It’s 02:45am, my phone alarm goes off, and I wish I had a Rube Goldberg machine to make me breakfast — or just pour coffee over my face. Fifteen minutes later, I’m in my car, on my way to pick-up a friend and drive to Vienna, Austria, the nearest place to my hometown with a Swatch boutique the brand graced with the authority to carry the latest hype watch, the Omega Swatch MoonSwatch. Or, as it’s rarely called (but it says it on the dial, so I’ll say it, too) the Omega Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch.
How I Got My Hands On Uranus, The MoonSwatch In Highest Demand
By now you all are familiar, I’m sure, with this
plastic BioCeramic watch that sports both the Omega name and an Omega design. Likewise, you have probably contemplated how this collaboration even came to be, why it became the subject of such hype and desirability, and you certainly already know whether you are dreaming of a full collection or dislike them all. However, it’s precisely because our respective approach to this whole thing could mature over this period that we should (re-)visit the MoonSwatch and give it a proper review. And, to match the strangeness of a watch that says both Omega and Swatch on it, this review shall begin with the hurdle of buying a MoonSwatch, in the first place.
And so, back to that early morning for one more not-so-brief moment because:
It’s a question I’ve been asked countless times: How I did get my hands on Uranus, the MoonSwatch with the highest resale price after the launch, easily fetching over $3,000?
Some 2.5 hours of driving later, we arrive at the boutique – one of two in Vienna to carry the MoonSwatch on launch day, which is ironic since there were zero places to get them in all of Los Angeles, or, for what it’s worth, Norway, Finland, or Hungary. It’s not even 6am, at this point, but there are at least 70-80 people in front of us already – I speak with the guys up front and they tell me they arrived at 8pm on the day before and spent the chilling early-spring Austrian night in sleeping bags on the doorsteps of the store. Reports had it that folks Stateside camped outside Swatch stores two full days ahead of time.
The queue keeps on growing in an admirably Austrian fashion: in undisturbed order. As it’s getting brighter and warmer, people in the queue – a mix of watch enthusiasts and not-that-watch-savvy youngsters who were queueing for special-edition sneakers the week before – start chatting with each other. Sure enough, rumors begin flying around, everyone “better informed” than the other on how many pieces of the new MoonSwatch a Swatch-approved boutique will receive. 100? Per reference? 150 altogether? Customers in Asia – who had already gotten their pieces thanks to the time difference – have been reporting very low stocks, maybe 15-20 pieces per each of the 11 different MoonSwatch models named after planetary bodies, from the giant star at the centre of the solar system to the dwarf planet at its periphery.
We all appreciate the fact that the boutique, to our surprise, opens an hour early and, with the assistance of a sufficiently strict safety guard, it begins to allow customers in – a maximum of three, if they are in a group, at a time. As this happens, the Austrian queueing discipline begins to show its cracks as people in front of us start inviting friends and relatives (who hadn’t been queueing) to join them… Which they might as well since Swatch, at the last minute, halved the per-customer allowance of the new Omega Swatch MoonSwatch to just one single piece. This, mind you, is still perfectly acceptable when comparing it to what reports say others have experienced in select places in Asia, as well as in London, where there were no orderly queues, just stampede by the entrance — something Swatch in hindsight (but arguably also in foresight) should have prepared for at least a little better, given the fact that people had already been camping outside their stores and given the absolutely incredible online responses.
The queue behind us grew to what I estimate to well over 1,000 people by the time boutique opened, with many of those towards the end, I suspect, queueing not even knowing what it is they are standing in line for, just there because so many other people already are.
Passersby just out for a morning coffee in Vienna would often come up to us and ask “–What are you all queueing for? (…) – A watch?!“
Although the early opening was, as I said, appreciated, the boutique staff didn’t do much to inform the masses whether or not it will reap them any benefit whatsoever to spend their morning queueing on a square. When it is known roughly 150 watches had been received and there is a queue of well over 1,000 people, it’s easy to eyeball the difference and do the courtesy of informing the crowd of their needless efforts. Sales had already been going on for some time when one of the sales staff exited the store, stood on a chair and proclaimed: “80 watches remaining” and a short while later: “50 watches remaining!”
By the time my friend and I entered the store, we were told only 4 of the 11 references were still available: Earth, Sun, Pluto and, get this, Uranus. I chose Uranus simply because I found it amusing that the stiff Swiss watch industry couldn’t avoid producing a watch that said Anus on it twice. More specifically, it says MISSION TO URANUS, in all caps. Think of me what you will, having handled tens of thousands of watches whose design and presentation are best described as competitively stiff, conservative and unfunny I just had to have a Swiss watch with MISSION TO URANUS on it. It makes me think of all the meetings that must have taken place on this matter.
I spoke with some of the folks first leaving the store with Swatch bags or MoonSwatch boxes in their hands – and big smiles on their faces – to learn which references they favored. Turns out, Mercury and Moon, the two references most closely imitating the Moonwatch luxury watch by Omega, were proving to be the most popular. Frankly, I was also expecting these to have the highest resale value for that very reason… But that’s not how it turned out. You see, watch enthusiasts are often wired differently when it comes to design and functionality preferences – not to mention our remarkable tolerance towards poor value propositions in the greater scheme of things – and so, news shortly after the launch began circling that the MoonSwatch fetching the highest bids on eBay and other auctions, as well as on fixed price listings, was the Omega Swatch MoonSwatch Uranus model. Is it because it’s “Tiffany Blue?” – and the excessive use of quotation marks is warranted. I paid €250 for mine, not $3,500, so I really don’t know.
Rocking the latest hype watch before anyone else certainly opens up great many thick wallets, and, as is probably no news to you, many in the world today can afford three grand to be able to pride themselves for a week or two for wearing the latest “I have it and you have it not” product. Three grand is less than a “proper upgrade” on an intercontinental flight and once you’ve shelled out $35,000 for a “Tiffany Blue” (which it isn’t) bog-standard Rolex Oyster Perpetual, three or so thousand for another hype watch of the same color really is no stretch to you.
A Note On Flipping The MoonSwatch
Many friends and fellow watch enthusiasts around me have flipped out over flippers, i.e. those who queued and purchased the Omega Swatch MoonSwatch with the specific intention of selling it a moment later for as high a profit as possible. I’m of the seemingly less popular opinion that flipping the MoonSwatch should be looked at differently than flipping a Rolex, Audemars Piguet or Patek Philippe. You see, many around the world have aspired for years and sometimes decades to own a watch from some of these luxury brands – to no avail. We all know how it goes: The time comes (an important moment worth celebrating and immortalizing with a luxury watch that can last generations), the aspiring customer walks into the boutique and then is immediately confronted by the unavailability of their first, second and third choice of watch, with a sip of coffee and a spot on a bottomless waiting list generously offered instead.
Why? Because those in the position to spend high five- or six-figures sometimes enjoy a privileged position as in their demand for the same watch gets fulfilled because they have, in essence, bought their way into the favor of these brands. And who in their right mind would not want to satisfy a returning customer? Put your hand over your heart and tell me you, as a business owner, wouldn’t consider that to be the most important thing to do. What happens however is that some of these customers use this privileged status to purchase watches they don’t want or need only to make back some of their spendings by flipping unworn, high-demand watches for often tens of thousands of dollars over what they paid for it.
The MoonSwatch is different in that many, though not all, prospective owners had the option to wake up in the middle of the night, take a train ride or spend half a day driving, queue, or arrive a day early and sleep in a bag… Do whatever it takes to get the watch they say they so truly and desperately wanted. The difference is that — again, not all — many were given the chance to get far out of their comfort zone and buy a watch. And those who did are the ones who actually ended up with one.
And so the race begins. Those who missed out are now all lined up against one another, bidding on the available watches, essentially paying a premium to purchase their comfort through the discomfort and effort of somebody else. And as long as there are people out there ready to pay $3,000 for what basically is a concierge service of having someone else queue to buy a product you don’t actually need, well, then said service is going to cost $3,000. Some of my friends find this offensive. I don’t, although I do feel sorry for those who lived too far or for personal reasons couldn’t make themselves available on the day of the launch. I disagree, however, with the notion that this flipping is the same as is happening with Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and some other luxury watches. I wonder what the greater community thinks about this matter – should MoonSwatch flippers be hung drawn and quartered, or are they acting correctly when, in essence, ripping the rich off for refusing to queue?
Is The Omega Swatch MoonSwatch A Good Watch?
In vacuum – fitting for the theme – yes, it is. In comparison to what $260 gets you out there?
Hell no. It’s a rather poor value proposition.
As far as the former is concerned, the MoonSwatch works for a number of reasons. First, it’s a fun reinterpretation of a watchmaking icon – one of the few actually worthy of this overused label. It’s just a fun watch that is amusing to wear because it allows us to look at something we’ve seen countless times in new light and, in fact, a new texture. The way the Omega Moonwatch is presented with colorful cases and dials and straps is just, there’s no other word for it, huge fun – fun to look at a glance, fun to take its nuances in, fun to see how such a calculated and honed design acts when it’s in
Tiffany baby blue, eye-watering yellow or bold pink. Second, it’s reasonably comfortable and legible and that means it works as a watch.
As far as the latter is concerned, when $260 gets you a titanium bracelet, titanium case, solar movement and a sapphire crystal front from Citizen, the incredibly scratch-prone front “crystal” and plasticky case, the cheap quartz movement and the Velcro-ish strap are a joke in comparison. And you know what? I’d forgive all these to the MoonSwatch if not for two things. First, just because something is cheap (not that cheap at $260), that doesn’t mean it has to be terribly lacking in durability. My MoonSwatch Uranus shows weird scratch mark lines on the top of the lugs, goodness knows from what, and the front “crystal” is all scratched up – some say that’s how they lifted the watch from the box and, frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. As I said in my Joker review: horological fun only works if it is combined with quality of execution. And that holds true even when you’re in the sub-$300 bracket, because seeing your fun new possession get destroyed so fast sort of erodes the fun, at least for me.
Second, there are some considerably quality control issues.
The lower right lug on my watch has a piece of fabric stuck into the BioCeramic mold and it cannot be removed – it’s been there since my first shots I took of it the moment I got it out of the box. It’s so large it can easily be seen with the naked eye, once you know it’s there. Some have reported staining on their wrist from the strong dye in some models. Third, I just can’t tolerate misaligned seconds hands. When you’re Swatch and you have Swatch Group money and ETA know-how, certainly a machine could be installed that ensured a friggin’ seconds hand was hitting on a marker in a $260 quartz watch in 2022? Is that so much to ask from a horological giant?
The Swatch Group and its Swatch and Omega brands have earned the respect and indeed celebration of watch lovers worldwide. Combining a luxury brand name and one of its core designs and model names with such an unmentionable (for luxury brands) price point is the boldest move the watch industry has seen for decades. And you know what? The strength of a brand and a true icon – if the industry and some journalists insist on calling it that – should, by all means, be measured in its confidence, and there’s no better test of confidence than being exposed to ridicule. Or maybe a charging tiger, but that’s another thing. The decision is as unexpected as it is praiseworthy.
The execution? It is clear the watch industry is not used to handling hype – or the masses, in general – in any way, shape, or form. There’s good reason most brands procrastinated joining YouTube and social media for as long as they could get away with. There are just too many people there to handle. Likewise, Swatch failed at the successful launch of the MoonSwatch, and I say that because I refuse the theory that such an under-supply was planned and executed to strengthen hype around the two brands.
Furthermore, the quality of this product is poor even by cheap-ish watch standards: it’s way too fragile and plasticky and QC, bearing in mind that this isn’t representative information with regards to the full production run, appears to be quite poor.
The hype is real and warranted: This is a praiseworthy step outside the thick-walled comfort zone of luxury watchmakers and, I think, a brilliant move to consciously and subconsciously make the masses find the original Omega Moonwatch highly desirable. Because the Moonwatch remains the real deal, the watch that went to the flipping moon. And a colorful plastic tribute will not change its iconic status – rather direct more attention at it.
Each of the 11 iterations of the Omega Swatch Moonswatch retail for $260 and at the time of writing they still remain unavailable online or, in fact, in those few boutiques Swatch chose to carry the collection. Currently the starting price for a MoonSwatch second hand is $490 online and up depending on the variant. You can learn more at the brand’s website.