Omega X SWATCH 1 Minute & 46 Seconds
My last blog reviewing the results of three watch auctions generated a few emails, which I think everyone who sent me a mail. What I was not ready for was what happened next. I was sent a video, and it was not a video of a watch, but a video of a line of people waiting to buy watches!
There is definitely something going on when it takes 1 minute and 46 seconds to walk from the back of a queue of people to the front, where everyone is waiting patiently to purchase a watch. I felt compelled to investigate and work out what is going on. With this much interest, it must be something good.
A Watch From The Stars
So what was the watch? It would have been impossible for anyone following the watch market to miss the launch of the Omega X Swatch collection that debuted on 26 March 2022. It has taken the watch world by storm, to put it mildly.
The watch is a result of a collaboration between Swatch and Omega. Obviously, this was a simple deal to negotiate because the Swatch group owns both Omega and Swatch. The combination between the classic Omega Speedmaster shape and dial with the colors, flair, and price that Swatch watches are known for has turned out to be quite the coup.
Why Is It So Popular?
In a previous blog post way back in February 2021, I did comment on a similar phenomenon. Then I looked into why luxury watches sell at huge premiums to the retail prices. There were several factors that led to the willingness of buyers to jump through hoops to be able to wear the watch of their choice. To summarise, the brands want the journey to get their watch on the wrist of the owner to reinforce the affinity between the owner and the watch. If the customer has expended emotional energy to merely have the chance to purchase their watch, the owners are very unlikely to let go of their cherished watch very quickly once it is on their wrist.
Lack of supply creates more demand
It is a clever strategy and is used by almost all brands these days in one way or another. I wrote about Air Jordan teaming up with Dior in the previous blog post. Certainly, you could not think of two brands with more opposed customer bases. This is ideal for the brands as they will not cannibalize their customer base, but each will be introduced into one another’s customer base. For Nike, this was an introduction to the wealthy customer base of Dior and vice versa. Indeed, those who purchased these Air Jordan’s need to be rich because they were priced at US$2,000 a pair.
Back to Omega X Swatch
The collaboration between Omega and Swatch looks a bit riskier, certainly to Omega. An Omega Speedmaster will set you back around US$5,000 and up these days. But the new Omega X Swatch Moonwatch will only set you back in the region of US$500. That is a big difference and will bring an iconic watch design into the reach of a far larger audience, and it is taking what was exclusive to a broader audience.
Genius Or Folly?
Is this sheer genius or brand folly?
Let us start by looking at what you get for US$500. To reach this price point, the team at Swatch had to work hard. The first step was to change the mechanical movement to a quartz movement, significantly reducing the price.
Swatch is famous for its plastic cases, and this Omega X Swatch is no exception. The billing on the watch description says that it is “Bioceramic.” I find Bioceamic rather curious because it appears that it is merely a ceramic powder bonded by a plastic resin. This is the same as fiberglass or even carbon fiber; it just happens to be with a ceramic powder.
Come to think of it, glass is ceramic, so a watch case made from fiberglass could be called a ceramic case too. Either way, there is no surprise here as this case will be a fraction of the price of a stainless steel watch case. I am still trying to understand why Omega X Swatch has used the term “Bio” in the name of this material. I cannot see much biological in the construction, but if you know, please put a comment below. I am curious to know.
Finally, the watch band has been reduced to a piece of velcro. I am sure it is a lovely piece of velcro, but a piece of velcro nonetheless. And no buckle and that will reduce the cost considerably.
The End Result
The result is a Swatch watch that looks like an Omega Speedmaster. Precisely what is promised by the name on the tin? So instead of taking a pair of Air Jordans and putting the Dior label on, they have done the opposite and effectively taken a Dior design and reworked it for mass production. It does sound risky when put like that and could devalue the Omega brand.
The Customers Judgement Is Final
From the customer’s perspective, the Omega Speedmaster is an iconic watch, and it looks great. I appreciate it (and I am allowed to because it is a chronograph – SNGLRTY does not do those yet).
At a price of around US$500, this is one of the more expensive Swatch watches. I have had the occasion to buy a Swatch or two, and they have never been over US$100 in my experience. So not only does this take Omega into a new price bracket, but it also takes Swatch into a new price bracket.
This watch creates a whole new price category for Swatch customers. Customers who are Swatch lovers and have a few in their collection may be stretched on the price point, but they will accept it because it looks like an Omega. Furthermore, non Swatch customers who typically buy in the US$200 ~ US$1,000 range now have a reason to look at Swatch. But not just any Swatch, the Omega Swatch; these customers see value in the Omega iconography at an accessible price.
Judgment Is In
So what did the market say? At the beginning of this piece, I received a video of the opening day queue at a suburban shipping center. The gentleman who sent it to me said he was walking at a quick pace, and it took a full minute and 43 seconds to walk from the back of the queue to the front of the queue. That is the market speaking, and it is telling us that this watch is a resounding success.
The secondary market also reinforces this conclusion. On the day of the launch, there were watches available in the secondary market at prices over US$2,000. Four times the retail price, not even Patek Philippe is managing that!
Still In Limited Supply
Even today, when you go to the store to try and buy one, you will be placed on a waiting list. On the website, you are provided with plenty of information on the watches. Still, the top banner indicates that they cannot produce enough watches (although they say they are trying).
What Is Going On?
Swatch and Omega have created exactly the same environment for a $500 watch that Patek Phillipe and Jaeger LeCoultre create for a $50,000 watch. The trials and tribulations the buyer has to go through to purchase their watch only increase the affinity the owner has for the watch when they eventually receive it. And, even better for the brand, they are more likely to talk to their friends about it.
I concluded at the end of the last blog post about premiums on luxury watches that:
“What is that base human desire that Dior, Nike, Patek Philipp, Rolex are aiming at? It is very simple, it is driven by status and recognition. The waiting list, or rather the challenge to get on the waiting list, is a hurdle for the customer to verify their status as being good enough to be on the waiting list.”
For the Omega X Swatch, the situation is the same. Those who have it on their wrist have had the fortitude to get to the front of the queue or paid up in the secondary market. The market has determined the status premium, and it is approximately US$1,500 – that is incredible for a US$500 watch.
An Amazing Feat
I have to take my hat off and salute those at Swatch and Omega who created this initiative. It is utterly brilliant, they are executing it flawlessly, and the market loves it. The watch-buying public is demanding this product, and the marketers manage supply beautifully to ensure that the noise around the watch continues. Those that have the watch will wear it with pride for the status it implies, and this will further encourage those who have not yet managed to get to the front of the queue just yet to try a little bit harder.
As a mass-market endeavor, achieving this market reaction is a remarkable achievement. But this is the antithesis of SNGLRTY. If you would like a watch created for you, it will reflect your individuality and free-thinking spirit. Not one that seeks to put you in conformity of the herd, and the approval of the marketing department, then set up a call with me today. I would be delighted to create a watch just for you.
And the after-market price? It is priceless because it will be you rebelling against the conformists, the status quo, the herd. Nothing can make you feel better than that. Indeed, nothing makes me feel better than that!