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

“It’s Madness”: Swatch Hits The Jackpot

The response to the launch of the MoonSwatch is even better than McDonald’s Happy Meal giveaways. Reports emerged that it’s the same throughout much of Asia

Swatch at ION Orchard this morning. Photo: Singapore Atrium Sale

The crowd at the opening of Uniqlo in Ang Mo Kio yesterday was nothing, “insane” as it might have been. This morning, at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and ION Orchard, you’d think that mask-off Tuesday had arrived, rather than the launch of a mere timepiece: the Swatch X Omega Speedmaster MoonSwatch. A friend of SOTD’s texted us at 9.30 this morning, saying: “It’s madness; it’s like they’re giving the watch for free. Don’t come.” He was at ION Orchard—“I know they say that with mask on, no social distancing is required, but jostling?” His frustration is understandable, just as the response to the launch of the MoonSwatch is expected. Yesterday, at the Swatch store in Orchard Central, we were advised by the friendly staff not to join the “crush”. One of them told us to “wait for the restock”. And why not? Swatch has never touted the MoonSwatch as a limited release.

The thing is, who’d believe this—an explodable throng outside Swatch? This was not the first drop of some Yeezy sneaks. It made the manic scramble last December outside the Foot Locker at Orchard Gateway look like nothing. At ION Orchard this morning, tempers flared quickly and things became so bad that the easily-angered even challenged security personnel to do the unthinkable. One video starting circulating online during lunch time. An antagonised fellow shouted at uniformed officers as if he was denied entry into his favourite KTV bar. With his face mask down to his lips, he challenged them in Mandarin: “你拿枪射击我啦 (Take your gun and shoot me, lah)”. Someone was heard responding: “This one three hundred dollar (sic) only, leh”. Many took to social media to lament how poorly Swatch ran the event, with scant crowd management procedures in sight.

In Shibuya, Tokyo. Photo: Tokyo Touch

In Taipei’s 101. Photo: Watchbus

Queuing in the rain in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Photo: Frankie Herrera

But it was not just on our island that the Swatch stores were ”overwhelmed”, as one marketing executive told us, pointing to how the staff at the stores could not manage the “determined” shoppers. Reports started to appear on social media after noon of the crowds that swarmed Swatch outlets in the capital cities around us. Our contact in Japan was the first to tell us that what he saw outside the Shibuya store was “discouraging”. In Bangkok, we were informed, Swatch “cancelled” the launch as the crowds at all three of their launch sites were “overcrowded” and “baa (crazy)”. A friend from Macau, who took time off from his job at the front desk of a hotel, too, reported that there was “no way” he could cop the watch. In neighbouring Hong Kong, our contributor saw queues snaked round blocks in Causeway Bay, with those in line waiting in the rain. The police eventually dispersed the crowd and Swatch Hong Kong announced that “the launch will be on hold until further notice“, prompting Netizen to call the event a “disaster”. More stories shared on social media also expressed dismay and shock at the hordes and the lack of order in Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. Swatch really scored big this time.

The mad dash outside CentralWorld, Bangkok. Screen grab: Payu Nerngchamnong

Last-minute signs posted on the Swatch store in CentralWorld, announcing its closure. Photo: ttoeytraveller

Outside Kuala Lumpur’s Pavilion Mall. Last night! Photo: Shopping Mall Malaysia

Many were unhappy that the situation had “turned messy”. Despite being told that the watches (11 colours) are sold out, scores chose to hang around outside the two Swatch stores here, which prompted the retailer to announce via Facebook around noon that the MoonSwatch “is not limited edition, and more opportunities to purchase will be available in the coming weeks”’ It also urged “customers without queue numbers (to) please kindly refrain from visiting the store as we are temporarily out of stock”. Netizens started sharing that the sale of the MoonSwatch is not limited in quantity and would be available again. But that has not stopped those lucky enough to buy one (the initial limit of two per customer was amended to a single piece) to resell it on Carousell for a staggering S$4,888, in one offer. That is madness too.

That the response to this collaboration between two watch brands could be this frenzied and staggering is perhaps to be expected. While the tie-up was teased on social media for a week (including full-page ads in The New York Times telling readers that “It’s time to change your Swatch,” or “It’s time to change your Omega”), many did not know what it’ll turn out to be. Global curiosity raged. When images of the MoonSwatch were released two days before launch, the news spread more rapidly than any spacecraft heading for the stars. Swatch and Omega have, with one timepiece, debunked the believe that people do not wear wristwatches anymore. The MoonSwatch is one landing no one imagined.

Update (26 March 2022, 6pm): According to local media, Swatch Japan has “cancelled the release” of the MoonSwatch due to “shoppers flooding” designated stores in Tokyo’s Shibuya and Harajuku districts. It is not clear when the release would be reinstated

Watch Brands Are Pairing Up Too

Swatch meets Omega. And a fresh take on the Speedmaster Moonwatch—the Bioceramic MoonSwatch. In a word: handsome

The buzziest collaboration this month is the tie-up of Swatch and Omega. This is—as far as we’re aware—the first high-low pairing between timepiece brands. We didn’t see that coming, but we are also not surprised. Swatch teaming up with Omega is rather like Gucci and Balenciaga coupling, in that both watch labels are stablemates under The Swatch Group. This is not, however, a Beams and Casio collab with very little tweaking of the later’s timepieces. This is far grander as it taps from Omega’s “legendary” Speedmaster Moonwatch, reimagined and cleverly called MoonSwatch. Not since the Big Bold, launched in 2019, has Swatch rolled out a looker of a timepiece this desirable.

It is not always easy to describe Swatch as desire-arousing. But this time, it is vastly differently. Three days ago, a friend of SOTD who does not wear or own a watch, excitedly sent us a photograph of the pink ‘Venus’ MoonSwatch and an accompanying two-word message, “Nice, right?” Swatch has created something covetable. And they achieved it with Omega. This is a pairing on rather equal footing: The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch’s recognisable form factor and Swatch’s original material, the Bioceramic—a “blend of two-thirds ceramic and one-third bio-sourced plastic” derived from castor oil. Classic and cute in a comely face. The result is a watch a young James Bond might wear if he is not so hooked on the Seamaster!

The Omega Speemaster Moonwatch was born in the same year of this nation: 1965. It was, however, first worn in space by Wally Schirra in 1962 during his Mercury Atlas 8 mission and was the first watch worn on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. It has since been on all manned US space flights and worn by American astronauts on the moon. The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, typically around S$8,000, has, as collectors like to say, impeccable ”pedigree”. And on the MoonSwatch, “the key Moonwatch design features are all there. The asymmetrical case, the famous tachymeter scale with dot over ninety and the distinctive Speedmaster subdials,” as Swatch promises.

Typical of Swatch, though, the “budget Speedmaster” has the pop sensibility that we have come to expect of the Swiss brand. The MoonSwatch comes in an impressive 11 colours (the black could really pass off as the Omega original!). Each is named after a planet and is accompanied by its own “mission”. And, like celestial bodies in the night sky, all hours, minutes, chronograph seconds hands and hour markers glow attractively in the dark. Despite its galactic appeal, Swatch modestly describes their iteration of the Omega signature, “a down to earth take on the watch that went to the moon”. Could we expect a humble Swatch X Breguet next?

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Swatch X Omega Bioceramic MoonSwatch, SGD372, is available only at Swatch MBS and ION Orchard from tomorrow. Expect a long queue. As a staffer told us, “wait for the restock”. Photos: Swatch

Update (26 March 2022, 1.30pm): Swatch has just posted on Facebook, urging those without a queue number “to kindly refrain from visiting the MBS store” where the MoonSwatch is available, as they “are temporarily out of stock”. One Marcus Song shared on the Swatch page, “It was mayhem at your Ion boutique and it was not possible to find a proper queue, I totally gave up and left”

About Time

Swatch has not only gone bold, it’s gone Big Bold. Better to ensnare the living-large influencer-shopper?

Swatch Big Bold

By Mao Shan Wang

Gosh, I don’t remember when I last looked at a Swatch. My father just told me that he bought Swatch watches when they were a single brand, not a luxury conglomerate—The Swatch Group. How many decades past was that? Thirty-four years ago, or in the year 1983, when Mario Bros debuted, pre-Pokémon! He then went to unearth a pair of Swatches, still in their clear cases, to show me. One is unambiguously inspired by the Kama Sutra, the other, similarly erotic (or perhaps just suggestive), sports hands that are two parts of a woman’s fully-naked body, both circa 1993—clearly a visual that’s way before #metoo and a particular NUS saga. Looking at the pristine straps, they have never been worn. Strangely, they do not make me curious about my father’s wrist-watch choice. Nobody looks at their father that way!

My lack of notice of Swatch is, I think, commensurate with their lack of notable timepieces, especially after the advent of the smartwatch. Until now. Launched today is a watch that is gigantic—by Swatch standard anyway. An eye-catcher no doubt conceived for the age of conspicuous wear. It is not certain why Swatch decided to launch the Big Bold, as it is known, but let me guess: The traditional Swatch—the one that disrupted the timepiece market in the ’80s—is a mere 25mm for women and 34mm for men, dimensions possibly considered minuscule by the needs of social media habitués. The Big Bold is almost double the size of the women’s style, at a generous and, more importantly, unmissable 47mm.

Swatch Big Bold P2

According to Swatch, the “Big Bold is an attitude, a mindset, a way of ‘being’ in the world”; it “longs for those that embrace being noticed”. You see! 🤭 And, to be caught sight of, it’s not enough to be bold, it has to be “big bold”. Since one is not synonymous with the other, it’s perhaps best that one augments the other. Big and bold, the way loud and proud, too, go together.

In terms of size, this appears to be as conspicuous as 2011’s Swatch Touch, one of the earliest digital watches and an oddity of a timepiece with a wide, rectangular screen in portrait orientation, predating smartwatches. Big Bold, admittedly looks more conventional then the Touch’s hard-to-place font; the numbers, although just four, are readable.

Look-wise, the Big Bold reminds me of the customisable Pop Swatch, but designed by a military type, possibly a pilot! The pop was gleefully infused with the Swatch aesthetic, but was too targeted at teens. I see the similarity perhaps because the Big Bold is just as resolutely circular! Launched in 1986 (and re-introduced in 2016, thirty years later), Pop was as playful as it was ingenious (or irreverent), but perhaps due to the (overtly?) fun leaning did not quite catch on with the serious fashion crowd, except Debbie Gibson fans.

Swatch Big Bold P3

However, the more I look at the Big Bold, the more it appears to me like a 3D-printed watch! It’s hard to say why. Perhaps it’s because of the simplicity of form, the modest styling of the bezel, and the dotted-bumps of the strap. These days, 3D printing is not churning out some figurine from your manga dreams. Anything can be 3D-printed. Jewellery, I have been told, are now popularly produced this way and sold. If bangles and such can be 3D-printed, then why not watches? Besides, Swatch is not new to the use of polymers.

In fact, when it hit the market back in 1983, Swatch’s thermoplastic-molded, weigh-next-to-nothing wrist watches were thought to be a life-saver of what the Swiss industry called a “quartz crisis”, one thought to be the result of the profusion of Japanese quartz watches such as those by the quickly rising Casio. Swatch took the world by storm, enthusiastically releasing delightful timepieces in all sorts of colours and, then, un-thought-of prints and patterns, and, in doing so, was the first brand at that price point to create collectables that drove those who hoard things such as McDonald’s Happy Meal figurines and stuffed toys quite crazy.

What will draw similar reaction this time round is Swatch’s pairing with Bape (aka A Bathing Ape) to make the Big Bold fancier, and simultaneously launch the collab when this hunk of a watch is released. I’m not sure if this will create the same buying frenzy as the recent KAWS X Uniqlo team-up, but I have no doubt the Big Bold X Bape (yes, I, too, spotted the delightful alliterative visual of the branding) won’t be around by the time you read this and head to the flagship store at Orchard Gateway, where it is rather discreetly launched today.

Swatch Big Bold P4Limited-edition collaboration with Bape

With Bape, Swatch, it seems, is riding on an icon of youth and reaching out to a new gen of watch users, which may be a small, small group, judging by the attendees at the launch event, held at the Substation yesterday afternoon. Of the 12 people around me, only two wore a watch. When I moved to another spot near the food wagon, among the 19 munchers there, nine wore a timepiece (one was an Apple Watch).

It has been reported in the past years that the watch has lost its appeal among smartphone users, since we now tell the time by just looking at a phone screen or be duly informed by the timekeeper, Google Assistant. Honestly, I don’t know how well for-millenials-by-millennials brands such as Olivia Burton is doing, but, apparently, they are making the young pick up watches in encouraging numbers. Perhaps Swatch is on to something.

Or perhaps celebrity-endorsement helps. A bespectacled, beanied, and prosperously-girthed, non-BTS fan Dee Kosh appeared; his presence visually and audibly felt. Indulging delightfully and loudly in nachos, the YouTuber-turned-radio-DJ gesticulated excitedly as he talked to a captivated audience. I looked at his bare, excitable wrist. The Big Bold can roost there—a striking face for an unabashed similar.

Swatch Big Bold, from SGD140, launches today. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Two Of A Kind: Block Party

Swatch & SonySwatch Touch (left) and Sony Smartwatch 3 (right)

Both have oblong faces and appear to wrap the wrist, and both allow touch-screen operation. But one is just smarter than the other. When Sony’s Smartwatch 3 made its appearance last month, and we had the chance to handle it recently, the device—better categorised by the fancier and geek-worthy name of “wearable”—immediately reminded us of the Swatch Touch. Put them side-by-side, however, the similarity immediately evaporates. Keep them apart, one reminds us of the other.

The Swatch Touch is clearly a piece of pre-Android Wear wrist fashion. With its curved digital display, and font that looks like an art deco take on Arabic script, the Swatch Touch was refreshing at the 2011 launch, given the tired looks of the standard Swatch offering. With Swatch’s fading popularity, the Touch appeared, even momentarily, like an attempt by the Swiss company to re-write the design of inexpensive fashion watches. Until Android Wear came knocking and gadget makers opened their doors.

Sony’s third iteration of the smart watch—this time, Android Wear-enabled—looks completely different from the previous two, just as the predecessor is unlike the debut piece. But while most of the competitors are making theirs look more like a watch (i.e. round-faced, such as Motorola’s Motor 360 and LG’s G Watch R), Sony’s is decidedly geeky, almost a toy, and rather Swatch-like. Not that that’s a bad thing. Far from it. For gadget that’s Dick Tracey-worthy, we prefer them to sport a rectangular screen in portrait orientation. If we’re going to use our watch to tell time as well as mirror some of the functionality of our smartphone, we really prefer something that comes across as an extension of our smartphone. Who really prefers to look at holiday shots or city maps cropped into a circle?

Time may be running out on 2014, but it’s only beginning for the smart watch. Okay, Google!

Swatch Touch, SGD195, and Sony Smartwatch 3, SGD298, are available at authorised dealers