OPINION: Violence at Bamford G-Shock launch in Carnaby Street boutique must be turning point for limited edition releases OPINION: Violence at Bamford G-Shock launch in Carnaby Street boutique must be turning point for limited edition releases

OPINION: Violence at Bamford G-Shock launch in Carnaby Street boutique must be turning point for limited edition releases

Andrew McUtchen

When George Bamford launched his first G-Shock Limited Edition in September 2020, it was a “super, super nice” experience, according to the man himself. People queued in an orderly fashion. Collectors asked him for an autograph. The event at the Carnaby Street G-Shock boutique had a festive atmosphere. The watch sold out “in three minutes”, and became something of a legend. What a difference two years makes. 

By contrast, yesterday’s launch of the DW6900BWD ‘Triple Blues’ was nothing short of carnage on Carnaby Street.

Things started out civil enough. Someone (possibly George himself, judging by the colourful kicks) set themselves up at the front of the queue. It was a classic gag. Side table, fancy bottle of wine, magazine (almost certainly The Spectator), vase with a single red tulip and don’t forget the martini glass. The only thing pointing to this not being Mr Bamford was the post he did on social media advising that the early bird “stay hydrated”. Seemed legit, but come to think of it, that might have been referring to the Chablis… Stunts aside, the queue formed as early as midnight by some accounts on Monday 18.  

limited edition launches

But when doors opened, the tone changed and personal space was invaded. Scalpers, flippers, whatever you want to call them, bum-rushed the queue and displaced those who had earned their place. “They were violent. They shoved people out of the way and pushed ahead. One guy had been up since 4am, and he didn’t get a watch,” Bamford said in a voice message to me with genuine distress in his voice. 

The scenes George sent me, captured in a long thread on WhatsApp, took me back to the Geneva Swatch Boutique at the launch of the MoonSwatch earlier this year. I wrote back to George on the thread and told him about one particularly ominous moment. I was inside the booth and filming wrist rolls with our creative director Marcus. My phone was in my pocket ringing off the hook. 

“I have to get this,” I said to Marcus, and pulled the phone out of my pocket with my Swatch black glove still on (yes, Swatch made me wear a glove when handling the MoonSwatch models). It was a mate I’d run into in the queue earlier in the morning, Arthur Touchot. He was with a friend’s young daughter, whose name was Amandine. “Can you please help get her in, it’s dangerous out here.”



From inside the boutique, you could see the crowd was restive. They were, as a mass, surging at the still-closed doors like a rising tide. They were also vocal, chanting and shouting. Scary scenes for an adult. I could only imagine how it would be for Amandine, an 11-year-old. I tapped a burly Swiss policeman on the shoulder. He was part of an envoy that had set up facing the doors inside the boutique. I explained the situation. The doors were opened, we walked to the front line and I spotted Amandine and she was shepherded inside. In the video we shot about the day we edited out most of the disturbing moments, because we didn’t want to overshadow the main message of the watches themselves. 

But now, the violence at limited-edition launches at watch boutiques IS the main message. 

It’s a recurring story that needs to be well and truly “outed”. Put in print as it were. Because none of us can pretend we’re surprised when opportunistic scalpers crash what was once more of a private party – the Limited Edition Watch Launch. The word that you can make money out of watches, and quickly, is well and truly out, and the hype around these launches – stemming from places like Time+Tide I’ll freely admit – is a signal being picked up loud and clear by these undesirables.  

Ironically, this all transpires in a week when George Bamford, Adrian Barker and I debated this very point on our new show About Effing Time on YouTube, Spotify and where you get all podcasts. Why ironic? Because, in the show, George actually blames me, and all my watch media colleagues, for the MoonSwatch situation. It’s quite an eruption if you haven’t seen it yet. And yet, what we did for the MoonSwatch – promote its launch, go hands on a with a model pre launch, and cover the moment the doors open – is exactly what he hoped we’d do for his G-Shock. It’s easy to stand in judgement of watch media as hype merchants. Until you want to sell a watch yourself. Then we’re hard to exclude.



The difference is, this time with the cameras off, the tone in the WhatsApp thread (which included Adrian and Marcus, I should add – it all happened on our private About Effing Time communication channel) went from jubilation at the queue before the doors at the Carnaby Street G-Shock store opened, to a sense of unease as the tone shifted to, in George’s words, “something menacing and frightening”. To the endgame point where the police had to intervene and shut the launch down entirely. The remorse in George’s voice is unmistakable in his PSA shortly afterwards (which you can watch below).



Yes, he has another rapidly sold out watch on his hands, “some are already online for 1000 pounds” says George, but, in a voice message to me he continues, “It didn’t sell to people who liked the watch. I wanted everyone to have it, but these people didn’t care what it was, just what it would be worth when they put it on eBay. The back of the queue were people that loved the watch, the front of the queue were flippers. We had to be escorted out the back entrance. Hiroshi Fujiwara had just arrived. Fuck these flippers.”

limited edition launches

From this point, and to close this story on a constructive note, Adrian and Marcus (our producer on About Effing Time) went into problem-solving mode. Marcus thinks it should signal the end for boutique limited-edition launches, with online sales the quickest way to democratise a broken system. I have since thought that an online ticketing system making fans eligible to buy in-person could also weed out bullies. 

Meanwhile, Adrian suggested brands cut out the middle man, and launch watches straight to eBay “starting at 1p” and host the bidding wars themselves. “In all seriousness, it’s really sad that it’s constantly come to the flipping shit. I used to work at Apple about 10 years ago now. The launches were awesome. There was always a queue about 200 deep. It was such an awesome atmosphere. You’d have all these tech geeks just wanting to get hands on with the newest item and get to play with it. You’d go out and have great conversations with geeky guys and girls who just wanted to be passionate about the new product. And then it just ended up being flippers, who would buy 10 iPhones at a time. It ruined the whole thing. I ended up just hating launch day.”

Whether it’s any, or a mix, of the above, something has to change. Adrian raises a good point, that we’ve seen a similar degeneration in the parallel world of tech. In the last six months, with the origin point being the MoonSwatch launch – which turned the watch flipper from an exotic to a common species – we’ve had stabbings, assaults and police interventions all around the globe. It will be hard for the next queueing catastrophe to be viewed as unforeseen given these escalating events. And it would be a tragedy if we had to wait for the hype to take a victim before we take it seriously.