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Breaking Story – Omega Caliber 321 Is Back In Production!

Robert-Jan Broer
January 08, 2019
MIN READ
Breaking Story – Omega Caliber 321 Is Back In Production!

This is the day that I have been waiting for, for a long time. And I know that many of your Speedmaster fans out there have been waiting for this as well. That day that Omega announces that they will bring their famous column-wheel caliber 321 chronograph movement back in production. Today is the day my friends, on this 2nd Speedy Tuesday of 2019. This is big, it is a historical moment for Speedmaster enthusiasts, I would say.

It is the reason that we are having a Speedy Tuesday event in Bienne today, at the headquarters of Omega, to witness the re-introduction of the caliber 321 movement. Even better, our Speedy Tuesday readers who got selected from tons of registrations are able to see the new caliber 321 movement. A big surprise for them, as we had to keep this secret.

Omega Caliber 321 Movement

Omega’s caliber 321 was used in Seamaster and Speedmaster chronographs. But since we’re talking Speedmasters on Speedy Tuesday, let’s focus on those. It was used in the very first Speedmaster, reference CK2915, up to the first Speedmaster Professional references (105.012 and 145.012). So everything in between, CK2998, 105.002 and 105.003, used the caliber 321 chronograph movement.

Background

This movement was developed by Lémania and Omega and in 1942, this resulted in the 27 CHRO C12 movement. A chronograph movement with 12-hour recorder. A few iterations later, this movement was called caliber 321 by Omega in 1946. I will leave out the further development of the Lémania caliber 2310 movement at this stage but will get back to it in another article. This column-wheel caliber 321 chronograph movement had a screwed balance oscillating at 18000vph, a power reserve of 44 hours and had 17 jewels. Omega started using it for the Speedmaster CK2915 when it came out in 1957 and was used till 1968, when they replaced it with the caliber 861 movement.

caliber 321

An Exact Reproduction

The Omega caliber 321 was actually used on the Moon, the first time in July 1969 in the reference 105.012. All astronauts who walked the Moon were wearing a Speedmaster 105.003, 105.012 or 145.012 watch (these three references were in use by Apollo astronauts at the time) and all these references were equipped with the caliber 321 movement.

Caliber 321

Gene Cernan’s 105.003

According to Omega, they have used the movement of the Speedmaster (105.003) that Gene Cernan used during his walk on the Moon in 1972 (Apollo 17). This caliber 321 movement is known as the 2nd generation caliber 321, and in order to reconstruct it in the best way possible, Omega’s engineers used tomography technology (a digital scanning method) to see inside Gene Cernan’s Speedmaster 105.003 to get it as exact as possible.

caliber 321

The new caliber 321 movement.

Omega used a dedicated project team consisting of researchers, developers, historians as well as the best watchmakers to secretly work on this project for the last two years. To protect this project, they used the Alaska 11 code name. Completely in line with the names Omega used in the past for secret Speedmaster designs for NASA.

Due to the used technology and research, the new Omega caliber 321 movement is entirely time correct with the Moon period of NASA. This, also for me as a Speedmaster fan, makes this watch extra special and definitely a ‘must have’.

The new caliber 321 movements will be produced entirely in-house at Omega in Bienne. Everything will be done in a special dedicated caliber 321 workshop and for each watch that will carry this movement, the assembly of all parts (movement, watch head, bracelet) will be done by one watchmaker. One interesting note to make: where the original caliber 321 was made with copper, all parts that look like copper in the new caliber 321 are actually PVD plated with Sedna gold. This for a longer lasting of the nice copper colour.

Which Watch

The biggest question remains: which watch will Omega use for this new caliber 321 movement? You can bet it will be a Speedmaster, but what model and will it be the Moonwatch or a different version? What will be the effect on the price and how many of them will be available? Let the guessing begin. Omega promises us to share more news and details with us in the coming months. You must know, we are thrilled!

Raynald Aeschlimann, CEO of Omega, said, “It’s amazing that so many people are passionate about the Calibre 321. We produced the last one in 1968 and fans have never stopped talking about it. That shows how special it is. We’re very excited to finally meet their wishes and have gone to great efforts to bring the movement back.”

This movement will not be used in a limited edition watch, but there will be a limitation in production for the reasons stated above. Omega reveiled that there will be something in gold, for sure. Also, this movement will not be used in any of the upcoming Apollo 11 Limited Edition models in 2019.

We will back soon with more coverage on the caliber 321 movement, as we were able to see and witness the new movement ourselves on this special Speedy Tuesday event.

More information via Omega online.

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Robert-Jan Broer
About the author

Robert-Jan Broer

Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in... read more

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