The Swatch brand’s latest collaboration, a tie-up with the luxury diving watch Blancpain, debuted Saturday with thousands queuing at stores from Sydney to Tokyo and at major European cities for a chance to buy the timepiece.
The response to the $400 plastic Fifty Fathoms watch with an automatic Swatch movement recalled the sales surge in 2022 when the company unveiled a quartz-driven, entry-level version of the Omega Speedmaster. Swatch sold more than a million MoonSwatches last year.
While the MoonSwatch launch caused global chaos as buyers swarmed Swatch boutiques — including forcing the shutdown of a store in London — the latest rollout appeared better organised, with tighter security.
In Geneva, a crowd of more than 300 people queued up, with the first hopefuls arriving around noon on Friday. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms that inspired the new collaboration was among the first commercially available dive watches, debuting in 1953 and once worn by Jacques Cousteau.
Security guards allowed just two shoppers in the store at a time when the Geneva store opened at 10 a.m. local time. Each customer was limited to buying a single watch, choosing one of the five colourful versions on offer. The watches are water resistant to 91 meters (300 feet).
In Paris, people started queuing at 6 p.m. Friday on the Champs Elysees to make sure they would be among the first inside at 10 a.m. By noon on Saturday, dozens were still waiting in line in scorching heat — some bleary-eyed after hours of shuffling along.
Among them, Orlando, 26, who described himself as a “watch enthusiast,” was about to finally be ushered into the store after hours of waiting.
“I think it’s a good access to luxury, entry-level to luxury,” the Mexican tourist said. “For me, it’s nice to have in a collection, and it goes right next to your Rolex or your Tag Heuer.”
Swatch enthusiasts in Milan also queued overnight near a central Corso Vittorio Emanuele II store.
“I arrived yesterday at around 11:30 p.m., and 30 to 40 people were already there,” said Riccardo Begliomini, a student at Politecnico di Milano University. He secured a watch around noon, paying €390 for a beige- and orange-coloured version that’s destined for a fast turnaround.
“I surely will sell it as I’m not interested in wearing it, if any acquaintance will make me a good offer or on the online platform Chrono24,” he said.
Almost immediately, on Saturday, the watches started appearing on watch trading websites with prices ranging from €1,000 to €2,000.
Prospective buyers also camped out overnight in Sydney, the Daily Mail reported, and a Swatch store in Tokyo saw long lines. Stores across Europe, including in Cannes and Vienna, as well as Dubai, also saw long queues, according to local reports. The initial supply of watches sold out in Zurich by early afternoon, a member of staff said.
Swatch Group AG, which owns a stable of names including Omega, Breguet and Mido, is hoping the latest collaboration boosts sales not only for Swatch but also for the Blancpain brand, whose prices start at about $10,000.
Chief executive officer Nick Hayek told Bloomberg News last year that sales in Omega boutiques jumped by 50 percent after the debut of the MoonSwatch.
Blancpain is among the top 20 largest Swiss watch brands, with sales of about 420 million Swiss francs ($470 million) in 2022, according to estimates by Morgan Stanley.
Swatch has said the Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms, like the MoonSwatch, isn’t a limited edition but will be sold at selected Swatch boutiques and not online.
By Antonio Vanuzzo, Alexandre Rajbhandari and Andy Hoffman
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