Has the hype watch launch gotten out of hand? Has the hype watch launch gotten out of hand?

Has the hype watch launch gotten out of hand?

Zach Blass

The weekend is over, and you are fighting a case of the Mondays as you head off back to class or work. In transit, as we all do, you pull out your phone, open Instagram, and begin scrolling only to arrive at a vague brand post teasing a new watch shrouded in darkness – at minimum a date and time and at most a tagline. Now, in our niche bubble, a lack of commentary has never been a problem. Speculation, perhaps only second to trolling and vitriol, is rampant within watch social media, and with these vague declarations a match is lit, a starting gun fired, and it is off to the comment-races. The Instagram comments section inevitably snowballs with each share to stories or tag, with everyone suddenly becoming a horological sleuth who thinks they know what is coming or even what must come in order to avoid disappointment. And disappointment is key here, cause once you open Pandora’s hype box, you better clear the bar as a brand.

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Brands could simply just post a new watch at launch, rather than tease it. But teasers have now become the norm. One of the initial examples I look to of this now-common practice is the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet. A brand whose relevance is largely dictated by a single collection, the Royal Oak, when AP teased something totally new was coming it stirred up a frenzy. “To break the rules you must first master them,” was the tagline AP arrived at – a grand insinuation that a game-changer was about to debut. Something unheard of, never before seen, and totally fresh… At least this was the expectation from consumers as a result of the message. But, like the Royal Oak, when the curtain was pulled, many found themselves scratching their heads. Years later, and after several evolutions, the Code 11.59 collection has hit its stride. Some detractors still linger, but it is hard to argue that the watch is not well-designed at present or unworthy of being a collection presented by AP. The only certainty here is the fact that the teaser and marketing campaign in the days and weeks leading up to the reveal created a mountain too high to climb. That the campaign set expectations too high, while also revealing the silent accomplice of an enthusiast’s imagination is a key consideration as well.

Brands and media, we all have our KPIs and metrics. It would be a lie to say we have no stake in views, likes, and other forms of engagement. At least on one side of the coin, we are not doing our jobs if we are not generating buzz or interest. It is important for us to recognize that in the funnel or feedback loop that it starts with us both: brands disseminate information to the media, and the media, along with the brands, to the consumer at launch. So, it is imperative that watch brands take into consideration the best path of novelty presentation and, on our end, how we frame and contextualise the news.


The launch of the Tudor Pelagos FXD Black is arguably a prime example of a teaser that set up a debut to present itself as underwhelming. Especially for a high-interest brand like Tudor, such a teaser reel screams to the watch world look over here only to have people react well… it is black. Like the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet, it was a moment where fans were left disappointed. Yet the watch, outside of the context hype-inducing teaser, is a strong release. I do not think anyone is complaining about a black colour-schemed FXD. But the teaser certainly over-triggered our imaginations and hopes.

swatch omega moonswatch mission to uranus

On the other hand, Swatch teasing and generating buzz around the MoonSwatch is an example of where it makes sense. Feelings aside on the product, it was unquestionably groundbreaking. Never before, at least in this manner, had two watch brands within a conglomerate teamed up for a collaborative release that presented a luxury brand and design at a far more accessible price. After the shroud of mystery lifted and the MoonSwatch was revealed to the public, genuine shock and awe ensued with an unprecedented level of interest and buzz generated – arguably the biggest launch in the history of watches. This madness and mania is exactly why brands look to tease many of their novelties now, as the content and conversation generated from the news ultimately propelled it towards becoming a bestseller both within and outside of the niche of watch enthusiasm.

swatch x blancpain first look 4

But the MoonSwatch’s deserving hype is also dangerous. I do not mean dangerous in the physical sense, although there were certainly queue altercations around the world with everyone clamouring for one… It is dangerous in that now any Swatch collaborations in its wake are very unlikely to surpass the original and the momentum it had. Like ‘rollover minutes’ from the days of Cingular wireless in the USA, the Swatch x Blancpain collaboration borrowed from the hype surrounding the MoonSwatch in order to boost a different Swatch brand: Blancpain. A clear opportunity to join in on the hype and, in a fiscal sense, scalping, plenty of launch coverage revealed that there were many in line for a BioCeramic Fifty Fathoms without having the slightest clue as to what Blancpain or a Fifty Fathoms was. If the mission is to generate awareness around Blancpain, yet people are participating in this sequel moment without gaining this awareness, is the mission a success? Financially, sure. But in terms of brand awareness and the notion of introducing people to the world of Swiss watches, I am unsure. It was definitely another moment, but there were certainly a fair number of participants blindly joining in without understanding why.

This is the power we all have. The brands setting the stage, the media outlets framing the conversation, and the enthusiasts/viewers sustaining it. I am not suggesting to you all not to engage, have fun, and talk watches. My worst nightmare would be a lack of community and conversation. But, as we grow this community, I am suggesting that we all understand the power we have. I also want to point out that a persistent hype frenzy is simply not sustainable. If we are constantly looking for something major we are all setting ourselves up for disappointment. We all have to keep each other in check. Watch brands and media should be careful with how watches are presented, watch media and enthusiasts should hold brands accountable, and watch media should call out horological hooliganism and push back when the comment section gets too hectic in a frenzy. In fact, it is worth noting that two pillars of the hype frenzy, the brand itself and watch media, had a rarely performed dialogue prior to the launch of the MoonSwatch. This communication could have been a reason why the MoonSwatch was propelled beyond the bubble of the watch community in a, at least then, surprising way. Ultimately, this sort of feedback loop will keep #watchfam at its strongest.