The expression “jump the shark” comes from the fifth season of the TV sitcom Happy Days, While “Fonzi’s” stunt didn’t end the series’ popularity, “jumped the shark” now means “a point at which far-fetched events are included for the sake of novelty, indicative of a decline in quality.” Hence my take on the Swatch X OMEGA MoonSwatch.
[NB: I was on sabbatical when the MoonSwatch hit the scene. Catching up now.]
OMEGA makes damn fine watches. Their movements move me. Up until the release of the Moonswatch, the watchmakers’ mega-tsunami of models was my only complaint. The watchmaker cranks out hundreds of models in nine “styles.”
OMEGA violates the first rule of sales: make it easy to buy. If you want a Moonwatch – commonly identified as a Speedmaster – you have 23 main choices encompassing 135 separate models. In contrast, Rolex makes five easily distinguishable Rolex Submariners.
Rolex is a more coveted brand than OMEGA. This despite the fact that Rolex makes one million watches a year, while OMEGA makes half-a-million. If you’re looking for a reason, well, there it is: overchoice.
It’s also why Rolex has all-grail watches (save the Cellini Moonphase), while OMEGA has the Moonwatch. Which it sold to the Swatch Group. Who created a nearasdammmit copy of OMEGA’s iconic Speedmaster “Moonwatch” Professional Chronograph (reviewed here).
Swatch CEO Nick Hayek Jr. calls the MoonSwatch a “nod to the Speedmaster.” The text and logos adorning the watch tell a different story; it’s less of a nod and more of a billboard. Swatch’s website pulls no punches.
What takes this collection into orbit is the fusion of the most innovative Swatch BIOCERAMIC material with the key Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch design elements. There’s the asymmetrical case, the iconic ‘dot over ninety’ on the tachymeter scale and the distinctive Speedmaster subdials.swatch.com
The MoonSwatch is a plastic – sorry “biometric” slap in the face to anyone who spent thousands on a new or pre-owned Speedmaster.
Yes, Speedmaster buyers still have bragging rights amongst the cognoscenti. But they now face the ever-growing prospect of bumping into someone wearing a MoonSwatch. Just knowing MoonSwatches are out there, somewhere, is an affront to a real deal collector.
Swatch CEO Nick Hayek Jr. has no qualms about his $260 replica’s impact on anything other than his employer’s bottom line. He’s over the moon about MoonSwatch mania, celebrating the crowds who gathered at Swatch stores, many of whom walked away MoonSwatch-less.
Get this: Mr.Hayek reckons he’s doing OMEGA – indeed the entire Swiss watch industry – a big favor.
“At one point, you will destroy the dream and the legacy of the Swiss watch industry because only a small number of people will have access to the stories of brands like Breguet, Patek Philippe, Omega and Rolex. You will lose the interest of the younger generation who cannot get access. We have to create the bridge.”scmp.com
So wearing a knock-off of a famous watch makes you want to buy a famous watch instead of a knock-off? Anway, why did OMEGA let Swatch make a cheap copy of its crown jewel? Money.
If OMEGA gets 50 percent of the retail price on a million MoonSwatches, they’ll bank $130m. If Swatch sell two million MoonSwatches, OMEGA will be depositing a cool quarter billion dollars in their corporate coffers.
As for the damage to OMEGA’s rep, we haven’t heard a peep from OMEGA’s PR peeps. Here’s how scmp.com’s unnamed STYLE reporter spins it:
It has proved successful for both Omega and Swatch. Sales for both brands have surged since the release of the MoonSwatch in March 2022. Hayek won’t be drawn into speculation about other collaborations within or outside the Swatch Group, even though rumours have been rife about a Swatch x Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. “2023 will be an interesting year,” he says enigmatically.scmp.com
If you believe that unleashing hundreds of thousands of cheap MoonSwatches has increased sales of OMEGA’s fine watches, if you think a plastic Blancpain would help Blancpain shift their high-end timepieces without cheapening their storied brand, I’ve got a fake Rolex I’d like to sell you.
At the moment, Swatch doesn’t sell as many different MoonSwatches as OMEGA sells Moonwatches. I’m thinking Swatch’s marketing mavens are smarter than OMEGA’s. Way smarter.
Then again, maybe the limited MoonSwatch repertoire is down to the fact that there are only nine planets in our solar system (Swatch defies scientific orthodoxy to include Pluto).
Oh wait, I forgot my favorite MoonSwatch: the Mission to the Sun. There couldn’t be a better metaphor for what the MoonSwatch has done to OMEGA’s rep. Unless it’s Fonzi’s infamous water skiing stunt.