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.
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!
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.
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!
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.