The Calibre 321 has returned!
This is quite a monumental article for TYH. Reasons being is it will cover the return of several things back into the world of horology: The return of Omega heritage, the return of a phenomenal chronograph movement and the return of me writing articles again (apologies for the hiatus, I wasn’t sure if I still liked watches or Calum and Felix). Well the good news is I am back, and the world horology will have another uninformed yet inquisitive voice. We are pretty much a month late to report on this topic but better late than never as I was always told by my high school teachers when submitting incorrect and late homework.
So, the topic at hand today revolves around “heritage craftmanship” and paying some respect to it. Usually when you consult with most vintage collectors on what movement they’d love to see again or discuss watches that may have perhaps visited the moon at some point, the Calibre 321 movement is bound to come up in conversation. The movement itself existed in the Omega Seamaster for later parts of the 1940s but its reputation is not from the fishermen wearing Seamasters – its from the astronauts that wore Speedmasters with the Calibre 321 in space during the Apollo missions. The Calibre 321’s claim to fame stems back to Ed White’s NASA trip to space as part of the first American spacewalk mission and since then this iteration of the Speedmaster has held a special place in the heart of collectors. Making this movement even more special is that it was worn by Buzz Aldrin in his Speedmaster ST 105.012 on the Apollo 11 mission making this the first ever movement to make it to the moon and back. The Calibre 321 holds a very special place in the hearts of Speedmaster aficianados and a redevelopment into a modern Omega will likely have a great reception by all Omega lovers. We sure were excited to hear this announcement by Omega.
The history of the movement goes back to a relationship that existed between Lémania and Omega collaborating to come up with a new calibre for the Seamasters. Finally, in 1946 the Calibre 321 was born. Omega only started to incorporate it into the Speemaster CK2915 in 1957 and was used up until 1968. No wonder those 60s Speedmasters go for so high at auction (wink wink Christies, Sothebys and Phillips – 3 establishments who will never sponsor us). Going into the technical side of what makes up the movement: it’s a manually wound chronograph with a column-wheel calibre. It has a screwed balance oscillating at 18000vph, and a power reserve of 44 hours. It’s known to have been a very robust chronograph and comes in the relatively small size of 27mm in diameter and 6.74mm in height. The Calibre 321 also has an overcoil balance spring and Incabloc shock protection for the balance, ensuring its very trip-to-the-moon friendly (@SpaceX. @elonmusk, @yusakumaezawa).
The redevelopment project took Omega several years and involved acclaimed horology historians, who had familiarity with the Calibre 321, collaborating with the researchers who came up with ways to redevelop the movement into modern Omega pieces. They've been very secretive about this project and code named it "Alaska 11" internally- something Omega was known for doing during their R&D projects for NASA throughout the 60s and 70s. Based on reports, Omega’s key objective was to make the redeveloped Calibre 321 as historically accurate as possible to the original movement. The 2019 version of the Calibre 321 will be based on the second generation of 321 that went to the moon. Researchers at Omega went as far as using digital scanning techniques to dissect every aspect of the original watches that went to the moon. Each of the redeveloped movement will come into existence at the hands of a single watchmaker in their HQ in Bienne – this means each watch’s movement, bracelet and head will be made by the same watchmaker (sounds expensive). We really look forward to reviewing the modern Speedmaster that will house the Calibre 321. That being said, no one is sure yet whether it will come up in a special edition, all Speedmasters or in a completely different model all together.
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