Having legit wrist game doesn't have to mean Rolexes, iced-out Royal Oaks or Nautili. Some of the most highly hyped and sought-after recent watches can cost under $300 — and none are more worthy of the celebrity than the collaborative Swatch x Omega Bioceramic MoonSwatch and the Casio G-Shock 2100 series, commonly known as the "CasiOak." For a fraction of luxury watch prices, these will get respect even from the snobbiest of horological snobs.
Both the MoonSwatch and the CasiOak are quartz, made of plastic (of sorts), cost in the low three figures — and they're both riding on the popularity of higher-end luxury watches. Each executes its concept exceedingly well, but very much in its own way, and each is an absolute hype phenomenon. The question is: which one is for you?
(Of course, at these prices, a lot of people might say "why not just get both?" But if you have to choose...)
The Contenders for Best Affordable Hype Watch
Both the MoonSwatch and CasiOak are part of collections that offer similar watches in different colors and sometimes with different features. We chose the most representative model for each, both featuring neutral black colorways that work well for comparison's sake. If, however, you want one of these watches in, say, bright yellow or other fun variations, you've got options.
Swatch x Omega Bioceramic MoonSwatch Mission to the Moon
When the collaboration between sister brands Swatch and Omega was announced as a $260 version of the iconic Speedmaster that NASA astronauts took to the moon, watch collectors' heads kind of exploded. Then, the shock and excitement spread to an even wider audience.
A near exact replica of the Speedmaster's shape and proportions, this is a watch made out of Swatch's material combining plastic and ceramic ("Bioceramic"), and using a quartz movement. But even watch collectors had to have one — or all 11 of the available variants. The hype caused them to sell out and unavailability cause even more of a sensation. Months later, they can still be hard to get (but it's getting easier).
Movement: Swiss quartz
Water Resistance: 30m
Casio G-Shock "CasiOak" GA-B2100-1A Tough Solar
If you look at the G-Shock 2100 series next to the classic square G-Shock watch of 1983, its design evolution is apparent. That classic digital watch has an eight-sided bezel, but you know what else does? The lionized Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. And this has led many watch enthusiasts to make the comparison, dubbing the 2100 the "CasiOak," but instead of deriding it as another wannabe watch, the 2100's thin and relatively minimalist design seems to have hit just right.
Initial models sold out, but more have followed giving the CasiOak an edge over the MoonSwatch in terms of availability for now. And price: Basic 2100 series watches retail for around $100, and there are more expensive versions with metal bezels or even full metal construction. The model we review here is in the GAB2100 line; it has a resin (plastic) case and premium features like solar charging (Tough Solar).
Water Resistance: 200m
How to choose which watch is right for you
A lot of people simply see the watch or see the hype and know they want it. That's how such hype products work. So, maybe you already know which one you want. If, however, you are deciding which one to buy first, or you're just want to know what's the deal with these watches, the following tests will shed some light and help you make a decision.
Test 1: Hype Factor
The hype factor can often outshine everything else, even when a watch is also great for other reasons. If this the most important thing to you, the MoonSwatch is easily the winner. This is the kind of watch that can even get you comments on the street. People will ask to see it and often tell you how they haven't yet managed to get one — or even to see one in person. That's been my experience wearing a MoonSwatch around, and while the CasiOak gets respect from watch snobs and positive attention even just from design lovers, it's not on the MoonSwatch's level of buzz. The legitimizing "Omega" and "Speedmaster" branding doesn't hurt either.
Test 2: Longevity
It's almost impossible to discuss G-Shock without using words like "tough" and "indestructible." That's not the case for the MoonSwatch which, with 30m of water resistance and an extremely easily scratched crystal, begs to be babied. Though scratched crystals can be healed, the MoonSwatch feels like it's bound to age much quicker than the CasiOak. A Bioceramic case might be more durable than the typical plastic used in Swatch watches, but it won't hold up to abuse or even daily use like a G-Shock will.
Notably, some versions of the CasiOak (such as the model tested here) feature the brand's Tough Solar meaning its battery will be charged by light and probably last decades — we always recommend paying a little more for this feature in a G-Shock. On the other hand, while Swatch doesn't disclose the battery life for the MoonSwatch, it does offer free, in-store battery replacements for life. Stylistic longevity of both watches is yet to be seen, but the CasiOak has already been around for a couple years and is still popular, and the MoonSwatch seems to rely on novelty a bit more heavily.
Test 3: Details
Watches today function as objects to appreciate as much as timekeepers. So details matter. The CasiOak has a lot of three-dimensionality and carefully considered design elements, and it'll probably appeal to those with a taste for (relative to many G-Shocks) minimalism. The MoonSwatch, on the other hand, is packed with little winks and nods conceived purely to tickle watch enthusiasts — but these can even be fun to discover for non-collectors as hidden meaning and depth in their watch. From the "dot over 90" on the bezel, which collectors look for in vintage Omega Speedmasters to the engraved Swatch "S" on the underside of the crystal (like Speedmasters have the Omega logo) and many other touches, it's worth looking closely at the MoonSwatch.
Test 4: Functions and Wearability
No matter how "cool" a watch is in the moment, it quickly gets left in a drawer if it's not practical to wear and use. In other words, how well it actually functions as a watch is important, and here Casio has the edge.
Though the MoonSwatch is smaller in diameter, G-Shock watches are typically dimension-defyingly comfortable, and the CasiOak is more wearable straight out of the box. The MoonSwatch wearing experience is improved with a strap change, however, as the supplied Velcro bands are slightly bulky. The cool thing is that any strap that fits the Omega Speedmaster will also fit the MoonSwatch, so you can get creative. Notably, the CasiOak GAB2100 strap also features a quick change system, but it won't be as easy to find appropriate straps for it.
Both watches tell the time and feature a stopwatch (chronograph). Whereas the MoonSwatch's functionality ends there, though, G-Shock packs in the suite of functions you expect from Casio (world time, countdown timer, alarms, backlight, etc.) operated by four buttons. You might not use them all, but in terms of sheer functionality, Casio wins.
One final but very important consideration is legibility, and this differs depending on the specific model you get of either watch. While the hands of the CasiOak we tested had good contrast and strong lume, the indices were gray and left the watch less than ideally legible. The Mission to the Moon MoonSwatch was highly legible, just like the Speedmaster it's closely based on (whereas Mission to the Sun, for example, is somewhat less so). We simply suggest considering this element when choosing a model.
Best Overall Affordable Hype Watch: MoonSwatch
Both of these watches are super fun. If you're here for the hype factor, though, the MoonSwatch is going to give you more of it. The CasiOak gets watch-guy respect and approval, but the MoonSwatch is on another level. Like other Swatch watches, it kind of feels like a toy, something that came out of a gumball machine (for $260). But when you look closely and appreciate its unique concept, it likely even represents a decent value — more so if you get it at its retail price.
Best Affordable Hype Watch for Daily Wear: CasiOak
The CasiOak might not give you the same sugar rush as getting your hands on a MoonSwatch and posting a wristshot on Instagram, but it'll offer more longterm enjoyment. It'll last longer and go more places. We wouldn't discount the value of hype, but if you want a watch to wear regularly for many years down the road, one that you don't have to worry about and yet that'll get the nod from design snobs, the CasiOak is our recommendation. A solid design that stands on its own, it's sure to continue to offer all that regardless of whether or not its hyped status is sustained. It costs significantly less, too.