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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Omega and Swatch’s $260 MoonSwatch Looks Out of This World

Omega and Swatch have announced a budget version of the iconic Speedster Moonwatch, an astronaut-inspired piece that usually retails for thousands of dollars. The MoonSwatch is the first collaboration between the two brands (both part of the Swatch Group, which also holds Longines, Tissot, and Hamilton). It goes on sale Saturday in Swatch stores only and will cost just $260 (£207).

The collection consists of 11 Swatches named after planetary bodies and comes in a range of colors, including a black “Mission to the Moon” iteration that references the Speedmaster Moonwatch, which has been available for more than 50 years and is almost identical to the ones worn during the Moon landings.

Anyone who has longed to sport a Speedmaster Moonwatch but thought twice about the outlay for an original Omega will likely favor the black version, but we like the yellow “Mission to the Sun.” Although Omega says the collection is not limited in quantity, the pieces will likely leave store shelves as quickly as they arrive. Resellers have already popped up online asking huge sums. The MoonSwatch will apparently be available online in the future, however.

All MoonSwatches come on a natty Velcro strap, similar to the one Omega launched last year, which itself cost £165. The strap references the lesser-known fact that the crew of Apollo 11 all wore Omegas on Velcro straps. The reason was simple: Metal clasps do not mix well with chunky space gloves, and the adjustability of a Velcro NATO strap meant the watch could be placed around a spacesuit sleeve, as well as a human wrist.

Of course, at $260 (including tax), these MoonSwatches do not house Omega's automatic movement, but instead feature a quartz engine powered by a battery, just like regular Swatches. The dials, however, all carry “Omega X Swatch” branding and the Speedmaster logo, alongside the new MoonSwatch moniker. There is even the “dot over 90” detail on the tachymeter-scaled bezel and subdials. Plus all hour, minute, and chronograph second hands and hour markers sport Super-LumiNova so they glow in the dark.

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Omega and Swatch have not stopped there. All of these new chronos have Speedmaster-shaped asymmetrical cases made from Swatch's patented Bioceramic material: a composite of its castor-bean-derived bioplastic introduced in 2020 and zirconium dioxide ceramic. In modern luxury watchmaking, ceramic has become a ubiquitous alternative to stainless steel, prized for its scratch resistance and hypoallergenic properties and for a premium feel deliverd by a complex production process. With its wider Bioceramic collection, Swatch has been giving its watches a taste of these benefits even though they remain, in essence, plastic.

Speaking to WIRED, Raynald Aeschlimann, Omega CEO and president, reveals that the collaboration was first considered back in 2020. “But the challenges of the last two years meant a shift in priorities,” he says. “So we rescheduled for early 2022. The process from initial designs to collection launch has taken around 12 months. The timing seemed right because of the change in storytelling through social media channels and the shift towards e-commerce.”

“It was very time consuming, since we wanted to create a Swatch with Speedmaster DNA. Therefore, we did spend a lot of time and energy on the designs, and we wanted to ensure that the watches functioned well, with fully operating subdials, and all possible Speedmaster details,” Aeschlimann says.

But will the creation of an inexpensive Moonwatch, one which even comes in black, be damaging to the Omega version, or do the benefits of bringing a younger generation to the brand outweigh such concerns? “I’m aware there will be critics,” Aeschlimann says. “But there is a vast space between a genuine Speedmaster Moonwatch and this Swatch. There is really no crossover in any true sense, apart from the look. Yes, there is a model in black and perhaps it could pass as the real thing in certain light, but it is in Bioceramic, which makes it unique, different. It’s important to keep it in perspective. It’s a fun project and adds some light to an industry that can take itself too seriously.”

Looking to get one this Saturday? In the UK, the MoonSwatch watches will be landing in the Carnaby Street, Oxford Circus, and Covent Garden stores in London, and also in Edinburgh. In the US, you can get the watches in King of Prussia, Dallas, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, and San Francisco. A full list of cities is available here

No doubt anticipating the popularity of these budget bio Moonwatches, Swatch is limiting buyers to two watches from the collection per customer.

And as for if we will see other Omega models, such as the Seamaster, follow suit in another Swatch collaboration, Aeschlimann is noncommittal. “We have no plans as yet,” he says. “And we certainly don’t want to overdo it. The Speedmaster was the obvious choice as it’s such a collectable.”

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