The MoonSwatch release was loved by everyone because it was a surprising and bold move to pair the two brands of OMEGA and Swatch together. I believe its success was founded on the fact that Speedmasters are much-loved timepieces that cannot be afforded by everyone, and yet the group found an authentic way to turn it into an “everybody watch” by making it plastic and quartz. I'm not sure the 50 fathoms has the same broad appeal to start with as the Speedy has.
They used technology and skills from within the group to reinterpret a fan-favourite making it accessible to everyone. That felt authentic. It was a great start. Then demand vs supply issues began creeping in and instead of Swatchgroup turning up production they used it to create a market control situation, hoping to squeeze out as much PR as possible.
This attitude eventually soured the excitement of many customers including myself. I never bought one in the end. Seeing that unfold left me with three reasons I won’t buy a Blancpain x Swatch 50 fathoms:
It’s come too soon after the MoonSwatch hype and feels like a money-grabbing exercise - a bit desperate even - to stay hot on the heels of the last round. You can already find scalpers selling the £340 plastic watches for anything between £600 and £1300 on eBay which shows you how
To my understanding, Swatch is currently being kept afloat by the other Swatchgroup brands, like OMEGA, so I'm not surprised they're redoing an obviously successful collaboration formula. I get it, it’s business. But it's kinda embarrassing to be so superficial about it. It reminds me of the criticism OMEGA gets for constantly releasing Limited Edition Speedmasters. Eventually, there are so many that they lose significance and value.
The generated hype feels tacky, and to me, it reveals that Swatchgroup don't really have a clue about how to market Swatch at the moment. Did you notice how excited everyone was to see the first signs of the release? Yellow boxes in windows and pictures of oceans… but the hype dropped quite quickly. As if we are all trained on what’s about to happen next.
The MoonSwatch collaboration thing was a lucky-ish accident. I mean, not entirely, but we know Swatch wasn't prepared for the interest in MoonSwatch. That was a mistake. This time they're going to assume the interest will be there again, which I think is another mistake. Either way, expect more Swatch x releases because it's undoubtedly going to be Swatchgroup’s new tactic.
While I normally encourage projects that promote mechanical watches outside of the usual audiences, this one feels lame.
I feel that most people buying this model won’t care about the 50 fathoms, or Blancpain. Or have any previous affection for mechanical watches. And the system 51 movement won’t teach them any of that good stuff either.
Why? Because System 51 movements are fully automated, meaning that not a single human hand touches them during their production. The movement is also not serviceable, so in the end it might reinforce for young people a feeling that this is obsolete technology. And lastly, it’s hard to ignore that ex-Blancpain CEO Jean-Claude Biver (who once promised there will never be a quartz watch in their lineup) has been caught on a technicality here. Granted, System 51 is not a quartz movement, but since he’s known for exceptional quality and craftsmanship, I almost feel like it should rather have been.
While I don’t mind the execution of the 50 fathoms, I won’t be buying one myself. I generally like the concepts behind this collaboration, and I personally know some of the people involved in its development, who are very talented and nice people.
It has nothing to do with them or even the designs, colours, or what sea slug appears on the back. The fact is that, overall, this project is just too obviously a formula, and I believe it represents the wrong way to bring new customers into the watch family.
Watchmaking has many levels of complexity, skill, and passion which normally creates long-term appreciation. This, I believe, reduces watches to just another disposable object. While Swatch once saved the industry through disposable, affordable timepieces during the days of the quartz crisis, I think today it’s doing the opposite.