Almost exactly one year ago, Swatch and Omega, both owned by Bienne-based Swatch Group, took the industry by storm with the launch of the MoonSwatch: a variant of the Omega Speedmaster made by Swatch with a quartz movement in a bioceramic case. We all know what happened next, from the insane waiting lines to Groundhog Day-esque store visits over the weeks and months by hopefuls trying to get their hands on their favorite pick among the 11 models.
On Monday, April 3rd, Swatch Group’s rival Rolex is expected to announce its retaliation, joining forces with its “little sister” Tudor. According to sources from both companies, the product from this highly exciting and equally unexpected joint collaboration will be called the “Bay-King”.
A logical and necessary move
Tudor was created in 1926 by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf in order to offer a more affordable version of the Crown’s most popular models: the Datejust, the Submariner and the Day-Date are among the Rolex icons with a subsequent corresponding Tudor variant. Back in the days, the case and bracelet were made (and signed) by Rolex, with the movement, dial and hands coming from third party suppliers.
Monday’s announcement will bring together various elements of this historical connection, while taking it to an entirely different level. According to the cousin of a Rolex employee directly involved in the project, it is all about next generations: “Kids have been hearing about the MoonSwatch because, if they save up, or ask for one as a special gift, they can actually get one. Or at least, their parents can most certainly afford one. So when they grow up, their grail will be an actual, mechanical Omega Speedmaster. No longer a Rolex”. This is actually quite similar to what my friend (also called) Alex argued in a guest post on this blog last year.
A similar and yet radically different concept
Of course, Rolex can’t just replicate what Omega and Swatch did. Unlike Swatch, the entry price for Tudor is still four figures. That is where the brainpower of the Geneva industry leader came into play. According to my sources, the Bay-King is not about a watch that would somehow merge a Rolex Air-King and a Tudor Black Bay, as the name (and, admittedly, my illustration above) suggests, but rather about both watches at the same time.
That’s right: buyers of a Bay-King will not know what is inside the box until they open it at home! The box will be physically sealed with a metal lock, which can only be opened using a 4-digit code customers will receive via SMS 24 hours after their purchase. The watch they will find inside could either be a Rolex Air-King or a Black Bay 54, the 37 mm diver Tudor launched earlier this week. But that’s not it…
Expensive yet affordable
In order to remain affordable, an additional twist has been added to the Bay-King, expected to be priced at $350. According to the exclusive information shared with Made in Bienne, only 1 in 20 Bay-King boxes will include a Tudor watch. And only 1 in 50 will have a Rolex inside. All others will simply contain a stainless steel key-ring, shaped as a French baguette.
While that will surely be a disappointment to those hoping for a watch, it is believed that this specific key-ring reference will be a numbered (although not limited) edition, water-resistant up to 100 meters. The total number of Bay-King boxes to be made available is not yet known, but experts close to the matter believe it will be an even number.