more about my watch: that it is water resistant and can withstand splashes but shouldn’t be immersed under water, how to care for it (“use a soft slightly damp cloth to clean watch cases and mesh bracelets”) and that it also comes with a two-year warranty.
Nowadays watches have become more than just time tellers. They are frequently used as status symbols and markers of exclusivity, communicating class, culture and wealth. That 2°EAST is democratising sustainable watches in a way that’s less about ideology and more pragmatic without losing its beauty or ecological identity, is something to celebrate and that other sustainable brands could learn from. It deconstructs sustainable luxury in a way that’s fun, personal, accessible and flexible. Brands can play a pivotal role in shaping the world around them and no doubt 2°EAST, with its universal appeal and reasonable pricing, will usher in a new watch culture, one of sustainability and inclusivity, that will help to enrich people’s lives but won’t cost the earth.
Disclosure: This is a paid review. All opinions expressed are the author’s own. For more information about our policies, click here.