But now, in hindsight, I think MoonSwatch was closer to the watch industry’s Staple x Nike Dunk event. Like the MoonSwatch, which forced Swatch shops to shut down early for the day, that 2005 sneaker release caused chaos and leveraged collaboration, scarcity, and distinctive design to make a product that resold for well above retail. It’s no coincidence that the new Unimatic watches come from the mind of Eric Peng Cheng, a prodigious watch collector who owns Bait and Undefeated, both of which have released plenty of limited-edition sneakers over the years. He told Hodinkee this year that he sees the worlds of watches and streetwear merging. Naturally, the collab takes many maneuvers from the sneaker world, such as creating a splashy colorway and suppressing quantity to drive hype. (The Lemon Yellow is limited to 50 pieces while there are only 100 with the Polar White dial.) Sold-out notifications are now a regular feature of the watch world and that heartbreaking banner now sits on the product page for Adsum’s Timex.
The good news is that these new watch releases are slightly more democratic than what most collectors are accustomed to. The raffle system is at least something different, if not better, than the waitlist climbing currently required to buy many of the most desirable timepieces. And when someone does get the chance to buy these watches, the price is much easier to stomach.
What’s exciting about the watch industry stealing pages out of the hype-sneaker playbook is that it’s resulting in great and more widely accessible watches. Usually, the best new watches of any year are accompanied by sky-high prices and years-long waiting lists. This year, collectors had the chance to get a watch that’s half-Omega for a 24th of the price of the brand’s standard Moonwatch. Sure, these pieces can now only be found for a marked-up price on secondary market StockX, and collectors are desperately awaiting a long-promised restock, but if there’s one thing watch window shoppers—a cohort obsessed with super-exclusive and super-expensive objects— are used to, it’s not getting what they fall in love with.