Omega Omega Speedmaster Cal 321: a highly anticipated model in steel
3, 2, 1... or rather, 1, 2 and 3: the (re)launch sequence for Omega’s legendary Calibre 321 was spread over three events in the space of a year. An icon reborn? Yes, but...
Stage 1: A space watch returns to Earth
Stage 1: On 8 January 2019, almost exactly one year ago, Omega announced it had restarted production of the Calibre 321. The original Calibre 321 was the first movement to equip the Speedmaster in 1957. It led to a whole series of models that were used in the space programme. The famous movement was also the engine of the Speedmaster ST 105.012, the first watch on the Moon.
Following a reconstruction process carried out in a special dedicated workshop, the Calibre 321 has now been reborn, with all its original specifications. The involvement of this “dedicated workshop” is significant. Although manufacture of the movement will make the most of the modern procedures put in place in Biel, the rate of production will be slower than that of contemporary manufacture calibres. Small workshop, small team... and no doubt a long waiting list!
Stage 2: A (very) high-end revival
Stage 2: In July 2019, Omega announced the first series to be equipped with this movement – a Speedmaster in platinum. It’s a chronograph with a satin-brushed and polished 42 mm case, made from a special alloy of platinum and gold, with a ceramic bezel. Clearly, this piece also makes the most of modern technologies. Its aesthetic is resolutely mineral, with an onyx dial and meteorite registers. It’s an unusual, atypical object, at the crossroads of ultimate luxury (platinum) and mass production (Speedmaster), tradition (Ca. 321) and modernity (21st century). Its price will nevertheless help to thin out the field of potential buyers: CHF 60,000.
Speedmaster 321, platinum © Omega
Stage 3: Back down to Earth (and steel)
Stage 3: 8 January 2020, exactly one year after the first announcement, Omega unveiled a new steel model equipped with the Cal. 321 – the Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Stainless Steel. What are the differences? Prepare for more threes! The first, already mentioned, is the switch from platinum to steel. The second is the price – now CHF 13,200. And finally, the diameter: the platinum model’s 42 mm have shrunk to 40 mm for the steel version (39.7 mm to be precise). This is a reference to the 39 mm Speedmaster ST 105.003, worn by Ed White when, in 1965, he became the first American in space. In addition to this reminder of its original dimensions, Omega has also carried over the original logos and typography.
Speedmaster 321, steel © Omega
The idea of giving an old calibre new life is an interesting one. Many big brands and independent watchmakers use old calibres, but never to make contemporary neo-vintage watches. I’m talking about the famous NOS or New Old Stock. They include Minerva, Peseux, and Valjoux movements, pressed into service by Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Panerai and, even today, Kari Voutilainen, among others.
Calibre 321 © Omega
Omega’s approach is more original. With its obsessive attention to keeping its customers happy, by means of 5-year guarantees and an unapologetic culture of R&D, reliability and precision, Omega would have struggled to justify marketing 50-year-old movements in 2020. The idea of remaking a vintage calibre allows them to reconcile these performance demands with its collectors’ desire for a movement designed in the 1960s.
Then there’s the price. To make things simple, the current model costs CHF 13,000. And the original costs… CHF 13,000 too. Sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less. But that’s around the average price for a reference that’s not too hard to find on the second-hand market. It will be interesting to see what effect the reissue has on prices. Will used watch prices rise as the spotlight falls on the new model? Or will they fall because, for the same price, you can have the same watch with the same movement, only more reliable and precise?
A company of the Swatch Group, OMEGA has been behind major revolutions in watchmaking technology and the timekeeping of numerous Olympic Games. Its watches are worn by world-famous celebrities and have travelled to the moon, the depths of the ocean and everywhere in between.Find out more >
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