Swatch "Over The Moon" Gold & Pioneer Event 2022

part 2: MoonSwatch Experience

At about 2pm, it was time to start the highlight of the event (at least for me):  The MoonSwatch Experience.

The doors of the Nicolas G. Hayek Conference Hall were opened and we entered this beautiful room.

nice placeholders on each chair

Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek was waiting for us.  Earlier in the day (at 10am), the Ordinary General Meeting of Shareholders was held by Nick and the Board of Swatch Group Directors in the same room.  So Nick had already been busy before and it was time now for a more relaxing meeting (hopefully) with the Gold & Pioneer Swatch collectors.  Nick was in a really good mood and now it was the time to tell the story about the watch surprise of the decade (the MoonSwatch), straight from the horses mouth...

Nick Hayek had already shared some snippets of the story with journalists earlier in the day after the shareholders meeting but Nick and his MoonSwatch team from Omega and Swatch explained all details of the amazing MoonSwatch / "Galileo" project in the following three hours including a long Q&A session.  These details had never been shared before with anyone else, so it really was a fantastic "MoonSwatch Experience".

For me, the big question always was:  "Who initiated this project?  Who got the ball rolling?".  Now we know.

Nick told us that it all started in summer 2021 (August) when he thought how "joy and provocation" (this has always been the Swatch motto) can be brought back to the watch industry, at a moment in time when the end of Covid restrictions were near or at least the end of the tunnel was in sight.  So he thought about some possible watch collaborations using the industry leading Swatch exclusive Bioceramic material, both within and outside of the brands of the Swatch Group.  "Swatch and Longines", "Swatch and Omega", "Swatch and R***x", ...  At ETA, some unique "one off" pieces for the different watch brands and watch types were secretly manufactured.  When he (with his small team) saw a black and yellow Bioceramic Swatch in an Omega Speedmaster case, they thought:  "we might be onto something here".

So Nick gave Gregory Kissling (Head of Product Management at OMEGA watches) a challenging task:  "Drop everything that you are doing now, take your best watch designer and design a Omega X Swatch Speedmaster collection.  Please get back to me ASAP!".  At this moment, less than 10 people knew about the project.  After one week, Nick asked "How is the progress of the project?".  No answer.  After two weeks:  no answer.

After three weeks, Gregory came back with "Project Galileo" and this photo:

The idea for the MoonSwatch collection (eleven watches with the planets, the sun, and the moon) was born.  Gregory and the designer had already produced detailed prototype pictures of the watches, very close to the watches as we know them today.  You can see some different phases of the design iterations further below (unfortunately, I did not manage to capture the slides for all eleven watches, they were shown only very briefly :-).  Still less than 10 people knew about the project, including:  Nick Hayek, Gregory Kissling, Raynald Aeschlimann (CEO and president of OMEGA), Damiano Casafina (CEO of ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère), Gaetano Moscarino (Head of Product & Product Development Swatch), Carlo Giordanetti (Member of the Product and Design Committee Swatch).  Everybody was very excited about the project, Nick told us that Raynald Aeschlimann had to be convinced a little bit but in the end he agreed as well (or he had to :-)  So at this stage (September / October after a few design iterations), the project was almost finished but in theory and virtual only. 

Now the production had to be started and ramped up in record time.  This brought a few more additional challenges.  Fortunately, Swatch Group has the complete supply chain for the watches in their own hands:  ETA SA ("The Motorist Of Time") for producing the calibres for the MoonSwatch (standard ETA G10.212 [slightly modified] with the well known Swatch Chrono Renata 394 battery), Universo for the watch hands, dial production (which company?), ...  All of these companies are located in Switzerland. This turned out to be a big advantage for the project.  At this point in time, the number of people who knew about the "Galileo" project grew from a dozen to a few hundred.  Imagine that you work in the Swatch Group company who manufactures the MoonSwatch dial.  Adding 1+1 should not be too difficult.  The big miracle: no info or even photos leaked out from the Swatch factories during this period in Fall / Winter 2021.  This tells us a lot about the loyalty of the Swatch Group employees (compare this to the detailed leaks from China about every new iPhone).

The tools for the mold of the watch cases (the "negative form" of the Speedmaster case where the Bioceramic granules are injected) had to be created.  Usually, this takes a whopping six months (new tools / new molds are time consuming).  For the MoonSwatch project, this was done by an external supplier and it was managed to get the mold in a record breaking six weeks. The regular production of the MoonSwatch watches started in December 2021.

In parallel, the marketing and sales concept had to be created.  Again, a very small team was involved (due to secrecy).  Alain Villard (Management Swatch Retail) and others helped to create the marking campaign.  Here is a detail that shows the secrecy of the project:  Stefan Sommer (Head Of Retail Swatch) was informed about the MoonSwatch on 17-MAR-2022, nine days before the launch and in the same week when Swatch invited six watch bloggers to Biel (actually to the same room) to unveil the MoonSwatch (Fratello Watches, Hodinkee, Hypebeast, Revolution Watch, ...).

On 17-MAR, two mysterious full page ads ("On 26-MAR, it's time to change your OMEGA -- SWATCH" / "On 26-MAR, it's time to change your SWATCH -- OMEGA") appeared in many newspapers around the world (this ad is a variation of a "it is time to change your R***x for a Swatch" ad from the early 90s during a financial crisis in the US).  On 21-MAR, the Omega and Swatch stores were decorated in "Ω X S" style and the stores showed a mysterious suitcase with an "Ω X S" logo. On 24-MAR, the blue suitcases in the Swatch and Omega stores were opened worldwide and the MoonSwatch collection was unveiled in the six large watch blogs.  All Swatch store managers around the world were educated about the new product on the 24th, two days before the launch only.  The rest is history and we all know about the MoonSwatch craze around the world on 26-MARMoonSwatch (Omega X Swatch) launch queues around the world / Frankfurt.

It was really really exciting to hear the complete story by the team who created the collection.  The Q&A with the team was super interesting:  There are no plans at the moment to sell a watch suitcase with eleven watches ("we cannot do this as long as it is hard to get one watch at all").  No plans to sell online at the moment.  No plans to increase the production by large factors, you won't see millions of MoonSwatches anytime soon (strap production might be a limiting factor here).  When I asked about the possible Swatch Group name change to "Omega Group", "Omega Swatch Group" (this was the first idea when we saw the newspaper ads on 21-MAR), Nick answered:  "over my dead body only"...  It is quite sure that Mission to Neptune will be available again in the future, made of new case material with no visible difference to the first version (no leaking of blue color anymore).  No reservation lists in the stores for MoonSwatch are planned.  We talked about the issue of MoonSwatch fakes ("it is an 'honor' that these fakes have been created so fast" according to Nick).  Swatch will use all legal methods to remove these fakes from the market of course.  Nick also dropped some hints about a new material for Swatch watches (in addition to Bioceramics), I am not sure if it involves cannabis/CBD oil (these words were mentioned during the discussion).  Don't be surprised if you see a "hemp Swatch" in the future...  But maybe he was only joking (who knows), "Swatch is always surprising" :-)

After Nicks introduction and a short video (see above), Gregory Kissling explained all the details about the MoonSwatches in a 10-15 minutes talk.

Design iterations for the different MoonSwatch watches:  from the idea (left) as originally presented by Gregory Kissling to the final product (right):

Mission To Venus is the only watch that has been created after an original 38mm Speedmaster,
therefore TACHYMETRE and not TACHYMÈTRE on the outer ring (as on the original watch)

only 51 parts in the MoonSwatch calibre ETA G10.212

more than 400 parts in an original Omega Speedmaster

A presentation about Bioceramics by Gaetano Moscarino (Head of Product & Product Development Swatch) followed, again with quite a few interesting details:

After the detailed presentations and explanations, it was time for Q&A with the MoonSwatch team (not the complete team of course):

Alain Villard on the right

After Q&A, it was time for "hands on".  Nick Hayek and team were present for individual questions.  Time had been really flying during the excellent presentations.  This was really one of the best experiences during a G&P event ever (the best experience was winning lot 7 during the Hong Kong Blum auction in 2011 of course :-). 

At around 5pm, the first part of the MoonSwatch Experience was over and the Nicolas G. Hayek Conference Hall was emptied in order to prepare the next highlight of the G&P:  Every collector was allowed to purchase a MoonSwatch (allocated randomly, no individual choice was possible).  Apparently, these MoonSwatch watches were "nicked" from the Swiss market :-)

Click here to read part 3 ("MoonSwatch Dinner + Party") of my "Over The Moon" Gold & Pioneer Event report.

19-JUL: Wired Magazine also has a nice long report about the MoonSwatch and how it came to life.

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