51 years ago this July, the astronauts of Apollo 11 were taking the first-ever human footsteps onto the moon. Inside the crew’s OMEGA Speedmaster watches, was the now-famous Calibre 321, a movement that not only became legendary that day, but also returned for every lunar landing in history.
This year, OMEGA has expertly recreated the Calibre 321 in its 2nd generation form, and included it in a very special timepiece known as the Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 Stainless Steel. While this exciting news was released earlier in 2020, OMEGA is proud to announce that the watch is now ready to wear on Earth.
The non-limited timepiece offers a genuine connection to space history, as well as a movement that has long been cherished and sought-after by watch collectors and aficionados around the world.
The 39.70 mm case has been crafted in stainless steel, and is influenced by another piece of Speedmaster space heritage – the 3rd generation style that was worn during America’s first space walk in 1965. The design also includes a bezel ring in polished black ceramic [ZrO2] with a tachymeter scale in white enamel, as well as the iconic “Dot over Ninety”. Gracing the black step dial are the familiar Moonwatch hands, along with a vintage OMEGA logo.
Of course, through the sapphire crystal caseback, owners will be able to admire the Calibre 321 itself. It took two years of extensive research and reconstruction to bring this movement back to life, including the use of tomography (a digital scanning method) to see inside the true OMEGA Speedmaster worn by astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
Each of today’s new movements has been recreated to the authentic specifications of the original, and assembled within OMEGA’s dedicated Calibre 321 workshop. There’s perhaps no better way for watch fans to celebrate humankind’s most famous achievements beyond Earth.
Recreating the Calibre 321 – Why and how the legendary movement came back
Why bring an old movement back? That’s often the first question people ask when they hear about OMEGA’s reintroduction of the Calibre 321. After all, the movement has been out of production for more than 50 years, and certainly the company’s standards of precision and quality have moved on this since then.
The first important thing to say is that the 321 never really “disappeared”. It has actually gone through many technical evolutions over the past several decades, becoming the 861, then the 1861, and finally this year’s 3861, which has attained Master Chronometer status and superb anti-magnetic qualities.
So, in fact, the movement has always remained an integral part of OMEGA’s watchmaking story, specifically within the iconic Speedmaster collection. The question is, why go back to the beginning? And how?
The original Calibre 321 was used by OMEGA from 1949 until 1968. Even today, the design is cherished by watch fans and aficionados, who have always recognised its robust and elegant attributes. The look and functionality of that original movement were equal in beauty, while the inclusion of a column wheel was a mark of exceptional skill and technical excellence. For collectors, it has become one of the world’s most essential pieces of watchmaking art.
Then came its voyages into space. Having passed all of NASA’s most severe and punishing tests, the Calibre 321 powered the OMEGA Speedmaster that was flight qualified for all manned missions in 1965. It was subsequently part of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programmes, including the defining Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. As man stepped onto the lunar surface for the first time, the Calibre 321 became a legend. Not only did it power the first watch worn on the moon, but it also returned for all six of history’s lunar landings – including the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, when Commander Eugene Cernan left the last footprints.
Quite simply, OMEGA fans have been yearning for the return of the original Calibre 321 for years. It’s design and heritage is unparalleled in the watchmaking industry, and therefore has a special status that so many people feel connected to.
Finally, after two years of relentless research and development, OMEGA has been able to fulfil that wish. Reintroducing a movement with such an important reputation required the utmost exactness, which is why the brand utilized a dedicated team of experts who worked efficiently, and in total secrecy, to bring the movement back to life.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not as simple as getting the plans out of the drawer. The small group was composed of researchers, developers and historians, as well as the finest craftsmen and experienced watchmakers. Each person was entirely dedicated to recreating the Calibre 321 exactly, and we mean exactly, as it had been originally made.
Using the 2nd generation Calibre 321 as a reference, the OMEGA team compiled extensive historical research and original plans to reconstruct the movement as accurately as possible. Going even further, they also used “tomography” technology (a 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. Looking through into this historic timepiece was an incredible sight, and also provided invaluable dimensions and clues for the team to follow.
As a result, even the most unique and iconic parts of the Calibre 321 have been reborn in respect to their authentic specifications.
It has been a project of passion and painstaking attention to detail. Going even further to protect its value, all aspects of creation are now undertaken within a dedicated Calibre 321 workshop at OMEGA’s watchmaking home in Bienne, Switzerland. For each movement, the assembly, as well as the subsequent watch head assembly is all performed by the same watchmaker, with two full days focused on each completed piece.
These atelier experts not only lend their time and focus, but also their love of the movement’s story, to ensure that every new Calibre 321 is just as beautiful, precise and desirable as those that came before.
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Chronograph 39.7mm Technical Specifications and Price
- Calibre Omega 321
- Famous manual-winding chronograph movement with column wheel mechanism, Breguet balance-spring and 18K SednaTM gold PVD coated finish.
- The calibre that was worn on the Moon.
- Power reserve: 55 hours
- Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment inside
WATCH CASE & DIAL
- Case: Steel
- Diameter: 39.7 mm
- Dial Colour: Black
- Water resistance: 5 bar (50 metres / 167 feet)
- Small seconds
- Transparent case back
12.765,00 €, Recommended retail price (incl. VAT)