The Strap Tailor has hand-made luxury watch straps in the Ukrainian national colours

The watch and jewellery industry is not noted for its nimbleness — but it has been quick to mobilise charitable initiatives in support of Ukraine.

Within 10 days of Russia’s invasion of its neighbour, more than 50 jewellers had launched fundraising programmes in support of Ukraine, while watchmakers and watch enthusiasts likewise responded with initiatives.

Big luxury goods groups have also weighed in: LVMH gave €5mn to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Kering and Richemont made “significant” donations to the UNHCR — the UN refugee agency, and to Médecins Sans Frontières, respectively.

Much of the support has been linked to special edition pieces that aid charities directly. Jeweller Annoushka Ducas has announced that proceeds from her Helping Hands collection — comprising 14ct gold pendants with Helping, Loving and Hoping Hands motifs — would go to the British Red Cross, at least until the end of this month.

Annoushka Ducas pendant
Annoushka Ducas pendant

Ducas herself is half-Russian, her grandparents having fled the country in 1922 after the revolution, ending up in England via Berlin and Paris. “I’m unbelievably conscious that they were refugees leaving Russia into not a dissimilar situation,” she says. “That was a long time ago and I never thought it was going to happen again. So for me, it is very personal.”

Meanwhile, watch writer Justin Hast has teamed up with UK-based outfitter The Strap Tailor, which hand-makes luxury watch straps. They created special Nato straps in the Ukrainian national colours, selling 730 within four days, with profits of £12,000 going to the British Red Cross.

Jewellery has also drawn attention to the war through the media. Russian state television editor Marina Ovsyannikova was seen wearing a choker-style necklace in Ukraine’s national colours after gatecrashing the evening news broadcast last month to protest against the war.

Russian TV editor Marina Ovsyannikova wearing a choker in blue and yellow following her on-air protest © AFP via Getty Images

Several designers have created pieces in the Ukrainian national livery. Bibi van der Velden crafted one of her signature alligator gems in striking blue topaz and yellow citrine (€5,240), with proceeds donated to Unicef.

Swiss-Danish watchmaker Linde Werdelin released the 3 Timer Ukraine watch with a customised dial and matching strap in blue and yellow. Limited to 33 pieces, the watch was priced at £5,500, with profits going to the British Red Cross.

Linde Werdelin watch
Linde Werdelin watch

Ukraine’s national flower was the starting point for London-based jeweller Anabela Chan. Her Sunflower Bloom earrings (£1,590) feature her signature recycled aluminium and laboratory-grown gemstones, including two yellow sapphires. The earrings launched on March 2, with a pledge to donate net proceeds to Care and Save the Children UK, to support families in Ukraine. More than £5,000 was raised in the first week, says Chan.

Chan’s commitment to lab-grown stones and artisanal mines has also shone a light on sourcing: Russia accounts for about a third of the world’s diamonds. “Choosing wisely whom you work with and where your materials come from has become more apparent,” she says.

“Thirty to 40 per cent of the world’s diamonds are Russian. That’s a significant percentage. Do you want to work with that? Do you want to be a part of that supply chain and the atrocities that are going on?”

Anabela Chan earrings
Anabela Chan earrings

Some brands are focusing on their platforms as jewellers, rather than on products. “I feel very uncomfortable using crises to push product,” says jeweller Lauren Adriana. In early March, Adriana highlighted on social media the work of a close friend who was delivering medical supplies to the front lines in Ukraine, ultimately raising more than 21,000.

Also shunning product is London-based online jeweller Atelier Romy. Instead, the brand is organising an Instagram fundraiser with Viky Rader, a Ukrainian-born, Munich-based fashion influencer who is assisting Ukrainian refugees arriving in Germany with housing, childcare and mental health support. Atelier Romy founder Sabine Roemer says supporting a philanthropic agency did not feel right, especially with the lack of transparency around administrative costs.

“I saw the hell that Viky was going through, and I’d rather help her and her community than a big organisation,” says Roemer. “You can see the difference you make with smaller projects.”

By far the most significant collective effort in watchmaking circles has been the #WatchFamforUkraine Solidarity Auction, which raised $249,246. Organised by collectors’ group RedBar in collaboration with watch publication Revolution, all proceeds will go to World Central Kitchen, which is feeding refugees at border crossings such as those in Poland and Moldova, as well as supporting restaurants in Ukrainian cities.

Kathleen McGivney, RedBar chief executive, says that, when she proposed the idea, she received commitments from five other parties the same day. “I saw this immediate need for help. Millions of Ukrainians have left their homes and, if they’re displaced, food is the most basic thing that they need.”

Within weeks, she had received 50 donations, which were sold on March 25-28 on online auction site Loupe This. Brands such as Longines, Oris, William Wood and Bamford London participated with special watches and pre-owned watch website WatchBox donated a Rolex Submariner.

All proceeds from the the Swiss-made Bamford London Solidarity GMT go to WCK

The auction included experiences, too, such as a private tour of the Grönefeld atelier in the Netherlands, including beers with the “Horological Brothers” who manage the company. Industry veterans, including Breitling chief executive Georges Kern and William Massena, donated watches from their personal collections.

“I love that sense of community, where William is taking a watch off of his wrist which is completely sold out and going for two to three times retail on the secondary market,” McGivney said before the auction.

Also channelling the collective spirit is a Vanity Fair jewellery editor Annabel Davidson, who was visiting gemstone mines in Brazil when the war broke out. She is partnering with the Cruzeiro mine, which is donating pairs of blue tourmaline and yellow heliodore, as Davidson invites jewellers to create any jewel they fancy with the stones.

Are you personally affected by the War in Ukraine? We want to hear from you

Refugees fleeing Ukraine

Are you from Ukraine? Do you have friends and family in or from Ukraine whose lives have been upended? Or perhaps you’re doing something to help those individuals, such as fundraising or housing people in your own homes. We want to hear from you. Tell us via a short survey.

Several designers have already signed up, including Brazilian jewellers Ana Khouri, Ara Vartanian and Carla Amorim, as well as New Zealand-born, London-based Jessica McCormack. The pieces will be sold in a social media raffle, the first one coming later this month. Proceeds will go to the Hope and Homes for Children charity, in aid of Ukrainian orphans, who are especially vulnerable to trafficking once moving between countries.

“Many of us are mums and, though the war has nothing to do with us, we can use our platforms [to bring attention to it and raise money]”, says Davidson. “It shows that the jewellery community has a big, generous heart.”

Get alerts on Philanthropy when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article