Everyone has a story of "the one that got away." Usually, they did something that seemed like a prudent decision at the time but ended up being a huge regret. Maybe your uncle sold his Plymouth Superbird for $3200 in 1982, or you friend was one click away from buying a bunch of Bitcoin in 2016.
For me, it's the Omega Speedmaster Alaska Project. When I saw it in photos, I fell in love with its crisp white dial, and funky chronograph hands immediately. The fact that it came with a bright white velcro strap, and a gigantic red aluminum shield was just icing on the cake.
The one and only time that I saw one in person sealed the deal for me, I wanted one. It was after they had gone out of production, but apparently, this dealer in Frankfurt couldn't find a buyer for it. There it sat, new in box, on display behind glass all by itself with all of the fabulous accessories. It was listed for MSRP, which was €4,200 and I have a feeling they would have negotiated. I could have afforded the purchase, but it was more than I had ever spent on a watch and way too much to spend on a business trip impulse. "No way," I thought, "I'm going to be responsible. I'll buy one in a few years after I save up."
That was years ago. As of this writing, I have not bought one, and WatchCharts has the market price listed at $22,214. I'm guessing I never will.
It was because of this that I was especially excited about the Mission to Mars version of the Moonswatch when Swatch released the series last year. Its inspiration clearly came from the Alaska Project, and it contained all of the great traits that made the Alaska special: spacecraft hands, crisp white dial, and white velcro strap. Its case is even bright red, mimicking the Alaska's protective case.
Typically I don't buy homages, as they leave one wanting the real thing even more. But this watch is branded as an Omega, and I feel it's something different than an homage. So can it help offset the sting if not having the Alaska Project?
Despite its low cost, it still took me about 9 months from its release date to obtain a Mars. You likely heard about the hype surrounding it, and the fact that Swatch quickly retracted its promise to sell them online. Sure, I could have bought a used one, but even today they are still trading hands for around 30-40% over MSRP.
Recently I found myself at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. When I walked into the Swatch store and asked if they had any Moonswatches available, lucky for me, the Mission to Mars was one of the available models! I didn't have to think long, finally, I had a Moonswatch!
Upon taking it out of the box, my first impression was that it felt very light. I expected it to feel more like other ceramic watches, but its Bioceramic case feels more bio- than -ceramic, meaning that it doesn't feel much nicer than a plastic watch. It does have an attractive matte finish to it though.
Additionally, it looks cool. I think Swatch did a really nice job with the different colorways (each corresponding to a different celestial body). The store had all of the versions on display, and it was fun to see them all in person. They offer something for everyone from the person who wants something subtle, resembling a standard Speedmaster or other earth tones, to a number of wild color options.
The Moonswatch really does do a good job of mimicking the Speedmaster. The lyre lugs, tachy bezel, and domed crystal are all there. Even the dial design looks familiar, albeit rearranged a bit.
Rather than brushing and polishing like a Speedmaster, the Moonswatch's bioceramic case features a matte finish all around, but it does have sharp edges like a real Speedy.
As with a real Speedmaster, the Moonswatch has the brand logo etched in its acrylic crystal.
All Moonswatch Mission versions have a clever graphic depicting their corresponding celestial body applied to the battery cover. I found this to be a really fun touch. It also has a number of inspiring sayings molded into the caseback.
Wearing the Swatch x Omega Moonswatch Mission to Mars
Although it looks very similar to the original, the Speedmaster case design has been refined over the years. A steel speedy is quite comfortable and well-balanced, and being as light as a feather makes the Moonswatch even better to wear. If you're used to wearing steel watches, you'll quickly forget that you even have a watch on (especially if you ditch the supplied Velcro strap - more on that later).
I expected black hands on a white dial to offer great legibility, but the hands are a bit thin and can blend in with some of the dial details and text at first glance. I didn't have a real Speedmaster handy to compare, but I imagine that its hands are thicker and longer.
The hour markers are outlined in black, unlike the Alaska Project, but they blend in with the dial, making it difficult to spot the hours as well.
Additionally, despite using typically bright Super-LumiNova, the applications seem to be quite thin. The lume is not as bright as other watches that I own, but it's still legible once your eyes adjust to the darkness. Having lume on the chronograph hands is a fun touch that is not present on other versions of the Moonswatch.
All Moonswatch missions include a Velcro strap in a complementary color. As mentioned, the Mars strap mimics the optional strap that was included with the Alaska Project (that watch also came with a bracelet, however). It has similar black and red text and a red loop like the original.
The strap is lightweight and comfortable but feels and looks cheap. My biggest gripe about is is that it is visually a bit bulky on the bottom side of your wrist where the loop sits.
The Mall of America Swatch stores also had a few Moonswatch straps available for purchase separately for those who want to freshen theirs up or try a different color. I believe they were around $50.
I wore mine only briefly on the original strap, and have been enjoying wearing it on a number of Straphabit straps (as you might imagine). Keep reading at the end of the article to see some of my favorite looks for the Moonswatch. My current favorite is the appropriately-named Mars Red Sailcloth.
Swatch does not disclose the movement type in the Moonswatch. It is likely a version of the ETA G10 quartz chronograph with the date complication removed (and no phantom crown position). It can measure up to 60 minutes, and a 1/10 seconds indicator spins around to show tenths when you stop the chronograph.
The chronograph clicks are fairly crisp, and it also has a lap timer function. The ticking is quite loud, and easy to hear through the plastic case and crystal. Although it has three recessed subdials, it does not have the same dial layout as a real Speedmaster. Rather than being at 3 and 9, the subdials are shifted toward the top of the dial. A dead giveaway that it has a quartz ETA chronograph movement.
I tend not to pay over MSRP for any new watch, and I didn't deviate for the Moonswatch. They are becoming more and more available, and prices are coming down. I knew that I would get one eventually if I was patient. Even if you can't make it to a Swatch store, I'd recommend not paying much over the $260 MSRP for a Moonswatch.
On paper, even that price isn't a great value. A Seiko or even a G-Shock for much less money looks and feels like a more expensive watch. They should also be more durable. That being said, none of those watches had the impact on watch culture that the Moonswatch did. It seems to be bringing new interest and blood into the hobby, and it did something fun and different that no one else has done.
Sure, you're not getting the true experience of wearing an Omega for $260, but you get a watch with that prestigious name on the dial for less than they typically charge for a strap. Additionally, it's just a FUN lineup. The color combinations with different planets and other celestial bodies is a great concept. Having the bright Mars on my wrist sure puts me in a better mood.
So did it make up for missing out on the Alaska Project? If I still had the chance to buy one at the original price, I would ditch the Mission to Mars in a second, but it has reduced the sting more than I expected it would. I have an Omega Speedmaster with those awesome hands, and bright white dial. While it's not a true substitute, I enjoy owning it.
Name: Swatch x Omega Moonswatch Mission to Mars
Reference Number: SO33R100
Lug Width: 20mm
Movement: Swatch Quartz Chronograph Movement
Water Resistance: 30m
Bezel: Fixed, tachymetre
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