Sunday Morning Showdown: Omega × Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch Vs. Blancpain × Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms
Yes, here’s the battle that you all knew was coming. When the Omega × Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch was introduced about a year and a half ago, it was an immediate blockbuster and still is. A sequel in collaboration with one of the other Swatch Group brands was inevitable. Two weeks ago, Blancpain and Swatch introduced the Scuba Fifty Fathoms. Its case is a Bioceramic version of the 42.3mm one from the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Series 1, and it houses an automatic Sistem51 movement. The quartz MoonSwatch far outnumbers the five versions of the Fifty Fathoms. But let’s see how the Scuba Fifty Fathoms holds up against the MoonSwatch “in the ring.”
In general, the hype around the Scuba Fifty Fathoms seems a lot less fiery than that around the MoonSwatch. Daan was able to pick up his favorite, the Arctic Ocean version, at the Swatch boutique in Barcelona. That was certainly a lot harder in the first few weeks (or months!) that the MoonSwatch was for sale. It probably shows that there’s a much larger audience for the MoonSwatch than there is for the Scuba Fifty Fathoms. This sounds plausible since Omega is a much bigger name than Blancpain. But when you look at the two side by side, which one would you choose? Before you vote, though, read Jorg and Daan’s arguments below.
Last week’s Sunday Morning Showdown
But first things first! Let’s see what happened in last week’s showdown. It was the battle between the neo-vintage Panerai Radiomir PAM00210 and the modern PAM01348. With 79% of the votes, the PAM00210 is the clear winner here. With its more classic, no-nonsense looks, it was much preferred over the more stylized blue PAM01348 with its disturbing “8 Giorni” logo and Brunito finishing. However, when looking at pricing, it seems like either one of the contestants is the “right” choice here. The PAM0210 is quite expensive for a watch with a Unitas/ETA movement, and the PAM01348 will be more expensive to get serviced. All right, let’s get back to today’s Bioceramic battle.
Daan: Blancpain × Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms
I get it: the MoonSwatch was new, surprising, and an immediate hit. I also got one because I liked the design, and I think it’s a nice reminder of the effect it had on the watch community. No other watch has ever caused the same kind of hubbub that the MoonSwatch did. I remember going to the Swatch boutique in Amsterdam on the morning of the launch, and the streets were packed. I did the same thing for the launch of the Scuba Fifty Fathoms, but the lines weren’t nearly as crazy. And I guess that’s understandable — the novelty of the collaboration had already worn off, especially after the random MoonSwatch releases with gold-plated chrono hands.
As I said in the hands-on article about my Arctic Ocean version, I also wasn’t immediately swept away by the new Scuba Fifty Fathoms. It’s another Bioceramic version of another historically important watch, but this time, the watch it uses for inspiration isn’t nearly as iconic as the Omega Speedmaster. However, my feelings changed after a conversation with Gregory Kissling, Vice President of Product at Omega, who was heavily involved with the development of the Scuba Fifty Fathoms. After hearing about all the work that went into creating this new homage, I was sold.
This one is cut from a different cloth
The hour markers on the dial of the Scuba Fifty Fathoms look like applied indices. In reality, though, they consist of six layers of Super-LumiNova to ensure they shine bright enough when you’re navigating in the dark. The project team decided to use a sapphire crystal on the case back to achieve the desired water resistance of 50 fathoms (91 meters) and not make the watch any thicker than it already is. Also, in line with an early Blancpain patent, there are two O-rings to ensure the push-and-pull crown is watertight.
But my favorite feature has to be the fact that the movements in the no-date versions of the Scuba Fifty Fathoms don’t have 51 parts but only 47. Any Sistem51-powered Swatch that doesn’t have a date window still has a date wheel spinning underneath the dial. Well, not this one because all the parts that are usually there for the date have been taken out. That means the Sistem51 movement inside should actually be called the Sistem47. I just like how the project team made bold decisions like these.
Countering the criticism
The one big letdown of the Scuba Fifty Fathoms is that the movement can’t be serviced or replaced. However, just like with the MoonSwatch, I’m expecting to give this watch very little wrist time. These are simply watches I wear when I don’t feel comfortable wearing a more serious watch. And to be honest, that doesn’t happen very often. But in this case, that might be a good thing. That way, I can extend the lifetime of my Scuba Fifty Fathoms a little bit.
The other thing I hear a lot is that the watch is a little bulky. Well, the same is true of most watches when you put them on a classic NATO. It simply adds two layers of fabric between your arm and the watch. So, yes, when the watch is already 14.4mm thick, it sits rather high on your wrist. The simple solution here is to get yourself a set of 0.9mm hex keys and change out the NATO for a two-piece strap. I just did, and I kind of like it!
Is it worth it?
The final thing people ask me is whether I think the watch is worth €390. It might indeed be a bit steep for a synthetic watch that you’re going to throw away after a few years. But it’s also fully made in Switzerland, a country where the cost of labor is probably higher than in most others. In the end, it’s a fun addition to my collection, and I’ll enjoy the hell out of it for however long I can. Over to you, Jorg!
Jorg: Omega × Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch
Thanks, Daan! Over time, I have not been vocal about the MoonSwatch or the Scuba Fifty Fathoms. But here we are; it’s a Sunday Morning Showdown, so it’s time to say something about both of them. The easiest statement to make for me is that I own a MoonSwatch Mission to the Moon, but I have no intention of buying a Scuba Fifty Fathoms. I picked the Mission to the Moon specifically because it is closest to the current Moonwatch, and the duo makes for a fun set of Moon(S)watch celebrations. One is the serious successor of the original that carries the legacy of the Moonwatch in style, while the other celebrates that legacy in a fun and lighthearted way.
That’s not to say I do not like other versions of the MoonSwatch. I love the looks of the Mission to Mercury, Mission to Mars, and Mission to Jupiter. There are others that I would wear as well, and I have been tempted to buy more. On the other hand, when I first saw the Scuba Fifty Fathoms, the looks didn’t excite me. Now, a couple of weeks later, I have only slightly warmed up to your Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic Ocean model.
Plus, when it comes to the MoonSwatch, I loved the marketing brilliance of the Omega × Swatch collab, and the incredible buzz around it showed that it worked. The way Swatch handled the sale of the watches might have been debatable, but from a marketing standpoint, the MoonSwatch was ingenious. I genuinely believe that the project benefited both brands.
Some of it is practical, but most of it emotional
So why would I not want to spend money on a fun watch celebrating the legacy of the Fifty Fathoms? You have touched upon a few product-related issues that people have with it, and I agree with some of those reasons. They are a very rational explanation for me not to buy one. First, the colors do not appeal to me. Second, it’s a nearly €400 non-serviceable, throw-away product, which is a really big one. Sure, it adheres to Jean-Claude Biver’s statement, “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be.” But when he coined that slogan back in 1981, I doubt he envisioned that Swatch would create a cheap Bioceramic version of what Blancpain stands for. Then again, I must note that Biver loves marketing above anything else, so he might even agree with the Scuba Fifty Fathoms. Who knows?
But I’d like to think that Biver made that statement because he saw Blancpain as a brand known for incredible craftsmanship and creating luxury watches that are a testament to its great history. In my opinion, a Swatch Sistem51 in Bioceramic doesn’t match the grandeur of the brand. But the biggest reason for my complete disconnect with the Scuba Fifty Fathoms can be found on the side of Blancpain rather than Swatch. I get that Swatch is a fun brand that is famous for pushing boundaries whether people like it or not. It’s in the brand’s DNA and has been since the beginning. And I love that!
The difference between Omega and Blancpain is essential
However, as a watch fan, it is seriously disappointing to see that Blancpain is struggling to build an attractive collection around the legacy of the Fifty Fathoms. If I want to buy a decent-sized modern version of the Fifty Fathoms icons of the past, I have to resort to limited-edition models released once in a blue moon and that sell out in no time and at a premium. If you want a regular Fifty Fathoms, you will see that your options are all 45mm models with cases over 15mm thick. I simply do not believe that is what Fifty Fathoms fans are waiting for. A smaller-sized Fifty Fathoms model in the regular collection would make a lot of watch fans happy, including me. Only after that came out could I see the Scuba Fifty Fathoms as a fun celebration of the legacy of the Fifty Fathoms.
This is a problem that Omega doesn’t have. As long as you have the money, you can buy a regular modern-day Moonwatch without much trouble. Furthermore, whether you buy the current Moonwatch or one from a previous generation, you will be able to buy your very own piece of Moonwatch history. And you can do so at a relatively decent price. Considering these factors, it’s easy to see why Omega has a much broader appeal than Blancpain. The Moonwatch story, the pricing, and the availability of the Moonwatch are all more attractive. As I said, the MoonSwatch is a fun celebration of the Moonwatch legacy that, most likely, had a positive effect on both brands.
Why talking about specs is unnecessary
And I simply do not see or have that same excitement for the Blancpain × Swatch collab. In my opinion, that makes a debate about things like specifications a bit pointless. Yes, we could discuss the slimmer case of the MoonSwatch or its more creative designs. And I understand your sentiments about the Scuba Fifty Fathoms, Daan. Though I haven’t seen your Scuba Fifty Fathoms in person yet, when I do, I’m sure that I will appreciate the work that went into creating it. Nevertheless, this week’s Showdown is not necessarily about the product specs, the designs and colors, or the people who created the Scuba Fifty Fathoms. For me, it’s more about relating to a brand and a story, and there’s only one of these watches that speaks to me strongly enough to spend my own money on it — the MoonSwatch.
Time to vote!
There you have it, folks — another Sunday battle with two much-discussed Swatch collaborations going head to head for the win! Will the MoonSwatch get your vote, or are you a Scuba Fifty Fathoms fan? Make sure to vote for your choice below, and also let us know why you picked it in the comments. See you next week for another installment of Sunday Morning Showdown!