Solios Watches is a Canadian B Corp company that makes sustainable, solar-powered watches for men and women. I've collaborated with Solios in the past, and since learning about them, I've wondered whether their elegant, low-maintenance solar watches would convert me into a watch wearer.
The last time I owned a watch was way back when those chunky gold Marc Jacobs women's watches were in style. It always felt heavy and weighed down my wrist, and I didn't like that I had to change the battery every year or two even though I rarely wore it. I ended up selling the watch a few years ago and I've been without a watch until now.
When Solios reached out to me to discuss another collab, I requested reviewing one of their women's solar watches. I liked the look of their minimalist, timeless designs and how the watch straps are interchangeable.
They have three watch case size options for women. Since I have very slender wrists, the mini (29mm) seemed perfect for me. I couldn't decide between the rose gold chain mesh or brown vegan leather straps, so I chose the white mini watch bundle, which includes both.
Solios Watches and Sustainability
Solios is the world's first B Corp watch company. All the components of their watches have been chosen for their high sustainability standards that do not compromise on quality and design. Their solar panel should last a lifetime, so there is no need for battery replacements and maintenance checks. Hidden under the dial, it is automatically recharged under sunlight or even artificial light, and it'll simply recharge as you wear it. The watch holds a 6-month power reserve when it is fully charged so you can let it sit in the drawer or go through winter without worrying that it'll stop working.
When I was in Montreal in April, Samuel Leroux, one of the co-founders of Solios, gave me a tour of their new storefront in Verdun. The location is currently under renovation, and it will also be their office and headquarters. A huge space with a multitude of rooms, they plan to do as much in-house as possible, such as design, photoshoots, marketing, package assembly, and shipping. Once the new store is open in the fall, you can stop by to test drive and purchase the watches. They welcome any feedback or ideas you may have because they're always seeking to improve their designs and products.
After talking to Samuel, it really became clear that this is not a company that greenwashes or cuts corners. I was impressed that every angle of sustainability had been considered, down to the small details of the packaging. Even if they needed to spend months looking for a satisfactory solution, they did it instead of taking the easy or cheap route. For example, instead of risking using recycled stainless steel that might not actually be recycled due to fraud in the industry, they spent four months seeking out the right manufacturers and decided to go through the process of certifying the steel by sending them to laboratories.
The leather straps are vegan. The founders searched for an eco alternative to the usual vegan leather made of PU, PVC, phthalates, heavy metals, solvents, and toxic by-products. They finally found a partner in Switzerland that created a sustainable vegan leather made out of silicone and swapped out the usual rubber inside the straps for cork.
Solios does not use any plastic in its products or packaging. Even their watch pillow is made from cork. The FSC-certified box is handmade locally in Montreal. No magnets are required for closure so the box can be recycled easily.
For every Solios watch sold, the company donates to the Rainforest Trust to restore one acre of rainforest. They also make limited edition watches to give back even more to the charities they've chosen, right now the Rainforest Trust and Make-a-Wish. Solios is pledging to become net zero from both internal and external emissions, by 2025
If you're considering upgrading from your current watch to a solar-powered one, Solios has a recycling program where you can send them your old watch to get $50 off a Solios watch.
First Impressions of Solios' Watch and Packaging
I've been exposed to a lot of sustainable fashion over the years and continue to receive email pitches from brands. My style philosophy is to put aesthetics above sustainability because if I don't think a fashion piece looks good, I won't wear it. It wouldn't matter how sustainable an item is if it's just going to sit in the back of my closet.
What attracted me to Solios Watches is how elegant the designs are. Even if I didn't know they were solar-powered and sustainable, I'd still be drawn to how classic and versatile the women's watches look. I chose the rose gold color because it seemed it would go with most outfits. When I wear it, the color complements my skin tone by almost blending in with it. It's sleek enough to feel like a piece of jewelry, but also subtle enough not to call too much attention to itself.
The Mini Solar has an even more minimalist watch case than the bigger models, doing away with minute marks. I think it's clever how the logo is incorporated into the design of the watch face in the 3 hour mark. The word "Solar" also takes place of the 6 hour mark. This has a practical function since it helps me know if the watch is facing the right side whenever I'm in a rush to put it on.
Solios engraved my name on the back of the watch for me, which I didn't think to request but thought it was a really nice and personal touch. There is one adjustment knob to set the time but I didn't have to use it because the time was already set correctly when I received it. The watch also seemed to be fully charged and working right out of the box.
I followed the instructions to use a fork to adjust the chain mesh strap to fit me. I love that the straps are interchangeable with quick-release spring bars so I can easily change up the style of my watch. I did find the vegan leather to be stiff. One strap was also a little thicker than the other for some reason. The instructions said the eco-leather would soften over time.
The watch itself felt lightweight. With the chain mesh straps, it is comfortable to wear. I can't find any noticeable difference between this solar watch and a regular watch. This particular style is one of Solios' signature models. If the battery is supposed to last a lifetime, it makes sense that the design should also be relevant for that long.
The box, which won a design prize, is sturdy and high quality, worthy of gift giving. While the box can be easily recycled, I decided to remove the inserts and use the box as storage. I use it for little knick-knacks and souvenirs, and it sits nicely on my bookshelf.
Where Are Solios Watches Made?
Every watch is designed in Canada by the co-founders, who are watch aficionados. Materials are sourced from countries around the world. The solar movement is made in Japan, the straps are French and assembled in Switzerland, and the packaging is handmade in Canada. The watch is assembled in Hong Kong. The final assembly, such as packaging and engraving, is done in their Montreal headquarters.
During my tour of Solios' new office, I'm told one of their future goals is to invest in the technology for their watches to be assembled in-house as well.
Is Solios the Best Luxury Solar Watch on the Market?
Luxury depends on your definition of it. Some people think of it in terms of branding—owning an expensive Rolex or Cartier can signal luxury by the designer name, the high price tag, and the prestige and history attached to the company.
To others, luxury can simply mean a high-quality product made with the very best materials available. In this regard, Solios Watches can be categorized as luxury. Because they are a direct-to-consumer company, their prices do not have heavy markups. After checking out other solar watches in their price range, I am of the opinion that Solios make the best solar-powered watches on the market. I haven't found any other watch company, solar or non-solar, that matches their sustainability efforts, although I have noticed European brands such as Skagen taking more green initiatives.
Recently Cartier came out with a solar version of the Tank Must Watch, also with vegan leather straps. It'll set you back £2,400 (about $3,740 CAD). I'm sure it's a very nice watch with a legacy cachet, but the average person would probably not want to spend that much money on a timepiece unless they treat it like a piece of investment jewelry that might appreciate over time. The Tank doesn't allow for easily interchangeable straps, and Cartier's solar movement is said to last 16 years before you have to change it, as opposed to Solios' lifetime.
In terms of women's watches with similar modern minimalist designs, I found one from Nordgreen, also available in rose gold and allows for interchangeable straps with vegan leather strap options. It has similar features, such as a Japanese watch movement, and the company has decent sustainability initiatives. But Nordgreen watches are not solar powered, so I think Solios is the obvious choice in the same price category.
Solios has a three-year warranty, longer than other luxury watch companies' warranties, which are usually up to two years.
Solios Mini Solar Women's Watch Review After 4 Months of Wear
I am an aspiring digital minimalist and don't always want a phone in my hand, so it's nice to quickly check the time on a wristwatch these days. (Smartwatches would stress me out, which is why I never considered getting one.) My Solios watch fits me perfectly and I usually wear it on days when I have appointments. But other times, I'll wear it out as a fashion accessory.
I'm a big fan of the rose gold mesh strap, but I haven't warmed up to the eco-leather straps. Even after I tried molding them around circular objects, they still feel stiff. I haven't worn them enough to give my best effort in softening them. Generally, I'm just not a huge fan of vegan leather accessories. The Solios straps look fine, and I'll wear it with my bookish academic outfits, but I can tell between real and fake leather upon sight.
I know there are ethical issues surrounding leather, and how sustainable they are is debatable in terms of whether leather could really be categorized as a by-product of the meat industry. As a carnivore, I have no problem with wearing leather and even prefer it since I think it's more durable, will last longer, and looks way better. I would prefer the option of having real leather watch straps. It would also be more comfortable and make the watch feel more luxurious.
If I ever really want genuine leather straps, I can find them on Etsy and from other watch brands, since the quick-release spring bars on interchangeable straps seem to be standard. I'd just look for 12mm straps.
As for the functionality of the watch, I've kept a close eye on time accuracy. So far, it has kept the exact time without any adjustments so I know it's reliable. I don't see any scratches on the sapphire glass coating either. I've been careful enough not to drop this watch so I don't know how durable it is, but so far, with my amount of wear, which is about twice a week, the watch looks as good as new. I'll write an update if I notice any discoloration or defects. But will this solar watch live up to the claim of lasting for a lifetime? Only time will tell.