How ID Genève won over Leonardo DiCaprio
The ID Genève brand, which since its inception has focused on what it calls "impact-native" luxury watchmaking, has just scored a double on another essential impact component: fund-raising and glamour endorsement embodied in one man, Leonardo DiCaprio.
By Cristina D’Agostino18 octobre 2023
Even if the two million Swiss francs invested are by far not from his own portfolio but from several Swiss family offices, the investment by world-famous Leonardo DiCaprio is a major boost to the reputation of the Swiss brand ID Geneve. Leonardo DiCaprio is no stranger to making financial investments in the luxury goods sector. Already a major investor in Diamond Foundry, Leonardo DiCaprio decided last March to finance part of the construction of a solar-powered laboratory diamond production plant in Spain. In recent years, the "Blood Diamonds" actor has become a spokesman for movements opposed to natural diamonds, a source of conflict and greed in many parts of the world.
Today, it's the brand ID Geneva, co-founded three years ago by three young entrepreneurs - Cédric Mulhauser (watchmaker), Singal Depéry (artistic director), and Nicolas Freudiger (CEO) - that the actor is endorsing. He asserts, "I'm thrilled to have invested in ID Geneva, a brand that is injecting change into the luxury industry - and beyond - through an approach based on constant innovation and the principles of the circular economy." Indeed, the Swiss watch brand based in Geneva, which has recently obtained the supremely difficult-to-achieve B Corp certification, produces mechanical watches offering the utmost durability by exclusively using recycled, reused, or renewable materials. The goal is to display a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to the industry average and achieve zero-mining status by 2025.
The concept, conceived during the Covid pandemic, came to life through crowdfunding organized in Switzerland at the end of 2020 to finance initial investments. Nicolas Freudiger, CEO of ID Geneva, passionate about watchmaking but without prior experience in the field, recounts, "I completed my studies at the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in 2015, and after a three-year stint in Zurich at Coca-Cola Switzerland as e-commerce and digital manager, where I learned quite a bit about digital best practices, my best friend, the watchmaker Cédric Mulhauser, and I, decided to establish the ID Geneva brand. This decision, motivated primarily by our passion for watchmaking, also led me to realize that, at Coca-Cola, conducting digital transactions and promoting consumption didn't truly give meaning to my life, despite all the respect I have for that large company. We were genuinely passionate about the world of watchmaking, which had captivated us since we were fifteen. The concept of the ID brand was born amid the pandemic, with the idea of creating a new luxury identity by completely changing its narrative. We wanted to show that creating a recycled watch brand based on the concept of waste could have a place."
Since then, the brand has been producing limited collections of 300 to 500 pieces each year, with each launch beginning with a Lab Edition. While 80% of the watches are sold through e-commerce and direct sales in about fifteen countries, they are also available in around ten physical retail locations. Nicolas Freudiger continues, "The goal is to create an impact and take the lead in eco-innovative watches, and for us, physical retail locations are an image accelerator in the markets. We need industry professionals to amplify this message because we aim to become top of mind for sustainability in watchmaking within five to ten years. Consequently, the balance between direct sales and traditional sales will readjust. The ceremony of purchasing in a store remains significant."
Another accelerator for brand recognition, the arrival of Leonardo DiCaprio, not as a mere ambassador but as an investor, carries much more weight. On this point, Nicolas Freudiger explains, "When we talk about impact, having the ambition to target the wildest dreams is an important factor. In this context, I mentioned my admiration for Leonardo DiCaprio in an interview with The New York Times in 2021. Through mutual contacts, this idea materialized. Transforming the luxury industry is possible; changing the paradigm is conceivable, but it needs acceleration. Many debates will take place in the industry because it's no longer sustainable for 1% of the global population to be responsible for 48% of CO2 emissions. Decarbonization of the industry has already begun. And it's true that with Leonardo DiCaprio, we are well aligned with these ideas. He's a long-term business partner. Of course, in the photo, he wears the watch, but I know he likes wearing it. Regarding the brand, I know that Leonardo has been very interested in our project for quite some time."
In 2023, ID Geneva plans to produce 600 units, doubling production compared to 2021. Their latest watch collection, Circular S, is made from 100% recycled steel that has been melted in a solar furnace, reducing its carbon footprint by 165. The watch straps, of plant origin and entirely compostable, align with the brand's commitment to waste reduction and maximizing reuse. The same principle applies to the packaging solutions adopted by ID Geneva, which are derived from mushrooms and algae.
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