Watching the apocalyptic 2016 documentary “Before the Flood,” which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, was a turning point for Samuel Leroux and Alexandre Desabrais.
As business students at HEC Montreal, a prestigious business school in Quebec, the two men teamed up for a university entrepreneurship contest and had been thinking about going into business together when the climate change documentary shifted their focus.
“We realized we wanted to do something to improve people’s consumption habits, make a positive impact,” Mr. Desabrais, 30, said on a video call from Solios’s new office and manufacturing center in Le Sud-Ouest, a district in Montreal. “Being watch fanatics, we knew that the industry was really conservative.”
After graduation, the men took jobs in finance to get experience and used their vacation time to make research trips to watch industry centers like Japan, Hong Kong, France and Switzerland. “I think being French Canadian really helped us because French is a language that is quite important in the watch industry, and being Canadian in this industry is quite new,” said Mr. Leroux, also 30.
Conversing fluently with watch producers in a shared language also helped them get straight to the point. “The watchmakers in Switzerland assumed we were there for the ‘Swiss Made’ movement,” Mr. Leroux said. “But we told them, ‘We’re here because you have the expertise to create a watch that would have a much lower impact on the environment. But you’re just not using your capabilities to do that!’” (The pair ultimately sourced quartz movements from Epson, a Seiko company in Japan.)
By 2019, the partners had settled on their product offering: solar-powered dress watches for men and women that would sell for $300 to $350, would be slim and elegant, and would be made from as much repurposed and recycled material as possible. Materials now include vegan leather, certified recycled stainless steel and an innovative transparent biopolymer watch face that allows the sun’s rays to reach the solar cell.