Renata, the power source for the Swiss watch industry, introduced its new line of 0% mercury silver oxide watch batteries March 2010 at BASELWORLD. The timing of this important Swiss watch fair represented the perfect opportunity for Renata’s innovative new product launch.
The battery industry voluntarily eliminated mercury from batteries in the 1990’s, with the exception of button cells. While mercury 1.35V watch batteries were banned from sale in the US more than 15 years ago, today the vast majority of watch batteries continue to contain a few milligrams of mercury. Mercury is added to the Zinc during the battery production process of alkaline (LR novelty), silver oxide (SR watch) and zinc-air (ZA hearing aid) button cell batteries. There is no mercury added during the production of lithium batteries (CR).
Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine enacted laws banning the sale or distribution of button-cells containing mercury or the sale of devices powered by button cells containing mercury. These laws were originally scheduled for implementation on July 1, 2011. Maine modified their laws to target the vast majority of the problem with silver oxide battery types by limiting this requirement initially to five (5) types #357, 364, 371, 377, 379 only, while including all zinc-air and alkaline button cells – until January 2015, at which point all button-cell batteries must be mercury free. NEMA believed other states might harmonize their laws making them consistent with Maine, with regard to initially limiting the transition to 5 types, yet this did not occur in our world of changing laws. The attached chart indicates our understanding of the current status (as of 10-2011) of the laws in these 3 key states, enacted just as the prior laws were scheduled for implementation.
Louisiana has also enacted a law that bans the sale of all mercury containing batteries after July 1, 2012; yet this law only addresses mercury levels greater than 10mg/cell. No Renata battery contains this much mercury. Generally, the average Renata SR battery has contained less mercury than other major brands for many years.
RENATA LAUNCHES 0% MERCURY SILVER OXIDE BATTERIES:
Producing mercury free watch batteries has been a major focus over the past several years at Renata. The launch of Renata’s 0% mercury silver oxide batteries takes place well ahead of current US legal requirements.
An updated Manufacturing Program and Cross Reference Guide are shown here to the right. Please note the color codes indicating when various 0% mercury silver oxide types became available from the factory. The most important types were released in the US in all packaging formats last summer, followed by additional waves covering the last few remaining types through April of 2011.
At Renata, a watch battery is truly never a finished product. Improvements of every kind are constantly underway, especially in areas of quality control and production streamlining. However, the production of 0% mercury silver oxide batteries represents the first major overhaul of this product line in more than a decade. Renata’s product development team is very excited about their progress. In fact, a substantial volume of these batteries have been placed in use prior to the official launch, and today, RENATA 0% mercury silver oxide batteries are readily available across the US. Overall battery performance and leakproofness appear absolutely excellent!
Although the changing laws in the US drove demand for a mercury free product, several major chains as well as many of Renata’s famous OEM customers made the commitment to Renata’s 0% mercury product 100% – nationally and worldwide. Our current with mercury added product may remain in the distribution pipeline for some time; however, it must be removed from Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island by July 1, 2011, in order to remain compliant. (This includes watches and batteries for sale and all incoming repairs too!)
As you can imagine, this research and development has been a very expensive undertaking. In addition, although the strength of the US Dollar has improved over the past several months, it remains relatively weak compared to the Swiss Franc. Further, the cost of raw materials has continued to grow, especially silver. All battery manufacturers have begun raising prices to their dealers, therefore consumers should expect to begin paying higher prices too.
ALL BATTERIES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL!
Renata has two manufacturing programs; one is for industrial OEM requirements, the other for the consumer replacement market. Due to the tremendously long period of time involved in the watch production and distribution process, from battery installation to consumer sale, batteries utilized for original equipment are inevitably expected to last the longest. In response to this OEM demand, Renata has developed a few important battery types with ultra-high capacities. These batteries will only be sold in bulk, and will come with a slightly higher price tag. (Higher capacity = more silver.) As you can see by comparing mAh ratings of Renata with competitive brands, Renata produces some of the longest lasting battery capacities available, for both our consumer and industrial lines.
With the exception of date codes, can markings will remain unchanged. The date codes for the new 0% mercury product will remain unmasked – yet will become alphanumeric. Only two digits will be used, with the first indicating the year of production, and the second the month – with 0, Y, or Z used for October, November and December (09 = September 2010). Current packaging designs will largely remain the same; yet the new product will additionally be marked “0% mercury.” Click here to read more about freshness date codes for Mercury Free product.
A Special Feature Editorial on Mercury Free Button-Cells
is available for you! View Publication Here