Omega Reintroduces the Iconic Column-Wheel Chronograph Calibre 321
The legendary movement of the legendary Moonwatch is back in production.
What came a few minutes ago in our email boxes was totally out of the blue – but by far the best piece of news Speedmaster fans could have dreamed of. Omega is about to relaunch one of the most iconic chronograph movements ever, the movement that actually went to the Moon on the wrist of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, the movement that equipped the first generations of Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch until moving to the cam-operated Calibre 861. Yes, that’s right, Omega will restart the production of the Calibre 321 with column-wheel. And that is pretty cool (to say the least).
On the whole we tend to talk about ‘iconic’ watches, but there are movements that have gained an equally cult status. Think Valjoux 7750 or Valjoux 72/92. Another one is actually based on a Lemania ébauche and was renamed Calibre 321 by Omega. Yes, this is the movement that equipped the Speedmaster from its creation in 1957 (in the CK2915) until the end of the 1960s (in the ref. ST105.012 and 145.012), with the launch of the Calibre 861, in the reference 145.022. For more details about the early Speedmaster watches, check out our in-depth article here.
Just as iconic as the watch that contains it, the Calibre 321 is a sort of must-have for Speedy collectors. Based on a column-wheel / horizontal clutch architecture, it is also regarded as more prestigious, more “horological” than the ultra-robust but more simple Calibre 861. The Speedmaster wasn’t the first watch to be equipped with the Calibre 321, as some Seamaster chronographs did prior to 1957, but the Speedmaster has been the watch that made it legendary.
This movement was used in a variety of models including the Speedmaster ST 105.003 (the model first tested and qualified by NASA and worn by astronaut Ed White during the first American spacewalk) and the Speedmaster ST 105.012 (the first watch worn on the moon – more details here). This Moon connection promoted the legend surrounding the watch and its movement. Still, since the end of the 1960s (apparently the last 321 was manufactured in 1968), all Speedmaster Professional watches are based on the calibre 861 and its more modern version, calibre 1861… But this could well change.
Today, Omega has just announced that the Calibre 321, with its column-wheel architecture and its superb bridges, was about to go back in production. “For the Calibre 321 project, OMEGA utilised a dedicated team of experts who worked efficiently over two years and in total secrecy to bring the movement to life. The small group was composed of researchers, developers and historians, as well as the finest craftsmen and experienced watchmakers.”
The 2019 version of the Omega Calibre 321 is based on the technical specifications of the second generation of this movement. The Omega Museum team “compiled extensive historical research and original plans to reconstruct the movement as accurately as possible. Going even further, they also used “tomography” technology (digital scanning method) to see inside the true Speedmaster ST 105.003 timepiece that astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan wore on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.”
As a result, all parts of the Calibre 321 have been reborn in respect to their authentic specifications, with a construction that entirely respects the designs from the past. In this regards, the movement looks almost like an old Calibre 321, with all bridges, levers, gears and plates being shaped and placed equally. The only evolution concerns the finishing and the engravings, which are more detailed and cleaner than on vintage movements.
The new version of the Omega Calibre 321 will now go into production at Omega’s HQ site in Bienne, within a dedicated Calibre 321 workshop. For each movement, the assembly, as well as the watch head and bracelet assembly will be performed by the same watchmaker.
What remains unknown is in which watch will this 2019 Calibre 321 be installed? In every new Speedmaster Moonwatch, in special editions, in a newly developed model…? No words yet on this part of the development, but to know that the 321 is back in a faithful manner is already quite something.
More details on www.omegawatches.com
Almost certainly this revived Cal.321 is destined for a Limited Edition Moonwatch for the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11. I would expect to see a 1:1 reproduction of both Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s Reference Speedmaster Watches and possibly even Michael Collins’ as well. These will no doubt be very expensive particularly as the First Omega Wrist Chronograph which seems to have used the very same techniques cost around £96000.
I read somewhere else that it almost certainly will NOT be used in the 50th Anniversary Apollo 11 but will be issued in its own limited production watch(es) . I suppose they can sell all the 50th Apollos anyway without having to fit the 321 to that edition . Of course , only time ( no pun intended ) will tell .
No evolutions….no metas chronometer certification extended Power reserve full Bridge with Silicon hairspring ?
Just another bait for more variations around the Speedmaster…