These MoonSwatch Owners Triumphed On Launch Day!

Surely enough time has passed since the MoonSwatch’s 2022 launch.  TBC feels it is perhaps safe now to talk about the absolute chaos that happened on that day.  We cannot think of a brand that would not kill to have that breadth and depth of mainstream media coverage.  We found two gentlemen who were willing to share just what happened when they went to queue for their first MoonSwatches.

Photography by Khristian Kelvin Koh, Will Koh & Ronald Chew

by The Balance Coq

  • November 23, 2023

The Innerview segment was conceived as a space for industry folks.  There is a slight deviation from the norm with this episode.  We have with us two watch collectors to retell their experience on 26 March 2022 – the MoonSwatch launch day.  Khristian Kelvin Koh and Will Koh (not related) were part of a group of collectors that went down to a Swatch store very early on a Saturday, with every intention of queuing and walking away with MoonSwatches in tow. Out of this group of ten, only these two mad lads managed to each walk out with a MoonSwatch on their wrists.

The interview itself was a free-flowing affair; the transcript has been rearranged sequentially to give a better sense of what happened chronologically.  Additional inputs by Ronald Chew.

Queues were orderly at 5:30a.m.

Will at the back of the queue

Meanwhile, at the Swatch store…

TBC: Thank you for agreeing to this innerview, gentlemen.  Before we jump right into the action, can you tell us what led you to the decision to ultimately go down to get the Moonswatch on launch day?

KKK: I actually went down two days prior to the launch; I went to take a look at where the Swatch stores were at ION Orchard (ION) and Marina Bay Sands (MBS). I remembered jokingly telling the staff at the ION Swatch store to be prepared for a big crowd on launch day.

WK: We have a group chat to talk about watches, amongst other things.  And after images of all the MoonSwatches were released, all we could talk about were the eleven colours and Uranus jokes.

KKK:  With the online buzz in the watch community alone for the MoonSwatch, we were dead sure there was going to be a queue.  The idea was so novel!  Its RRP (~ USD260 at launch) is not even 10% of a Speedmaster Professional’s RRP (~ USD7,000 in the same time period).  It was a no-brainer.

TBC: Do you think price was a key factor in generating so much interest?

KKK: To be honest, yes.  At that price, you won’t think to stop at just one MoonSwatch.  It makes collecting all eleven variants something most people can realistically achieve.

WK: I would say it is not just pricing alone.  The MoonSwatch looks exactly like a Moonwatch.  They nailed the look. I remember a lot of people were surprised when it was confirmed that the regular Speedmaster Professional straps can fit on the MoonSwatch.  If they made a version that only kind of resembles the Speedmaster Professional, I don’t think the interest level would be so high.

KKK: Yes, that is true.  It looks just like a Speedmaster Professional.  Suddenly, everyone can afford an “Omega”.

More people rushing to the front
barricades in place
Steel barricades in place just outside the ION Swatch store

TBC: So how did your group decide which Swatch store to go to?

KKK: We thought everyone would rather queue at the MBS Swatch store.  MBS is open all day long with air conditioning, so it would be very comfortable for people wanting to queue overnight, like they did for the iPhone launches at the MBS Apple Store.  There were a couple of things working in favour of ION Orchard.  ION is not like MBS – they have opening and closing hours like normal malls do.  The ION Swatch store is in the middle of this huge mall, so it would be difficult for people to queue there overnight.  The ION Swatch store also opens at 10a.m. – an hour* earlier than the MBS Swatch store.

WK: And because all of us have regular jobs, queuing overnight was not going to be an option.  Our only hope was to get up early on a Saturday morning, and hopefully not be too far behind in the line at ION.

KKK:  Some in the group were already making breakfast plans once we have collected our MoonSwatches!

TBC:  And what time did you guys eventually get there on the day itself?

WK: I was there about half past 5 in the morning.

KKK: I got there just after him.

TBC:  Tell us about what happened next.

WK:  It was utter chaos that greeted me as I came down the escalator.  You know how Singapore is known to be efficient and orderly?  This was not the Singapore I know.  There was not just one, not two, but three separate queues!  I remember texting to let the group know there were a lot more people than any of us had even jokingly thought was possible and telling them that it was pure chaos at the Swatch store entrance.  But being Singaporean, of course I picked a queue and got to the back of it.

“There was not just one, not two, but three separate queues!”

~ a very surprised Will Koh, arriving at Basement 2 of ION Orchard

KKK:  …until I arrived.

WK: …until he arrived.  Khristian saw the chaotic queue situation and he looked at me and simply said “Let’s go.”  I was a bit hesitant, of course.  I didn’t want to rile people up.

KKK: I told him there was no one in control of the situation – no security teams, no police presence, nothing!  Everyone there was trying to game the system.   When I went to the store to look, I could see a couple of queue barrier stands, with some red tape stuck to the floor at the shopfront, on the side of the Wheelock Place (an adjoining shopping mall) entrance. People were standing, and sitting at the store front. The mass of people was already a lot bigger than we ever expected, and that was only 6:30a.m.  I asked Will to imagine the size of the crowd in a few hours’ time.  If we didn’t make for the front of the store right there and then, we would be in no position to get anything.  I was damn sure of that.

What the queue situation was like before 6a.m. , according to Will and Khristian

TBC:  That was a good pitch.  Did the group buy it?

WK:  No, just the two of us made the move.  The rest did not feel comfortable skipping the queues in such an obvious fashion.  They remained a little further back in the queue I was in.

TBC:  Seeing how you both got MoonSwatches on launch day, the move was the right one?

KKK:  I am telling you it was not fun.  Bro, the air-conditioning was not turned on at that time.  And we were all still wearing masks at that time.  By now, more people have decided to gather at the store entrance.  The ones in the official queue were still standing their ground.

WK:  The security team came soon and directed the entire mass of people to the side where the stores are.  They wanted to create a pathway from the Orchard Road train station through to Wheelock Place. Just imagine how packed it suddenly became.  It was hot and sweaty.  People were jammed in so tight, we could not move at all.  I realised it was going to be a problem if we needed to go to the gents, because…

KKK:  …no one will let you move an inch.  No one is getting in, and no one is getting out.  I’m a big guy, and even I felt trapped.  Helpless, like a stampede could have happened there.  And some lady fainted.  They had to get paramedics in to get her out.

TBC: From the video footage, it did look like it was a push away from a stampede.

WK:  I think that’s why no one was surprised when the police arrived at the scene.  One of them addressed the crowd with a megaphone and told us they will only allow the Swatch store to open for business if we were orderly.

WK:  We heard people in the crowd say they can see Swatch store staff trying to get through the crowd.  And like we said earlier, no one was moving, even if they could.  The police had to create enough room for them to get to the store front and get inside.

KKK: At some point, after the police had a discussion with the Swatch people inside the store, they made a human barricade around the crowd just outside the store.  Just the police officers, with their arms interlocked.  Those inside the barricade would be able to queue for a MoonSwatch.  Those outside the cordon were to asked to leave.

WK: And if I was not wrong, some of those people in the official Swatch queue fell outside the barricade.  They were not happy.  But it was too far, too noisy, and too chaotic for me to catch what the conversations were like between the police and the have-nots.  I did not even hear the guy who screamed at the police to draw their guns and shoot him.  I only saw the footage that night on the news.

KKK: After a while, they brought down steel barricades.  The arrangement was like this: Swatch store staff will issue queue numbers going up to 127.  So long as you have one of these queue stubs, you will be able to buy a MoonSwatch.

Group photo
What can one do in a queue? Make friends, which is exactly what our interviewees did.

TBC: What were your queue numbers?

WK: Can’t remember, but we were one of the last few ones.

KKK: Good thing they restricted to one piece per customer (Ronald Chew: The change in purchase limits was announced on launch day itself at 8:30a.m. Singapore time on Instagram). Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to get one.

WK: The ION Swatch store opened at 10a.m. By the time it came to our turn, it was about 11a.m.

TBC: You had a look; thrill us with something juicy.

WK:  As the last few ones getting a MoonSwatch that day, we got our choices, luckily.  Whoever was queuing after us only had only the Earth and the Neptune MoonSwatch to choose from.

TBC:  What you are saying is that people chose the Sun MoonSwatch over the Neptune MoonSwatch?

Both nodded with laughter.

WK: If only we knew then what we know now, I would have taken the Neptune MoonSwatch!

TBC: Please go on.  What else happened post-purchase?

WK: There were still people hanging around outside the steel barricades.  Some were cashed-up collectors.  Others were resellers. They were not shy at all.  They were offering SGD1,000 (~ USD750) in cold hard cash, depending on the MoonSwatch that was on your wrist.

KKK:  For me, it was that sense of pride.  Whenever I wore a Moonswatch during the initial weeks (Ronald: Khristian has already collected many of the MoonSwatch variants very early on), there were people congratulating me and asking me to help them get one.  People who have no interest in watches – random aunties and uncles, my work colleagues – know about the MoonSwatch.  How do you buy this level of awareness?

TBC:  Did you queue for the Blancpain X Swatch Fifty Fathoms collaboration?

KKK:  I had work commitments, so I could not make it for the launch day of the Fifty Fathoms collaboration.

WK:  I did, but this time everyone – from Swatch themselves to the mall’s security team – were very well prepared.  It was not as big a crowd as the MoonSwatch launch.  To those people who insist the MoonSwatch launch was intentionally planned to be massive and chaotic, why didn’t the brand repeat it globally for the Blancpain collaboration? I think the size of the Blancpain collaboration queue is what Swatch would have reasonably expected from the MoonSwatch launch.

TBC:  Speaking as collectors yourselves, would you do it all over again?

WK: No.  It felt dangerous at times.  The MoonSwatch is not a limited production watch.  I feel there was no need to queue like that.  The staff at ION Orchard all looked so stressed out.

KKK:  For me, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I would do it again.  The two of us even made friends with people in the queue!  But maybe this time without the masks.  And turn on the air-conditioning please!

*The Swatch Shop @ MBS Shoppes used to open at 11:00a.m. , and have since revised their opening time to 10:30a.m.

launchday swag
Khristian’s launch-day swag
posing at swatch store front
Will Koh (L) and Khristian Kelvin Koh (R)

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