The expression “jump the shark” comes from the fifth season of the TV sitcom Happy Days. The character named Fonzi water skied over a shark (click here to watch). It didn’t mark the end of the series’ popularity, but that’s how it was perceived. “Jumped the shark” has come to mean “a point at which far-fetched events are included merely for the sake of novelty, indicative of a decline in quality.” Hence my take on the Swatch X OMEGA timepiece called the MoonSwatch.

Don’t get me wrong. OMEGA makes damn fine watches. Their movements move me. Up until the release of the Moonswatch, my main complaint was the watchmakers’ mega-tsunami of models.

OMEGA has no less than nine major “styles”: Men’s Dress, Women’s Dress, Sports Watches, Dive Watches, Dress Watches (yes again), Olympic Games Watches, Sailing Watch and Classic Watch. They offer literally hundreds of timepieces.

Compare that horological farrago with cross-town rival Rolex. Rollie divides their watches into two main categories: Classic (six styles) and Professional (eight styles), for a total of 14 different timepieces, with similar size and material variations within each style.

OMEGA violates the first rule of sales: make it easy to buy. If you want a Moonwatch – commonly identified as a Speedmaster – you have 23 main choices encompassing 135 separate models. In contrast, Rolex makes five easily distinguishable Rolex Submariners.

Rolex is a more coveted brand than OMEGA. This despite the fact that Rolex makes one million watches a year, while OMEGA makes half-a-million. If you’re looking for a reason, well, there it is: overchoice.

It’s also why Rolex has all-grail watches, while OMEGA has the one. Which it’s now sold to the Swatch Group. A co-branding production that, at the least, represents a new low for the brand. A watch that, at the most, sounds a death knell for a brand competing in a market that’s increasingly reliant on sales at the very top end.

For $260 retail, you can buy a plastic – sorry “bioceramic” version of the iconic OMEGA Speedmaster “Moonwatch” Professional Chronograph (reviewed here).

Not to put too fine a point on it, the Swatch X OMEGA MoonSwatch – prominently displayed on Swatch’s homepage above – raises the Swatch brand out of the doldrums and drags the OMEGA brand into the brand perception gutter.

Is it an abomination? Imagine if Swatch made a plastic Patek Philippe Nautilus, and then you tell me.

I guess that depends on how close is the MoonSwatch to the original? Speaking to scmp.com, Swatch CEO Nick Hayek Jr. calls the MoonSwatch a “nod to the Speedmaster.” The text slathered all over the watch tells a different story. By the same token, Swatch’s website is a lot less sacrosanctimonious (yes I made that word up).

What takes this collection into orbit is the fusion of the most innovative Swatch BIOCERAMIC material with the key Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch design elements. There’s the asymmetrical case, the iconic ‘dot over ninety’ on the tachymeter scale and the distinctive Speedmaster subdials.  

swatch.com

The MoonSwatch is a slap in the face to anyone who spent $6k and up on the real thing. Yes, OMEGA buyers still have bragging rights amongst the cognoscenti. But they now face the prospect of bumping into someone wearing a MoonSwatch. (An ever-growing possibility considering unlimited production.) Even knowing MoonSwatches are out there, somewhere, is an affront.

Why? Why did OMEGA do it? Money. Plain and simple. And make no mistake, the Swatch X OMEGA collaboration is a huge hit. No wonder Swatch CEO Nick Hayek Jr. is over the moon about the MoonSwatch. Setting aside filthy lucre, Mr.Hayek reckons he’s doing OMEGA, indeed the entire Swiss watch industry a favor.

“At one point, you will destroy the dream and the legacy of the Swiss watch industry because only a small number of people will have access to the stories of brands like Breguet, Patek Philippe, Omega and Rolex. You will lose the interest of the younger generation who cannot get access. We have to create the bridge.”  

scmp.com

So wearing a knock-off of a famous watch makes you want to buy a famous watch – instead of a knock-off? Anyway, what’s OMEGA excuse explanation? There’s not been a single peep from their PR peeps. But here’s how scmp.com’s unnamed STYLE reporter spins it:

It has proved successful for both Omega and Swatch. Sales for both brands have surged since the release of the MoonSwatch in March 2022. Hayek won’t be drawn into speculation about other collaborations within or outside the Swatch Group, even though rumours have been rife about a Swatch x Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. “2023 will be an interesting year,” he says enigmatically.

scmp.com

If you believe that unleashing hundreds of thousands of cheap MoonSwatches has increased sales of OMEGA watches, if you think a plastic Blancpain would help Blancpain shift their high-end timepieces, that a BlancSwatch wouldn’t cheapen Blancpain’s storied brand, I’ve got a fake Rolex I want to sell you.

At the moment, Swatch isn’t make as many different models of the MoonSwatch as OMEGA makes Moonwatches. I’m thinking they’re smarter than OMEGA. Way smarter. But perhaps it’s because there are only nine planets in our solar system (Swatch defies scientific orthodoxy and includes Pluto).

Oh wait, I forgot my favorite MoonSwatch: the Mission to the Sun. There couldn’t be a better metaphor for what the MoonSwatch has done to OMEGA. Unless it’s Fonzi’s water skiing adventure.