A Different Kind Of Watch Event: Oris Wadden Sea 2021
In mid-September, Oris arranged an event, which, at first glance, seemed to celebrate their “Dat Watt” Limited Edition watch. It is not unusual for watch brands to have partnerships with organizations outside the watch world to stage events that associate their products with these organizations. As we are talking luxury products here, these events commonly exhale a rather luxurious spirit. But the event I’m going to report on here delivered a completely different message.
If you don’t remember Oris‘s “Dat Watt” watch, take a look at Balazs’s article on it. Oris dedicated this watch to the Wadden Sea, the world’s largest tidal flat system that extends across 500km along the coasts of Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. In 2009 the UNESCO declared the Wadden Sea a World Heritage Site.
The location: Lauwersoog
Oris staged this event in the Netherlands around Lauwersoog, a village at the Wadden Sea near Groningen and south of the island Schiermonnikoog. An essential part of Lauwersoog is its harbor which is the home port to many fishers. The significant number of fishing boats anchoring here shows that fishing still is a profitable business in this area. This fact demonstrates the economic importance of an intact ecosystem provided by the Wadden Sea, where enough marine animals live to supply a modest fishing industry. Lauwersoog also provides the ferry connection to Schiermonnikoog. But there’s more to Lauwersoog, as we will see later.
For a long weekend, we stayed at the Landal Natuurdorp Suyderoogh, a holiday resort placed in the middle of the Lauwersmeer National Park a bit south of Lauwersoog. Here, numerous cottages are arranged around a system of ponds so that each house has its own terrace and jetty at the water’s edge. These cottages are not luxurious but quite comfortable, and I felt nicely nestled within nature.
Exploring nature the sustainable way
Our group was a mix of passionate Oris collectors, Presidents of Oris Social Clubs, and the press from the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany. Representing Fratello, Robert-Jan, accompanied by his wife, and I took part. During all activities, not only the representatives of Oris joined us but also representatives of the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS), the organization managing the Wadden Sea World Heritage.
The spirit of this event was perfectly conveyed by the fact that we didn’t move between places sitting in air-conditioned buses as you might expect for an event dedicated to luxury watches. Instead, we went on the bicycles we received on the first day. So, the whole weekend we moved around cycling, which was great as we had fantastic sunny weather.
In touch with the ecosystem
On Saturday morning, after we had a good breakfast at our cottages, we met near the reception of the Landal Natuurdorp Suyderoogh to receive an introduction to the Wadden Sea. Some volunteers from our group had their eyes covered and stood in little pans filled with sand and water to make them feel like standing in the mudflat. Supported by background noises from the Wadden Sea, Ditte Hviid of the CWSS read a text peppered with loads of interesting information about the landscape, the weather, and the animals of the Wadden Sea. While she was reading the text, the other members of the CWSS team were exposing the volunteers to different sensory perceptions illustrating what Ditte narrated. The scene depicted above, for example, is the moment the fox sneaks around the dunes. That was quite exciting for the volunteers and very funny for the rest of our group.
After this impressive introduction, we went to Lauwersoog — by bicycle, of course.
A Change for the Better Clean up Day in the Wadden Sea
In Lauwersoog, Bernard Baerends, Head of the CWSS, introduced us to the mission of the CWSS to preserve the ecosystem of the Wadden Sea in a changing environment of economic, touristic, and ecological interests and climate change. Furthermore, he explained the process to agree on teaming up with Oris. To gain publicity and financial support, the CWSS has a strong interest in partnerships with well-known brands. However, it is mandatory for the CWSS to establish cooperations that convincingly are in line with the goals of the CWSS. So the CWSS invited Oris to present the brand and explain its relation to ecological concerns. Because sustainability for Oris is not just a marketing label, the Swiss watchmaker could easily answer all questions in a way that assured the CWSS that this would be a suitable partnership.
Next, Rob Leemans, president of the Wadvaarders, informed us about this organization. The Wadvaarders is an association that acts as an ambassador for nature-conscious recreational sailing in the Wadden Sea. They have established a code of honor as a guideline for sailors to respect nature while following their passion. Oris had planned for our group to clean up an area of the Wadden Sea as the brand had done numerous times before on other occasions. This is Oris’s “Change for the Better Days” initiative. When the Wadvaarders came to know that we were going to clean up their sailing area, they asked their members for volunteers who would take our group to a nearby sandbank to do just that, and so it happened.
Garbage collection as a nature experience
Each of several small to medium-sized private sailboats took two to four members of our group aboard and sailed us to a huge sandbank called “Het Rif” (The Riff). Remember that the Wadvaarders are no commercial providers for public sailing tours. They invited people who were strangers to them (us) into their private space. Quite hospitable people, these Dutch sailors!
Het Rif lies between the islands Ameland and Schiermonnikoog. Sailing there all the way from Lauwersoog takes around one and a half hours, depending on the wind, of course. On the way, we passed one of the seal banks. Everyone cruising through the Wadden Sea highly respects these places. Therefore the seals there are quite relaxed.
When we arrived at Het Rif, the skippers let all the boats fall dry so that we could jump off them and walk through shallow water to the beach. Collecting waste may not sound very romantic, but let me tell you: It was wonderful!
Wandering along an endless beach
Het Rif mainly consists of sand. There are a few areas where plants have settled and have begun to form what will become dunes. So we had around six hours to wander across this huge area until the flood returned to lift the boats from the ground again. As you can see in the images, the weather was gorgeous.
At first sight, it seemed as if there wouldn’t be any waste at all. Easy job for us, we thought. Of course, it was a relief that this area doesn’t look like some other famous places on our planet, which are now littered with the legacy of our throwaway society. But, after our eyes got accustomed to the structures of the sand, we began to discover more and more tiny fragments that don’t belong there. But we also found some big and quite heavy pieces that we carried with us. We turned into true waste hunters. Every find made us happy as if we had found a little treasure.
When we were trained in spotting waste in the sand, we could pay increasingly more attention to the nature around us.
One experience was especially impressive to me. When you stand in shallow water on the mud, you slowly sink into it. After doing so for a moment, I noticed something moving below my foot. So I lifted my foot and discovered a small crab digging out of the mud. It crawled a bit further and dug its way back down. I walked a few steps further, and the same thing happened again. This mud was full of little crabs! And where there were no crabs, there were worms, and everywhere there were mussels. This isn’t just sand. The entire ground is alive! And this life attracts countless birds that feed on this biomass.
Taking home our finds
When the tide rose again, we loaded the bags filled with the collected waste on the boats, and the Wadvaarders sailed us back to Lauwersoog. After we wandered through the sand in the sun for hours and then were exposed to the wind on the boats, it was good to have some warm clothes handy.
In the image above, you see our complete fellowship of this Change for the Better Day, including the Wadvaarders and our hosts from the CWSS and Oris. The blue bags in front of us contained the waste we had collected. We mainly had found ropes made of plastic or single threads from these and plastic foils and bottles.
Sustainable development for a delicate region
On Sunday morning, we cycled to Lauwersoog again to meet people from the region who support the sustainable development of Lauwersoog in various ways.
Any inauspicious development in this place would have a severe effect on the surrounding nature.
Harm Post, Harbor Master of Lauwersoog, informed us about the unique position of Lauwersoog between the Nationaal Park Lauwersmeer in the south and the Wadden Sea in the north. Any inauspicious development in this place would have a severe effect on the surrounding nature. Currently, Harm Post’s main project is to turn Lauwersoog into a sustainable harbor. He is promoting the creation of an infrastructure to supply all kinds of vessels with hydrogen as a nonfossil fuel. Solar panels shall generate the electric power to produce this hydrogen. 2,500 solar panels have already been installed on the roofs of the buildings around the harbor. A 3.7-hectare solar panel field to feed the production of hydrogen is currently under construction.
Niek Kuizenga, Managing Director of the Seal Center Pieterburen, directs the construction and will be the Managing Director of a modern, large-scale Wadden Sea World Heritage Center in Lauwersoog. The significance of this center will extend far beyond Lauwersoog. Dianne van Essen and Martijn Kampshoff are the founders of The Great Plastic Bake Off. They have developed a method and a technical solution to turn plastic waste into building material. As this material is formed from plastic, it can be produced in special shapes and serve a new purpose. This way, waste turns into a profitable product. They have realized a mobile version of their technical solution they offer to everybody interested in it, including less developed countries.
The Ecolution is a 25m luxury yacht designed to be the most ecological yacht in the world. It can generate and store electrical power while sailing to run all appliances on board for weeks. It belonged to the only dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels.
Albert Keizer, owner and founder of Next Generation Shipyards, has converted the Ecolution to a carbon-free vessel by replacing its diesel-driven motors with electric motors driven by hydrogen fuel cells. So the Ecolution has become the first hydrogen-driven boat in Lauwersoog. It demonstrates that this kind of engine is a sustainable, future-oriented, and reliable alternative to traditional diesel motors. After Albert Keizer had explained the Ecolution to us and invited us to visit the yacht, he guided us around Next Generation Shipyards, where him and his team develop and build various types of boats, including special-purpose survey vessels.
One does not live on air and love alone
After having assimilated such an abundance of information, we needed to recharge our bodies. We were lucky enough to be invited to do so at restaurant t’ Ailand at the Port of Lauwersoog. Here Barbara and Jan Geertsema-Rodenburg celebrate slow food. Their specialty is “Wilde Wad Oesters”, oysters they collect by hand in the Wadden Sea. But oysters don’t give away their flesh easily. So the bravest among us put on gauntlets and attacked the fresh oysters with little knives to open them. That was worth the effort. Raw or grilled and decorated with herbs or cheese, the oysters made a fine lunch.
More nature to discover
Sunday afternoon was at our free disposal. Some of us went stand-up paddling on the ponds of the Landal Natuurdorp Suyderoogh. I took the opportunity to explore the Nationaal Park Lauwersmeer around the holiday resort to enjoy some more wildlife photography.
After dinner, our last adventure of this weekend waited for us. Close to the Landal Natuurdorp Suyderoogh lies the Dark Sky Park Lauwersmeer, one of the darkest places in the Netherlands. Here we learned about light pollution, its adverse effects, and how easily it can be reduced. Then we went on a night walk without any artificial light. After 20 minutes, your eyes get used to the darkness. It’s impressive how much you see without artificial light and how safely you walk where you would expect to see absolutely nothing.
To arrange this event, Oris teamed up with the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS). The CWSS was founded in 1987 by Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. It takes responsibility for all affairs concerning the Wadden Sea. Remarkably, the CWSS not only sent representatives from all three Wadden Sea countries, Ditte Hviid (Communications & Outreach Officer) from Denmark, Anja Domnick (Project Officer) and Amelie Banke (Volunteer) from Germany, and Sjion de Haan (Coordinator Wadden Sea World Heritage the Netherlands) from the Netherlands, but also Bernard Baerends, Executive Secretary and Head of the Secretariat to join us during the entire event.
Oris was represented by Sonja Opel (PR & Event Manager), Sven Mostögl (Region Manager DACH/Benelux), and Gijs van Hoorn (Country Manager Benelux). Local Event Coordinator Monique Jansma arranged all activities during the event. That’s an impressive lineup for an amazing event!
Sustainability taken seriously
This event was outstanding. It wasn’t just a lovely weekend but a thorough and lasting lesson in sustainability.
Recall all the organizations and people who contributed to this event: the CWSS, including its Executive Secretary, the Wadvaarders including their president, the Harbor Master of Lauwersoog, the Managing Director of the future Wadden Sea World Heritage Center in Lauwersoog, and the other entrepreneurs who have their share in developing a sustainable future. If all these people believe in the seriousness of Oris’s ambition for a sustainable Change for the Better, we all should start to do so as well.
Need more evidence? Oris is not only supporting other organizations in their sustainable accomplishments. Oris itself has just been certified as a climate-neutral company by the independent consultancy ClimatePartner. Notice that there will be similar follow-up events in Germany and Denmark in the next two years.
A big thanks to Oris!
Last but now least, a big thanks to Oris for the invitation, and thanks just as much to the Wadvaarders for their hospitality!
To learn more about Oris, explore their homepage.
Get to know Lauwersoog!