Weekends before Watches & Wonders are typically slow, like the calm before the storm. However, this past weekend, the world witnessed a something akin to a storm, and no I’m not referring to Will Smith bitch-slapping Chris Rock. For those who have not read the news in the past few days, Omega and Swatch released a collaboration of watches, modelled after the former’s iconic Moonwatch, hence the name MoonSwatch. What was surprising was a demand, so tremendous even regular national news sites picked it up. There were queues that made the lines for the first iPhones back when they were a novelty seem like a deserted island. Could this have been foreseen? Was this a marketing gimmick? Could the brands have handled the opening day better? What was the point of the release? These were all questions that came up in the aftermath of the launch (no pun intended) of the MoonSwatches. But first, let’s look at the watches themselves.
There were 11 MoonSwatches released in this collaboration. All the watches were almost exact replicas of the iconic Moonwatch and were produced in the same 42mm case size as the Moonwatch. The only obvious difference was the placement of text on the dial, with Omega x Swatch at the 12 o’ clock and “Speedmaster MoonSwatch” stretching across the middle of the dial. Each took on a “Mission to” one of the 11 astronomical bodies in our solar system i.e. the sun, moon, 8 planets, and dwarf planet Pluto. Correspondingly, the watches spanned a gamut of colours, both serious and fun. Among the more serious case colours, we had grey and black for Mercury, green and blue for Earth, bronze for Jupiter, navy for Neptune and light grey and burgundy for Pluto; besides the model for the moon, which looks identical to the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch. On the other hand, we also got fun funky colours; baby pink for Venus, Tiffany blue for Uranus (there are countless memes and jokes on this already), bright red for Mars and bright yellow for the sun. And then you have my personal favourite, the sand-coloured Saturn model with a coffee brown tachymeter bezel. What is particularly cool is that this is the only model with an image of the planet instead of a sub-dial at the 9 o’clock, which makes the dial look like a smiley face given the planet’s ring. All the watches have quartz movements. They are also made of Bioceramic which sounds fancy but from what I have heard, looks and feels more like plastic understandably so, given the US$260 (S$372) price point.
Personally, the watches look more like a Swatch with an Omega branding and aesthetic, and that’s not a knock on this collection. They look like really fun watches that we can all enjoy, watch enthusiast or not. Older kids, and teenagers in particularly came to mind, as these would be very suitable watches to draw them into the hobby. Did I have plans to rush out and buy them? No, after all, I don’t have children yet. But I was pretty sure that there would a decent number of people that would have gone out and bought them on the day of release. I was hoping that they would be those who were actually interested in the watch, and perhaps the history behind the design. Did I think that these watches were ripe for flipping? Not really, I believed that there may have been some premium in the first few weeks like the Casioak, but nothing too crazy. I could not have been more wrong.
In the two days leading up to release of the watch, scalpers began putting up posts of the MoonSwatches for sale, at multiple times their list price. Some listings were in the thousands, which sounds ridiculous given the retail price and given that the watch was not limited. There were reports of queues starting to form as early as 48 hours before the release. By eve of day of release, throngs of people had gathered at the respective Swatch stores around the world. This naturally became a tinderbox and tempers flared in some instances, with even a confrontation between a man queuing and a police officer here in Singapore. Were the people queuing for the watches scalpers? We will never really know for sure, but I like to believe that at least a sizable number were genuinely interested in the watches. Swatch did not really help matters at that point, allegedly with no apparent plan of directing the crowd, or providing for some form of queue system. Omega and Swatch seemed to have severely underestimated the potential demand for this release and were caught off guard.
To be fair to the brands though, perhaps this was a result of the watches being accidentally leaked two days early by a reputable Singapore based watch media company. Prior to that, it seemed that Omega and Swatch were content to tease the release right up till the actual launch on 26 March. That would have meant that any significant rush in demand would only have occurred in the time following the release and would unlikely have built up in the manner that it did. Then again, perhaps the brands got extremely lucky with the way things played out, given how it became a perfect storm of publicity for the brands.
While I initially thought that this was a good move to generate interest in Swatch, there were also many on forums and social media that feared that these releases would dilute the Omega brand, particularly the clout of its arguably bestselling Speedmaster Moonwatch model. However, I firmly believe that this release has now given Omega far greater credibility that it can potentially be the investment watch that Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe are. I don’t enjoy making statements like these but undoubtedly, a significant portion, perhaps even a majority of the interest in these three brands today, stem from their investment value. After all, a Rolex Professional model likely sees a higher, more guaranteed return on investment that most other assets. And while Omega has one or two models in its past that have hit similar heights, it has never been able to replicate it with any form of consistency. However, the furor around this release has now put Swatch, yes, but I’d argue Omega even more so, firmly in the eyes of customers who would not normally count as watch enthusiasts. This also makes me wonder if there is any possibility that the leaks were intentional. Of course, I have to qualify that I do not have any statistics to back up my views, and I for one certainly hope that the interest in these fun MoonSwatches go on to bring in new watch enthusiasts to the hobby. Ideally, I would love to see all the customers for these watches now taking an interest in Swatch watches and taking interest in Omega watches because of the wonderful illustrious history these two brands have, and the quality of the watchmaking that they bring to the table. But the cynical side of me finds that hard to believe unfortunately. Only time will tell. On the bright side, Swatch has come out to announce that these MoonSwatches will be available online from 8 April 2022 and interested customers would be able to purchase as many pieces as they like. Kudos to Omega and Swatch for taking this step.
Back to the watches themselves, I think they are a brilliant collection from the two brands, hype aside. They are fun and funky and affordable. If production truly catches up with demand in the coming weeks, they would certainly make great value options for those interested.
Written by @wildwristwatch. Thanks Philologus!