What Is The Swatch Group’s Endgame With The MoonSwatch?
Yes, the MoonSwatch is old news by now, and the dead horse has officially been beaten well into nirvana. And one can consider the MoonSwatch a cash cow, with Swatch having sold considerably more than a million pieces to date. After all, the Swatch Group confirmed to have crossed that milestone almost six months ago. What on earth (excuse the pun) could be the group’s endgame with the MoonSwatch?
Remaining relevant with new MoonSwatch releases
At the time of writing this article, we’ve already witnessed three more models in addition to the 11 releases last year. And as numerous individuals and publications have pointed out, these releases do leave a lot to be desired in the creativity department. There was wild speculation on what Swatch was cooking up in Biel when the brand announced something new relating to “Moonshine” was in the cards for the MoonSwatch. I thought a gold-plated metal case would be quite interesting. Instead, the chrono seconds hand got the gold plating for a relatively humble increase of 25 Swiss francs. So while Swatch didn’t increase the price to a point where people would yell “greedy!” this move does seem like a cry for attention from an audience with waning enthusiasm compared to early last year.
Swatch is no doubt trying to remain relevant, but perhaps the execution is just a little lazy. To be completely honest (and perhaps contrary to what most have been saying), I kind of like these three additions. They are by no means reinventing the wheel, but with watches, the devil is in the details. Now, I certainly won’t be standing in line for these. Nevertheless, having a gold chrono seconds hand with a tiny number over the counterweight indicating which Moonshine release the watch is, is a nifty IYKYK (if you know, you know) Easter egg. The story of dedicated specialists plating these hands under a full moon in Switzerland is corny, to say the least, but the thought is not something I’m opposed to either.
A new wave of interest
With the pandemic now behind us, it has become evident across generations that collecting is as prevalent as ever. While we’re not necessarily seeing Fortnite-playing TikTok scrollers dropping 4–5 digits on watches left, right, and center, we are witnessing the collecting of items in a more accessible price range. Retro video games, sneakers, Pokémon cards, and NFTs, to name a few, have reached unprecedented levels of popularity since the pandemic. At an accessible CHF 250, the MoonSwatch is no exception. When I see the lines in front of various Swatch boutiques, the average age of those waiting is surprisingly low! These are certainly not all collectors. Surely, many are flippers too. But the fact that these people are studying the market and educating themselves on watches, for whatever reason, is quite remarkable and no doubt in line with the Swatch Group’s agenda.
The power of the Speedmaster — the Swatch Group’s endgame?
Like many of you reading this, I browse Omega- and Speedmaster-related forums (as well as Fratello’s comment section), and something I’ve noticed is the very contentious discussion of whether the MoonSwatch is a Speedmaster or not. Honestly, I cannot stand the gatekeeping mentality of the people saying the MoonSwatch isn’t a Speedmaster. Whether we like it or not, it clearly says “Speedmaster” on the dial! It’s not an Omega, though. It’s a Swatch. Thus, the Speedmaster is now no longer exclusive to Omega. Why is that such a problem? There have been reports that since the MoonSwatch’s conception, more people have become interested in Omega Speedmasters. There is a vastly increased number of individuals educating themselves on all things Omega Speedmaster, and the MoonSwatch is in great part responsible for paving the path to one of the greatest chronographs in watchmaking. This is a good thing!
It’s also worth noting that the Speedmaster’s price range has broadened to levels that were unimaginable a few years ago. On the “low” end, Speedmasters now range from CHF 250 for the MoonSwatch to CHF 7,000 for a standard Moonwatch. After that, it’s almost double for a Calibre 321 “Ed White,” extending well into five digits (around CHF 40,000) for models in precious metals. If that weren’t high enough, prices go up to over CHF 100,000 for gem-set models and up to a whopping CHF 420,000 for the Speedmaster Chrono Chime.
The Speedmaster ladder
I see it as a ladder that has received considerably more steps in recent years. One can grab hold much lower and can climb far higher, inspiring oneself with the Biel-based powerhouse’s clever cross-promotion. Nowadays, there is truly a Speedmaster for every wealth class. In 2023, a regular teenager who saved his pocket money for a few weeks could share his passion with an oligarch at a #SpeedyTuesday event! Imagine that! This astounding reach isn’t something that can be awarded to just any line of watches. This is what I mean when I use the seemingly pretentious phrase “power of the Speedmaster.”
With the MoonSwatch, the Speedmaster has become a brand in itself that has exceeded the walls of Omega. Swatch is now grabbing (and sharing with Omega and the rest of the group) an enormous piece of the pie. Something I’ve witnessed in my city of Zürich, Switzerland, is that the Breguet boutique on Bahnhofstrasse is receiving a much-needed massive overhaul. In addition to that, new management is moving from another powerful brand on the same street. Mind you, this store is not a franchise but a Swatch Group-owned location. Is it a crazy theory to assume this is a direct result of the exorbitant sales and hype of the MoonSwatch?
Swatch Group endgame
It will be interesting to see how the MoonSwatch will further develop beyond colored chrono seconds hands. Although unlikely, perhaps the iconic Speedmaster will spill onto other brands within the Swatch Group. At the very least, Swatch Group brands will benefit from massive cash flow thanks to the Bioceramic quartz-based Speedmaster.
What I believe we may see in the future, going back to my ladder analogy, is more steps being added between the MoonSwatch and the standard Omega Speedmaster. We witnessed something similar with the G-Shock “CasiOak.” The first plastic model proved to be such a megahit that Casio simply changed the case and bracelet material and increased the price exponentially. I believe this is territory that Swatch will also explore, powered by the iconic Speedmaster’s design. Perhaps a MoonSwatch with a steel case and bracelet, housing the same quartz movement and 2-6-10 sub-dial layout, just barely scratching a four-digit price? It will be an opportunity for MoonSwatch fans to move up without committing to a watch costing 20x the amount of a MoonSwatch but, instead, “only” three to four times the amount.
What do you think is the Swatch Group’s long-term plan with our favorite legendary chronograph? Let us know in the comments!