Moonswatch Madness

…unabated. A month after the launch of the most desirable timepiece of the year, the showcase is still empty. Shoppers are told by Swatch: “visit us regularly”

At the ION Orchard Swatch store, scene of the confrontation between security personnel at the launch of the over-hyped and over-loved Moonswatch exactly a month ago, an organically-shaped, pentagon showcase fronting the smallish space was left surprising empty. Not a single piece of merchandise was seen beneath the glass top, not even a prop. The base of the display unit is plastered with a depiction of a group of planets and emblazoned with “Bioceramic Moonswatch Collection” above. It left one in no doubt as to what it was supposed to house. But empty it clearly was. It could have been the aftermath of a heist!

By now, our interest in the Omega X Swatch collaboration has, admittedly, waned. Not because of the difficulty in scoring something not of limited issue, but because of the very public fallout from the hype. There are people who are still angry! In any case, we were still curious about the timepiece and wanted to have a close look at it, even if we wouldn’t be allowed to touch it. We were told it appears plastic, and we wanted to see for ourself how much so. But as soon as we neared the Swatch store, we knew it was not meant to be.

Not because of the difficulty in scoring something not of limited issue, but because of the very public fallout from the hype

We asked a sales guy if there would be stock coming in. Helpfully, he said, “Don’t know when the next stock will arrive. We have not been told.” Was there ever stock replenishment after the raucous launch? “Yes,” he offered as-a-matter-of-factly. “Once.” And when was that? “About two weeks ago.” We turned to browse at whatever they had. Three groups of people within a minute approached the same fellow to ask him about the Moonswatch. And to each, he had the same answer: everything in the negative. The inquirers did not appear to be disappointed; they happily accepted the bad news.

A notice, protected by acrylic, addressed to the “Moonswatch fan” (Swatch was not aware that there were seriously many?) read: “We are overwhelmed by your fantastic support and by your extraordinary enthusiasm for the Bioceramic Moonswatch Collection. We do our best to fulfil demand and we hope that anyone who is moonstruck… will soon be able to lay their hands on one of these watches (they were in the mood to pun!).” It wrapped up with, “Visit us regularly, as the store will be supplied as production permits.” How regularly are those interested expected to come back? Daily? Weekly? Fortnightly?

Passing the guy on our way out, we remarked, “Wow, there are still many people interested”. The rejoinder was swift: “We get 200 calls and walk-in inquiries a day.” Two hundred, did you say? One thousand four hundred a week? “Yes. Two. Hundred.” Do you take reservations? “No reservation allowed. To be fair to everybody.” And how often do we have to come and check for availability? The guy was probably bored by our questions by now. But he did have a workable suggestion. “You should wait until the interest is not so high,” he said earnestly. “Or when everyone has bought their watch.” Thank you, kind sir.

Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Come Right Up, Walk Right Through

There is no more Trace Together entry scans. Go in and out of malls as you please. One big leap towards ‘freedom’?

Doors at malls are all open. There is no more one entry point and one exit. From today, shopping malls do not require visitors to scan in, or scan out. No one will stop you to make sure you do. TraceTogether is over! Life may not have entirely returned to pre-pandemic days, but this is, where going shopping is concerned, as close as it gets. We are not sure if the footfall at malls has increased (possibly too soon to tell), but when we visited the few always with a long line of visitors getting in, we noticed that there were more people than we expected, even for a Tuesday morning. Will the riddance of entry “hassles” of the past two years prompt the return of more shoppers?

Around noon, at the ION Orchard Basement 2 entrance that faces the exit of the MRT station (now back to a two-way flow), the traffic did not look more daunting than usual, as most visitors were able to hurry right into the vast entryway. Not a hint of what crowd-control measures were in place before: The temper-provoking retractable metal barriers that forced visitors to go through an up/down, up/down course before hitting the “checkpoint” were nowhere to be seen. Now, in that considerable expanse, under which a massive video screen of fake foliage and sky projected a cheery day, one felt free, if not freedom. When we asked an MRT staff, what exit that was—so that we could tell the people we were meeting where to wait, she said, “Tell them to stand outside Channel (sic), lah!”

Similarly, at the opposite side, going into Wisma Atria was a breeze. This entrance is not only a way into the mall, it’s also, for many, a conduit to adjoining Takashimaya Shopping Centre—and further. Without restrictions now, the freer access seemed to make the number of entrants look small. Was the entrance this wide? No physical evidence was left here that would remind us of the queues we encountered each time we had to go in. But a small notice on a signage stand, easily missable, was erected next to the busy-looking store Skechers. The text above an illustration of a masked man read, “PLEASE WEAR A FACE MASK AT ALL TIMES WHEN INDOORS”. TraceTogether-free, a lithe little lass in a whisper of a dress floated in, barely masked up. No one was there to ensure she did, properly.

The conspicuous absence of the TraceTogether QR codes and oblong devices on which to tap electronic tokens was met with delight. “At last,” squealed a uniform-clad student when she saw that the coast in front of her at Wisma Atria was clear, and the token in her hand redundant. TraceTogether was not a popular token or app, nor a tracking tool. Many people we spoke to couldn’t wait to be rid of it. Some likened carrying the token to be being strapped with an ankle monitor. Even when it existed as an unobtrusive but battery-zapping app, it found very few fans, except, possibly, the developers at GovTech. TraceTogether may not be required for now, but we are—no matter how easy it is now to enter a mall—living in a surveillance society and engaging in a surveillance economy. Peace.

Illustrations: Just So