Was the Omega Swatch Collaboration Authentic?

Aron Solomon

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Watches are my groove. I’ve collected watches for over 40 years, have written extensively about them, and built an actual watch company. One of our watches was on GQ’s list last year of the best watches in the world under $500 and we’ve beaten the odds as a startup and survived now for close to five years.

As a watch expert, I have long admired both Swatch and Omega for different reasons. Few people know that both of these watch companies are actually part of one brand which, many people would also be surprised, is the Swatch brand rather than Omega. Swatch Group owns some of the world’s most prestigious and historically important watch brands today, including Omega, Blancpain, Breguet, and Longines.

In late March, Swatch released a special Omega x Swatch collaboration/re-issue available only in Swatch stores around the world. It’s called the Bioceramic MoonSwatch Collection. The concept was to re-create some Omega‘s classic chronograph watches but with Swatch construction. So, they built something that looks exactly like some of the brilliant historical Omega chronograph watches, which would sell anywhere between $6,000 and $20,000 depending on exactly what model it was and whether it was new or vintage, but the collab sold at retail just a few days ago for under $300. These are truly beautiful watches with my personal favorite in the series being the Mission to the Moon, a stunning re-imagining of the classic Omega Speedmaster.

To the surprise of nobody who follows the watch industry as closely as I do, the watches literally sold out around the world within seconds. The same $300 watch that some lucky people found after waiting for hours in line at a Swatch store are listed on eBay for up to $10,000 (one sold earlier this month for over that amount). Online marketplaces such as StockX, where streetwear aficionados go to buy and sell their wares, also have these watches selling hourly for many multiples of their retail price. The demand for these watches is only going to go up, yet one thing may not have been anticipated by either Swatch or Omega or these legions of collectors.

The Chinese replica watch producers are able in 2022 to react to a brand release and copy those watches more quickly than they ever have. For the uninitiated, replica watches are a nice way of saying fake watches. Unlike those horrific fake Rolexes you’ve heard about that sell on New York’s Canal Street for $10, there are quality grades of fake watches these days. As someone who’s lived in Beijing and spent a lot of time in Hong Kong, I have seen and had on the quality of replica watches that even a jeweler wouldn’t be able to tell wasn’t the real thing. These aren’t $10 watches either - a top-grade replica Rolex can sell for over $1,000, which isn’t cheap but a lot less than the $10,000 the authentic one would sell for, if you can even find it.

One thing that I am also certain about is that in Chinese replica watch factories they will be, by the time you read this article, ready to ship perfect replicas of the Omega x Swatch Bioceramic MoonSwatch Collection collab. In fact, given that these watches have a quite simple quartz rather than more complicated automatic movement, it’s really not going to be extremely difficult for these replica watch factories to create perfect replicas of this set of watches and get it on the wrists of watch lovers around the world.

Sure, this is obviously not unproblematic. Replica watches are illegal almost everywhere with potential penalties of over $200,000 for possessing a fake watch in places such as France. While many of the larger replica watch sites are regularly shut down by national authorities, common industry practice simply has them pop up a few days later under a modified URL with word spread through message boards where replica lovers hang out and by the expensive mailing lists maintained by these replica watch merchants. If you’re thinking that the replica watch market sounds like an industry in itself, you’ve hit the bullseye. It’s actually a billion dollar industry.

All of this leads us to an interesting philosophical and legal consideration: if this Swatch x. Omega was itself an “homage” (another term used in the replica industry as a synonym for fake) or a sort of self-replica of the original Omega chronographs, is that any more or less artificial, for lack of a better word, than a watch factory simply re-creating the exact same collaboration? In other words, did Swatch simply create a legal knockoff of these iconic Omega watches?

I wrote a piece almost a decade ago in which I inquired into the nature of authenticity of things. I remember being in factories in China and Vietnam where they make authentic products for brands we know and love and I actually saw materials being taken to make replica products. Some replica briefcases and handbags use some authentic materials. Some “fake” watches use real cases from the original watch. The problem for these industries and for us as consumers is that the delineation between real and fake isn’t as binary as we’d like it to be anymore.

I know that the best replica watches of this Omega x Swatch collab produced this month are going to be perfect in every way when they hit the market in a matter of days. Not a cent of the sale of these watches will go to Swatch Group and some of the money will certainly go to nefarious causes. But for those who fuel the demand for these replica products, particularly those who self-identify as serial replica collectors, their appetite for these hottest releases, whether real or less real, is insatiable.

This is exactly why Swatch Group made the wise announcement on April Fools’ Day, that in the foreseeable future they will dramatically increase the supply of these watches, so that people can “buy all the MoonSwatches they want.” This move is clearly in response to Swatch Group realizing that revenue generated by demand for these watches will either go to replica watch factories, online resellers, or, actually, to themselves.

So while the date for this broad online release is yet to be set, and there have definitely been some reported problems with the watches released through the stores, hype is something that can’t be ignored or controlled.

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Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital, who has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world.


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