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How the Secret ‘Project Galileo’ Gave Rise to the MoonSwatch

“I was thinking, how can we make Bioceramic become more of a reality, because it’s technical and difficult to communicate,” Hayek explains. Other Swatch Group brands were interested in working with the material; while Hayek was determined that it should remain a Swatch product only, he was aware that the status and heritage of a classic watch could raise Bioceramic’s profile. Hayek showed me early prototypes for potential Bioceramic versions of Blaincpain’s famous dive watch, the Fifty Fathoms, and Omega’s Seamaster 300. But there was only ever one real contender.

“We were doing the NASA Swatch [released in late 2021], and it made me think about the Speedmaster,” he says. “It was on the Moon, it played a principal role in one of the most mythical moments in world history: There’s a real story to be told to many young people in the world who don’t know it. I thought a collaboration between Swatch, an icon, and the Omega Speedmaster, another icon … that would be a real provocation.”

Hayek had a Speedmaster prototype made on the quiet and showed it to the curator of Omega’s museum, Petros Protopapas, who gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Raynald Aeschlimann, Omega’s CEO, took more convincing. “At first he was pale when he saw the Omega Speedmaster as a Swatch, with a quartz movement,” says Hayek. “I said maybe we could do it as a customer service watch while you’re getting your Speedmaster serviced. He said okay, we can think about it.” Once Aeschlimann saw a more fully realized product, however, he was sold. 

In the meantime Hayek was able to poach Omega’s head of product, Gregory Kissling, to oversee “Galileo,” the internal project code name, which was conducted in total secrecy within Swatch. “A Swatch person would have done me a Swatch. Gregory understood that he’s not making an Omega product, but he’s not making only a Swatch product. I needed that Omega input,” Hayek says. 

OMEGA Ultraman Speedmaster

Photograph: OMEGA

OMEGA Alaska Project

Photograph: Swatch Group

It was Kissling who thought of creating watches linked to the colors of the solar system and including references to historic Speedmaster iterations. The red-and-white Mission to Mars version, for instance, with its strangely shaped chronograph hands, is inspired by the white dial and large red outer casing of prototypes made in the early 1970s for the “Alaska Project,” a short-lived research program to produce the ultimate watch for space travel. The orange detailing found on the Jupiter model quotes the so-called Ultraman Speedmaster worn in a Japanese TV show from the ’70s of the same name, another collector favorite. 

Conversely, the MoonSwatch’s chronograph layout is the element that shows most clearly that it’s a Swatch. The chrono movement that the brand has been using for years has the two upper subdials positioned at 10 and 2 o’clock rather than at 9 and 3 o’clock. Only the third subdial, at 6 o’clock, directly emulates the original Omega Moonwatch.

The two upper subdials of the MoonSwatch slightly differ in location to the original Omega Moonwatch

Photograph: Swatch Group


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