1:Face Watch keeps on giving

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      With a week (or less) before the big day, the niggling fear of not finding the right gift for everyone on your list could turn into a full-blown panic. So when something stylish arrives that suits both men and women, comes in an array of colours, and helps others here at home and around the world, it’s time to take notice. Bonus points: not having to face crowded stores or malls because it can be purchased online and sent directly to the recipient.

      The product in question is the 1:Face Watch, a mirrored, retro-futuristic, square-faced LED digital watch that’s connected to various charities, depending on the timepiece’s colour. “I like to call it consumerism at its best,” says Marc Herman, director of the Canadian branch of the 1:Face Watch social enterprise. “You buy a watch for your loved one and the watch keeps on giving too.”

      The watches were conceived approximately two years ago by Chicago-based brand developers Mirza Minds and are loosely based on the runaway success of Toms shoes, which gives a pair of shoes to an underprivileged child for every pair bought.

      After a 16-second appearance last December on Good Morning America that included a Justin Bieber name-drop, over 20,000 watches were sold in a single day. Thanks to sales in 2013, the company was able to donate over $350,000 to the American Cancer Society, just one of the charities it sponsors.

      But rather than focus on a dollar amount or percentage, 1:Face Watch prefers to use metrics, such as five yellow Education watches sold will fund a child’s annual school fees in a developing nation through Pencils of Promise, or one grey Hunger watch will provide food for 16 people in conjunction with international charity One Day’s Wages.

      “It was the uniqueness of the idea that first got me excited,” says Herman, a British expat who came to Canada via Cape Town, South Africa.

      The Canadian version, which he launched in January of this year, runs along the same lines as the U.S. chapter, but with different charitable organizations reaping the benefits. Each $60 watch bought online from the Vancouver-based company at 1 Facewatch website or at Below the Belt locations is allied with one of nine local, national, or international charities such as the B.C. SPCA (orange), the David Suzuki Foundation (blue), the Canadian Cancer Society (pink and black), and Keep a Child Alive (red), which provides AIDS medications to children in Africa. A 10th, black touchscreen watch rules them all, Lord of the Rings–style, with proceeds from its sale ($110) benefiting all nine charities.

      Herman picked up the Canadian rights to 1:Face Watch (other outlets exist in Venezuela, South Africa, Germany, and South Korea) and hit the ground running, reaching out to Canadian charities. It was a crash course in the charitable landscape of his adopted country, a process that ended up taking longer than expected. Some charities weren’t interested unless Herman and 1:Face Watch could guarantee a monthly donation figure that was above his social-enterprise means. Others, such as the David Suzuki Foundation, have only recently signed on as partners. His plans include expanding the range of watches and working with even more local and Canadian organizations.

      “When I moved to Canada, I found I wanted to use my work to make a difference,” Herman says. “But after my daughter was born, I knew I had to make a difference. Ultimately, this will help her inherit a better world, and that’s the best gift I can give her.”