50 Years Ago, the Omega Calibre 321 Landed on the Moon

Now the Famous Movement is Coming Back…

Yesterday, the 8th of January 2019, was a rather exciting day for watch fans around the world. Omega made an announcement that its famous Calibre 321 movement—the one housed inside the Speedmaster watches worn by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11—will be put back into production this year.

Prior to this announcement, I had already made a decision to, hopefully, get myself a Speedmaster in 2019. My reason was that there would likely be a special “anniversary edition” Speedmaster released by Omega in 2019 – marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing (July 24, 1969) – and this would probably be a fantastic choice ‘first Speedmaster’ to get my hands on. The historical significance of this brand, and in particular, this watch – is extremely appealing… and as Ben Clymer said (in my recent post about Mistakes Watch Guys Make) about true watch guys… “Who hasn’t owned a Speedmaster at some point”?!

I also felt that as Omega habitually produces limited edition pieces which all have varying levels of desirability, it is probably a good idea to get in on the action when there is a genuine milestone… I mean they do an anniversary edition every 5 years, but 25, 50, 75 and 100 all seem more ‘relevant’ than all the so-called in-betweeners like 35, 45 etc. I am not saying those watches aren’t good, just that Omega milks the concept a little bit!

So how does this announcement change my thinking? Well, for the most part, it doesn’t. The single biggest debate I have with myself is “vintage vs. modern”. This is something that will never be settled by ‘facts’ – it is inherently subjective, and so, one needs to simply stop and think about one’s own preferences. I like modern technology, and the benefits they bring e.g. scratch resistance, durability, longevity, reliability etc… Vintage watches are more significant pieces of art and history – and at times, they suffer because of durability or wearability. This is my opinion of course – I am not a billionaire who can afford to wear an £80,000 vintage watch on a daily basis and risk losing it, wrecking it or having it stolen…  and if I am going to buy a vintage piece I’d like it to be able to keep time and stand up to normal daily use – so anti-magnetic properties and so on become relevant too.

That’s where I think this modern 321 might be some kind of holy grail – it is clearly a modern movement, being re-invented in 2019… but it is also a vintage movement, being a replica of the 1969 moonwatch movement… I don’t know whether it is going to be using 1969 tech or not… and to what extent they will make modernisation improvements without taking anything away from the historical recreation… but we’ll wait and see what they launch!

I’ve included a short article from RobbReport about this movement below. Enjoy!

-Faheem


50 Years Ago, the Omega Caliber 321 Landed on the Moon. Now the Famous Movement is Coming Back.

One of the world’s most buzzworthy movements regains its speed.

The eagle has landed. In advance of the 50th anniversary of man’s first touchdown on the moonOmega has unveiled some big news. The watchmaker has announced that its famous Caliber 321 movement—the one housed inside the Speedmasters worn by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11—will be put back into production this year.

When Neil Armstrong stepped out of the spacecraft and onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, the Omega Speedmaster ST 105.012 (equipped with the Caliber 321, to keep it running in space) officially became the first-ever watch on the moon. It has been a NASA staple ever since. But the Caliber 321 has other claims to fame that predate the moon landing: It was the first caliber tested and approved by NASA to be worn by astronaut Ed White in his Speedmaster ST 105.003 on the first American spacewalk on June 3, 1965, and it was the first movement ever used in the Omega Speedmaster when the watch was created in 1957.

Indeed, the movement has a long history. It had been used since the 1940s in other Omega chronograph movements, predominately in the watchmaker’s Seamaster collection, but the last one made at the Omega manufacture was in 1968. As a result, the Caliber 321 has become a sought-after movement by collectors ever since. A Caliber 321 Speedmaster from 1958 sold at Phillips in May of last year for 408,500 CHF ($416,308 at current exchange).

An Original Calibre 321

It took a covert team working under the apropos code name “Alaska 11” (the same name used for the secret Speedmaster designs for NASA in the ’60s and ’70s) two years to bring the movement back to life. The group included developers, researchers, and historians, in addition to the craftsmen and movement makers. Omega went through great pains to reconstruct the original movement, and according to the watchmaker, it even used digital-scanning instruments to delve into historical Caliber 321s in its Omega museum in Bienne, Switzerland, to re-create its history for the present. The watchmaker took it one step further by creating an entire workshop dedicated to the reborn movement, where each one will be created from start to finish by the same horologist.

It’s safe to say that the new Caliber 321s will be instant collector pieces. It’s going to be a big year for Omega, so stay tuned if you want to get your hands on one of their new releases.

Link to original article is here.

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