Following BMW’s acquisition of ALPINA, many fans felt that BMW would simply turn the famed luxury brand into nothing more than a trim level for normal cars. It’s doubtful that happens but I’m no fortune teller, so who knows. Though, those fears aren’t unfounded, as large parent companies do things like all the time. In fact, it recently just happened in the watch world, as Swatch and Omega just launched a collaborative effort — the MoonSwatch.
Omega became world famous in the ’60s for supplying Apollo 11 astronauts with Omega Speedmaster Professional watches. At the time, it was the only mechanical chronograph deemed fit by NASA for the rigors of space travel. It was a simple looking but gorgeous and incredibly robust hand-wound chronograph, nicknamed the “Moonwatch”, and it’s still in production today (though, there have been some minor modifications since the ’60s). The real deal Moonwatch typically costs over $6,000.
However, Swatch, being the parent company of Omega, decided to collaborate with the famous Moonwatch brand to develop a much cheaper version of its Apollo 11-rated watch. So the two brands put their heads together and created this, the MoonSwatch.
Rather than costing over $6,000, the MoonSwatch is only $260 and yet it looks nearly identical to the real thing. How and why is it so cheap? A couple of reasons. For starters, the MoonSwatch ditches Omega’s in-house hand-wound (or automatic) movement in favor of a quartz movement. Obviously, a simple Swatch-derived quartz movement is significantly less interesting than even a simple automatic movement but it does have all of the same chronograph functionality as the proper Moonwatch and costs far less.
The other way Swatch and Omega were able to cut costs was by making the case out of Swatch’s “Bioceramic” material, rather than Omega’s typical stainless steel. Bioceramic is essentially a fancy recycled plastic with some ceramic mixed in. It provides a matte finish, rather than the lovely brushed/polished metal look of the real Moonwatch. There are also some MoonSwatch-specific logos and branding on the face. However, the rest of the MoonSwatch looks damn-near identical to the real thing. At a glance, no one will know the difference.
Interestingly, the MoonSwatch comes with the same Velcro strap that the Apollo astronauts wore. They wore Velcro straps because they needed the watch to wrap around the outside of their spacesuits and it needed to be usable with big chunky gloves. For the MoonSwatch, it’s used because it’s cheap to make.
However, for all its cost-cutting and cheap materials, there’s an odd charm to the MoonSwatch. Maybe it’s because Omega is actually involved or because it looks nearly identical but still isn’t trying to be an exact copy. Instead, it’s trying to be a budget version and it isn’t hiding it. The Bioceramic case is clearly different and the badging almost makes it seem proud of its Swatch-based nature.
As someone who’s always dreamed of owning a Speedmaster, it being my favorite watch of all (I don’t care if that’s predictable, Watch Snobs, if it’s good enough for Buzz Aldrin, it’s good enough for anyone, dammit), I think I like the MoonSwatch. For $260, I think I’m going to buy one, as it’s the closest thing I’ll get to the real deal anytime soon. Will it replace my cool mechanical Seikos? No, of course not. But will it be a fun, interesting addition to my collection, something to wear when I feel like it? Yea, absolutely.
So while the MoonSwatch has all the makings of lame, badge-engineered garbage, I actually think it’s kinda cool. What do you think?