Last year, after sparking the biggest hype frenzy the watch market has seen with the release of the MoonSwatch, a bioplastic Swatch version of Omega’s legendary Speedmaster Moonwatch, Swatch president Nick Hayek Jr. said that “positive provocation” was a key part of the brand’s mission. Which perhaps explains the first follow-up to the original 11-strong collection of MoonSwatches, announced today but trailed beforehand (as was the original release) with cryptic social media messaging.
Over the weekend, the Swatch Instagram account announced the imminent arrival of the Mission to Moonshine Gold.” Each MoonSwatch is named after a different planet, with the “Mission to…” prefix (Mission to Mars, Mission to Neptune, etc.), while Moonshine Gold is Omega’s proprietary hardened gold alloy, used in some of its watches, including some sought-after all-gold Speedmaster models.
That provoked a fury of speculation over what kind of gold-inspired—or indeed all-gold—MoonSwatch was about to drop. This morning the answer came: an identical version of the gray Mission to the Moon model (the closest to the classic Speedmaster), but with the chronograph seconds-hand alone given a coating in Moonshine gold (for a retail price of £250 ($298), against £228 ($272) for the regular version).
Hayek’s willingness to confound those happy to drink in the hype that his own brand creates does not end with a release so apparently underwhelming (if the comments on Instagram are anything to go by). The chief characteristic of the MoonSwatch story, since a launch that saw Swatch shops around the world swamped by huge crowds of buyers and flippers, has been scarcity, with Swatch’s boutiques massively undersupplied and the watches unavailable online.
This has by now calmed to a great extent: Swatch has reported expected sales of 1.5 million MoonSwatches over the year since launch, while resale prices have fallen heavily. On the watch marketplace Chrono24, the Mission to the Moon now lists at around the £350 ($417) mark, a healthy return on a £228 ($272) product by any stretch, but down from more than £800 ($953) last spring.
Perhaps the real mission of the Mission to Moonshine is to fire up the scarcity issue all over again. It is only available today, and only in four locations worldwide: in Tokyo, where it went on sale at 9:30 JST, and in Milan, Zurich, and London—not the US. All locations, says Swatch, have a thematic link to gold: the City of London (where the watch goes on sale at 6:30 pm in a pop-up at the Royal Exchange, the historic financial trading center) is where gold prices are set, for instance, while Zurich’s Paradeplatz is the central hub of the city’s banking district.
In a drily sardonic press release consisting simply of a set of FAQs, Swatch states that while not strictly a limited edition, production of the new MoonSwatch has been limited by the fact that the gold-plated hands were all created on February 5—the date of the full moon last month, something that is stated in the certificate that comes with the watch.
Today’s announcement coincides with a full moon also, the implicit suggestion being that future sales pop-ups of the gold-hand MoonSwatch will take place in other locations around the world, to be determined. Notably, the press release also clarifies once and for all that Swatch has decided never to sell the MoonSwatch online.
Swatch fans and watch market followers alike are readying their pitchforks as expected: An Instagram post from @SecondeSeconde, a watch industry creative known for playful collaborations with a variety of independent brands, sums up such feelings: “Replacing only the seconds hand on a watch and then calling it ‘a new product’ is a disrespectful and lazy scam. I know because I invented it,” says Seconde Seconde’s Romaric André.
However, one suspects the gnashing of teeth will trouble Hayek and Swatch very little. The new MoonSwatch appears as much a comment on the hype, and a provocation in every way, as it is sop to it. And if all that sounds too meta by half, then consider this: The top prize at the watch industry’s biggest awards, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (or GPHG) (an event that Hayek and Swatch Group refuse to have any engagement with), is called the Aiguille d’Or—the Golden Hand.