Two iconic watch brands, one low price – the MoonSwatch was destined to be an astronomical collaboration. While Swatch has stressed that this wasn’t a limited edition release, it wasn’t enough to prevent crowd chaos at launches across the globe. ANGELA HAN explores what this says about consumers today and what it means for the watch industry.
Pitched tents and fold-out chairs painted a familiar picture of excitement and anticipation that was reminiscent of an Apple launch. But this time the queues weren’t for Apple – they were for Swatch.
The fanfare erupted over the long-awaited $380 MoonSwatch that was made in collaboration with Omega. Unavailable for purchase online, collectors had no choice but to travel and camp outside the boutiques to get their hands on one of the 11 solar-system inspired timepieces.
Madness ensued to such an extent that police intervention was reported at an event in Singapore, where violence broke out. The Law and Home Affairs Minister had to call for a “sense of perspective” from shoppers, saying that “we don’t need to lose our minds over these situations”.
London’s Carnaby Street boutique was forced to close over crowd safety concerns within 30 minutes of opening, and new MoonSwatch owners in Dubai had to be escorted with their purchase by law enforcement from the store to get safely through the aggressive stampede of increasingly impatient hopefuls.
It was reported that the watches sold out in under 10 minutes in Melbourne, and police had to be called to help manage the throngs of people who had lined up through the night before.
It was a similar situation at Sydney’s Pitt Street boutique; videos appeared of eager fans crowding outside the store in the wee hours of the morning wanting to wrap the iconic release around their wrist before the store’s allocation was exhausted.
While Swatch confirmed that the MoonSwatch collection is not a limited edition, and new stock would be available in the coming weeks, opportunistic scalpers were quick to list their watches on eBay where prices were inflated to 10 times the original price.
At the time of publishing, the highest bid was at AU$7,327, with 39 bidders vying for the Mission to the Moon model. The startling truth is that this price is closer to the RRP for the original Omega Speedmaster!
Making the pricepoint accessible to the masses has not stopped people from paying exorbitant prices on the secondary market for immediate access to a MoonSwatch.
With the Watches & Wonders trade fair in Geneva right around the corner and big brands such as Rolex, Cartier and Patek Phillipe launching bold new models (with equally bold price tags), it feels ironic that this modest timepiece has snatched headlines and stolen the limelight.
What does this say about consumers today, and does this herald positive news for the watch industry?
Brand value builds the queue
For watch lovers, there’s little wonder that the MoonSwatch amassed so much traction. The release celebrates one of the most iconic timepieces ever created by Omega – the Speedmaster, with the most renowned watchmaker in the world, Swatch.
While some pessimists have criticised the collaboration, bemoaning the dilution of an iconic brand, others have lauded the project. The ‘glass half full’ crowd is saying that this release lifted Swatch’s profile beyond the status of a manufacturer of cheap plastic quartz watches, with others suggesting the stage is now prepared for more exciting collaborations to come, not just for its own stable of brands, but also for others.
What both crowds seem to forget is that selling ‘cheap plastic quartz watches’ is what enabled Swatch Group to become the juggernaut that owns Omega – not the other way around!
Under the magnifying glass, it’s difficult to scrutinise the story and heritage of this project. By referencing the original Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch that was worn by Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, the collection was released with 11 colour palettes – each representing a different planet within the solar system.
At a friendly price point, it allows enthusiasts access without breaking the bank and forking out AU$7,600 for an original 42mm Professional Chronograph. The result? A golden product that conjures desirability at a price anyone could afford.
Collaborations between fast fashion and luxury designers have been going on for more than a decade and are usually well-received by consumers. It’s surprising that the conservative Swiss have only now taken a bite from this apple.
This Omega x Swatch collaboration may prove to be a spark that starts a fire amidst the resurging popularity of traditional watches. Only time will tell.
One thing is for sure: more collaborations between watch brands will most likely continue following the success of this recent event.
After all, reigniting the market share of quartz and mechanical watch-wearers from recent collectors or smartwatch converts bodes well for the industry.
This sort of marketing and innovation is welcome, especially when the traditional watch trade was said to be dated. Regardless of what the critics say, judging by the reception, this is a win for the industry.
The post-smartwatch era
For almost a decade since the widespread adoption of the Apple Watch, pundits have speculated that the tech intrusion into the market was the beginning of the end for the traditional analogue watch.
For a fraction of the cost, you can monitor your health, answer calls and set infinite reminders with a smartwatch. It’s only fair that many have asked the question: is the traditional wristwatch now obsolete?
Fast forward to 2022 consumers appear to finally have grown tired of having their lives dominated by 24-hour notifications.
As the world exits the COVID pandemic there is a growing trend for consumers to ‘declutter’ and ‘detox’ from tech, coupled with extensive social media campaigns driven by brands that are eager to highlight the beauty of traditional watchmaking, the rise in demand for traditional wristwatches has come back with a vengeance.
Might I add that we didn’t see headlines of police intervention during the 2015 launch of Apple x Hermés at the height of its popularity!
While there will always be a market for both categories, consumers today, particularly millennials, have shown a preference for classic products that withstand the test of time – this is good news for traditional watch companies, especially those with a strong brand heritage.
This growing group of aficionados proudly set themselves apart as connoisseurs of craftsmanship and history. Now is the time for brands to reinvigorate themselves and celebrate their story.
OMEGA X SWATCH MOONSWATCH
Police presence was required to man the line at Chadstone in Melbourne that
spanned hundreds of meters and began building at 6pm the previous day.
A local Melbournian vlogged the launch from 3:28am on the eve of the MoonSwatch launch at Chadstone.
Time+Tide Watches chronicles the madness of the launch at the Swatch boutique in Geneva, Switzerland.