To seal its commitment to sustainable luxury and the conservation of the marine environment, the watchmaker Ulysse Nardin is manufacturing its first strap made from recycled fishing nets to bring awareness to swimmer and adventurer, Ben Lecomte’s warning of ocean pollution. The brand is proud to welcome Ben as the newest ambassador to the family of “Ulysses”.
Every year, nine million tonnes of plastic are discharged into the sea. Ben Lecomte is a witness on the front line of this invasion. “I’ve seen the impact that plastic has on the marine environment which affects the smallest tothe largest organisms, ”Ben said.
In 1998, Ben was the first person to swim across the Atlantic without a board, an exploit undertaken to raise money for cancer research. Twenty years later, in 2018, he attempted to cross the Pacific. However, after having completed more than 1,500 nautical miles and six months at sea, Ben decided to retreat to land due to a problem with the boat assisting him. The adventure was over, and he was left feeling horrified. After 165 days of unforgettable moments with whales, dolphins, albatrosses, the splendor of marine life and the power of the elements, what struck Ben was the amount of plastic he encountered at sea on a daily basis. “I was fascinated by this spectacle that was both magnificent and repulsive. It became clear that the sporting challenge would no longer be a goal for me. The mission of raising awareness about pollution had become much more important.”
In 2019, he set off again for an extraordinary swim into the Pacific plastic vortex. This expanse of waste, discovered.
In 1997 by the yachtsman Charles Moore, is an area of swirling ocean currents where human trash accumulates.
“Small crabs adrift on the waste sought refuge by climbing onto me, leaving behind pieces of floating plastic which had carried them far, far away from the coasts.” When swimming in the heart of the vortex, Ben came across three pieces of plastic per minute, including objects of our everyday lives, mostly bottle tops, and fishing tackle. “The nets are mostly tangled in a ball, held together with ropes that have clearly been tossed overboard.” Every year these discarded nets kill nearly 100,000 whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals and turtles.
“When I’m confronted by a large chunk, it’s a strange feeling. Marine life then guides me and it’s exciting because the animal has no fear.”
The pieces of plastic never break down completely. They get smaller and smaller until they become microscopic but increasingly harmful. “I’ve discovered endless masses of confetti. Swimming in a concentration of microplastics is like crossing a snowstorm where the flakes are millions of plastic particles. I realized that it was a huge problem. I felt distraught.”
During this Vortex Swim mission, Ben Lecomte swam over 300 nautical miles to sound the alarm about the more than 300 million tonnes of plastic produced every year. Ben believes that plastic pollution needs to be reduced at its source.
In response to Ben’s message,Ulysse Nardin has selected an innovative polyamide yarn fully recycled from fishing nets to weave its new wrist strap, compatible with Diver44mm, Diver42mm, Diver Chronograph, Marine Torpilleur and Freak X watches. This strap, of which Ben Lecomte is the proud ambassador, is the watchmaker’s first 100% waterproof fabric.Sturdy, it is interwoven on the edges to prevent fraying and withstand abrasion (Martindale test).The dying technique used before extrusion by the supplier JTTi for its YTT+ yarn reels (100%recycled from fishing nets) gives a uniform black color and has the non-negligible environmental advantage of not using water during production.
“Reusing sea nets for jewelled watches is unique and a fantastic combination”, enthuses the adventurer.