Casio NASA21 – The Hype Machine Cometh

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The watch market is increasingly based on FOMO: fear of missing out. Hot watches are Beanie Babies for grown-ups. Once a product’s popularity is switched on by the interwebz-fueled hype machine, there’s no turning back. And there’s no telling how far the price of sought-after models will rise. Watches like the new G-SHOCK DW5600 NASA21 . . .

When Casio announced they were issuing a commemorative edition of the venerated “Square” DW-5600, I observed the feeding frenzy firsthand. The theme: the fortieth anniversary of NASA’s first Space Shuttle launch.

Though the NASA21 isn’t Casio’s first G-Shock NASA special edition, the latest homage stirred-up a lot of excited chatter on the Casio online forums and groups during the weeks leading up to its release.

The Casio NASA21 was set to launch (pre-order) at the official G-SHOCK website on April 12 at 7:00 am – exactly 40 years to the hour after the shuttle launch on April 12, 1981. Casio priced the new square at $140, limiting sales to one per household.

I’m in, I thought. I’m up by seven for work. I don’t leave for the office until 7:40 am. That gave me a forty-minute launch window of opportunity.

On your marks! Get set… GO!

On April 12th, it was all systems go. I had the G-Shock DW-5600 NASA21 web page queued up. I literally counted down from 10 seconds out, and at precisely 7:00 am, I hit the refresh button, expecting to see the Pre-Order button. Nothing. Clicked again. Nothing. Clicked again . . . the Pre-Order button appeared. I tapped it like Jerry Miculek’s Smith & Wesson Model 627.

Halfway through the buying process, the page froze and kicked me off. I had to start over. Then PayPal didn’t work. Rinse and repeat. Aaaaaaargh! I had the page open on both my laptop and my phone. While one was hung up, I was on the other trying again.

Finally, after about 20 minutes of frenzied clicking and typing, I got all the way through the sales process and successfully purchased a Casio NASA21. ETA: May 2021. (Review to follow.)

Live by the Gouge . . .

Satisfied and proud of my perseverance, I surfed to WatchUSeek.com’s Casio sub-forum to hear the word on the virtual street. I discovered I was one of the lucky few. Many aspiring Casio NASA21 owners couldn’t get through to the watchmaker’s servers at the appointed hour. Or anytime thereafter.

In less than an hour, the model sold out. In less than an hour, “confirmed pre-order” listings appeared on eBay – a promise to transfer the watch once the flipper received the goods. For triple or quadruple the price. Those meezerable cork-suckin’ bastages! Fargin’ iceholes!

They Call Them Flippers

Many successful NASA21 purchasers were flippers using bots, overwhelming G-SHOCK’s website. Needless to say, this angered the horological hoi polloi. Losing out to flippers poured salt in the wound. These were G-SHOCK and space travel enthusiasts who wanted the watch to wear. They got left out. It’s not fair! they cried. Copy that, I whispered.

This is what happens whenever highly-anticipated limited editions are announced or slated to be discontinued by over-hyped brands (I’m looking at you, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe). The horological gold rush is no longer limited to haute horologie. It’s trickled down to Casio. Casio! For THIS! This silly, cartoonish, rocket-themed plastic watch.

Now What?

I don’t think there is a good “answer” to the problem of too-limited limited editions and the predators who make money exploiting them. Such solutions are often worse than the problem.

We’re dealing with human nature. We watch addicts are a fickle, desirous bunch competing for a limited supply of over-valued trinkets. Except now, you don’t have to personally jockey for position in line at the local brick and mortar store with your neighbors. You no longer need to get up a zero-dark-hundred to ensure your place at the front of the line.

But now you are competing with the ENTIRE WORLD with their fingers poised on a mouse button or hovering over a phone screen. Worse, you are competing with automated bots being employed by professional flippin‘ flippers!

Life During Wartime

Thanks to Al Gore’s Internet, news of a desirable watch release spreads like wildfire. An anticipated shortage provokes panic buying. Got toilet paper? Even if a timepiece isn’t intentionally limited by the manufacturer, demand can easily outstrip supply, driving prices through the stratosphere. Last year’s NASA commemorative, the DW5600 NASA20, is selling on eBay for somewhere between $650 and a grand.

Opportunism is part of human nature. Where there is a need or demand, opportunists will appear. Technology brings the world to our doors. Unfortunately, it also brings the REST of the world to our doors, competing for the same things.

Yet, there’s hope for those who live near Soho (NY) or wherever the “select G-SHOCK retailers” are! From Casio’s press release about the NASA21:

I just hope that the day doesn’t come when I’ll have to suck up to a Casio AD and establish a “relationship,” just so I can get on a coveted “waiting list.” In the meantime, it seems the only option is to battle it out in the virtual retail Colosseum. As always, to the victor go the spoils.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Casio follows Rolex template. Create scarcity and make watch desirable. Will be working for some time until it is not.

  2. It seems like a late 90’s Beanie Baby effect where a small group of diehard collectors meets “perfect information” leads to entry of speculators. They create a feedback loop by simultaneously increasing demand and lowering available supply. Eventually secondary market prices will fail to meet expectations, the resellers will jump ship, and it all reverses.

    Indeed, any attempts to curb this will only lead to more subterfuge and bigger problems.

    • Exactly. I remember a friend bragging to me about his Beanie Baby that was “worth $1200.” I told him, “Then you better sell it NOW. Because before long, you won’t be able to unload it for 50 cents at a garage sale.”

    • Comic book back issues are currently in a speculative bubble, and are probably overdue for a “correction”. The dirty little secret is that what is driving up demand for key issues are people who spend significantly more time watching films or tv shows adapted from comic books than actually reading comic books. The actual audience for comic books (in the traditional sense of the word) is shrinking steadily and getting older.

  3. Oh wow, nice catch on seeing that it was back for sale again! I’m going to pass on this one, but a watch pal of mine just ordered it. So on his behalf, thanks!

    I wonder if Casio did this as a way to keep some units for later, knowing there would be piles of frustrated fans after that initial sale. If so, then I’m cool with that. It’s better than selling the whole lot to the bots during the first go around.

    • I have to admit laughing today when I thought about the scalpers / flippers with their listings on eBay at multiples of the MSRP. Suckas!

      It’s now almost 7pm, and the site is still selling them. I think it’s great! But, eventually, they’ll decide to turn the “limited edition” faucet off, and they’ll become “hot” again.

  4. Update… even though the “Buy Now” button is still there… it’s a fake-out! If you click it, you’ll get an out of stock notification. Usually G-Shock’s site replaces the Buy Now button with an “out of stock” notification.
    Those fargin iceholes! Fooled me.

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