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November 26, 2016
In Jewelry, the Personal Connection
November 27, 2016
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Every year has its new watches and novelties that wow with good looks and mechanical wizardry. But among those timepieces are a few that give a little more, their brands pledging to donate a portion of sales to good causes, such as helping impoverished communities or protecting the environment.

As presents, these watches truly are, as a venerable advertising slogan said, “gifts that keep on giving.”

It is important, however, that buyers exercise some caution. “The problem with these do-gooder watches is that too many companies do not reveal how much of the profit goes to the cause,” said Ken Kessler, editor at large of the watch magazine Revolution.

That may be changing. Harry Winston, in its second year as a partner of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, introduced a Countdown to a Cure timepiece, featuring a countdown motif on a blue sunburst dial — and openly stated that 20 percent of the retail price would benefit the foundation’s goal of developing a cure for HIV by 2020. The jeweler is making only 20 men’s pieces priced at $21,200 and 20 women’s pieces, at $16,200.

Clockwise from top left, the Harry Winston Countdown to a Cure, the Bremont DH-88 (Shuttleworth Collection), the Hublot Black-Jaguar White-Tiger Foundation Gold Edition, and the IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition Antoine de St.-Exupéry (Ref. IW371808).

The Swiss maker Blancpain — whose link with diving watches goes back more than 60 years — will donate 1,000 euros, or about $1,075, to ocean conservation projects for each of its new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph Ocean Commitment II that is sold. The model is limited to 250 pieces. The all-blue ceramic case watch is the second series in Blancpain’s Ocean Commitment program; the first produced at least €250,000 in donations, the company said. The donations have funded 10 expeditions and helped protect 1.2 million square miles of ocean.

Laurent Ballesta, a marine scientist and wildlife photographer, has benefited from the contributions. He was among the first to study an ancient fish, the coelacanth, at more than 450 feet beneath the surface, and braved waters at subfreezing temperatures in Antarctica, thanks to cutting-edge equipment.

“In such temperatures, one dies in less than 10 minutes if not protected by a special suit,” Mr. Ballesta wrote in an email, adding that his had been made for the expedition. The Ocean Commitment watches “ are a symbol of these explorations that bring knowledge and dreams — the two most important values of our time for raising awareness of the wealth, fragility and importance of our oceans.”

Marine preservation is close to the heart of another Swiss watchmaker, Oris, whose Great Barrier Reef II diving watch — with a deep-blue dial and yellow Super-LumiNova hands — benefits the Australian Marine Conservation Society. The limited-edition watch is priced at 2,100 Swiss francs, or about $2,110; the company will not specify what portion of the price goes to the society. The collaboration dates to 2010, which could make it more attractive for donors. Mr. Kessler of Revolution said that “entire, ongoing programs have greater validity than one-off watches for charitable causes.”

The partnership of IWC Schaffhausen and the Fondation Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has lasted almost a decade. The charity, founded by the descendants of the famed French aviator and author of “Le Petit Prince,” works with youth organizations to fight illiteracy and supports education and training. This year, IWC produced two watches to aid the foundation — the Big Pilot’s Perpetual Calendar and Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Editions — with aviator design features such as tobacco-brown dials and calfskin straps that riff on Saint-Exupéry’s flying suit.

The Oris Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition II.

A passion for the skies also permeates the British brand Bremont, whose co-founders, the brothers Nick and Giles English, grew up restoring vintage aircraft.

Visits to aeronautical museums were part of that childhood, and the brothers donate a portion of the sales of their new limited-edition, vintage-style DH-88 watch to the Shuttleworth Collection, a museum in Bedfordshire, England. It is home to some of the only surviving examples of certain types of aircraft.

“It can be very depressing seeing beautiful planes mothballed into a corner at aviation museums,” Giles English wrote in an email. “Ever since I first visited the Shuttleworth Collection as a child with my father, I’ve been fascinated — it manages with a small budget to keep these amazingly historical aircraft still flying.”

The Swiss manufacturer Hublot has long supported a host of charities including those that work on clean water or for Unicef, through its brand ambassadors. Its latest alliance is with the Black Jaguar-White Tiger Foundation; three special feline-inspired watches have been created in gold, ceramic and steel, and limited to 50 or 100 pieces to help fund efforts to protect endangered cats.

Sometimes the act of giving simply inspires others. After Hublot organized the Match for Peace event last month, the soccer virtuoso Diego Maradona presented the Big Bang Unico United for Peace watch to Pope Francis. The unique timepiece, with a white ceramic 45-millimeter case, will be auctioned in Milan on Dec. 1, with proceeds going to four charities to help the victims of Italy’s recent earthquakes and to fund projects for peace and social integration.

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