Head-To-Head: Omega Speedmaster 60th Anniversary Vs. Speedmaster Calibre 321
When Omega introduced the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary in 2017, it was a big thing! It was a tribute to the original Speedmaster reference CK2915, but with the calibre 1861 movement. Then, in 2020, Omega introduced the 105.003 tribute with its calibre 321. How do these two watches compare? Is it worth going after a Speedmaster 60th anniversary, or do you want to save up a bit more for the Speedmaster Calibre 321?
After publishing our video where I compare the Speedmaster Calibre 321 with the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Master Chronometer, I received some requests to have a look at the Speedmaster 60th anniversary as well. And then, last week in the #SpeedyTuesday Facebook group, someone (Markus) asked us to do a head-to-head between the Calibre 321 and the 60th Anniversary. So, why not? I am lucky enough to own both watches, so all it took was a proper photoshoot and some time to study and compare both watches side-by-side. Without further ado, let’s have a closer look.
Speedmaster 60th Vs Speedmaster Calibre 321
Interestingly enough, many start to compare the discontinued Speedmaster FOiS (First Omega in Space) model to the Speedmaster Calibre 321, as an affordable alternative. But in my opinion, the Speedmaster 60th anniversary is more appropriate. I never warmed up to the Speedmaster FOiS. I know how popular the Speedmaster FOiS has become (read our article on the discontinued FOiS here) so I am probably all wrong.
However, I feel that the Speedmaster 60th (and Calibre 321) are truer to their origins. Each has its own modern attributes, so neither is equal to the CK2915 and 105.003, but both are definitely close. In my opinion, both models are closer to their source material than the FOiS is to the original Speedmaster reference CK2998.
Speedmaster 60th Anniversary
Without going into total recap mode, a few words on the Speedmaster 60th anniversary from an owner’s perspective: this watch was introduced as part of a trilogy set of 557 pieces and as a separate watch (3,557 pieces). There’s only one difference between the Speedmaster 60th from a Trilogy set and the “stand-alone” version. The Trilogy set watches (Railmaster, Seamaster 300, and Speedmaster) have the unique number (of 557) printed on the dial. In my collection, I have the Speedmaster 60th-anniversary reference 3188.8.131.52.01.001 — one of the 3,557 pieces. It was actually my first straight-lug Speedmaster (with a 38.6mm diameter) to hit my collection. It debuted with a price of €6,800, which was well above the €4,600 retail of a regular Speedmaster Moonwatch with Hesalite crystal at the time.
I’ve worn the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary only sporadically, I have to admit. Not because I don’t like it, but because that year I bought a number of Speedmaster watches. I think Omega did an amazing job with the Speedmaster 60th anniversary. Even the “faux patina” hasn’t bothered me for one second. The only thing I have difficulties with is the bracelet. That’s why you will see it in this head-to-head article with the Calibre 321 on its NATO strap. The bracelet is too thick and too heavy, in my opinion. And the clasp is pretty bulky as well.
Speedmaster Calibre 321
The Speedmaster Calibre 321 was introduced in 2020 and based on the original reference 105.003 (from astronaut Gene Cernan). As you know, this is also a straight-lug Speedmaster. It measures 39.7mm in diameter. The first three Speedmaster generations all used the same case. That means that references CK2915, CK2998, and 105.003 all had this same straight-lug design. The difference between the diameter of 39.7mm for the Speedmaster Calibre 321 and 38.6mm for the 60th anniversary is caused by the bezel. However, there’s more to it, as you will read in this article.
Unlike the 60th anniversary, the Calibre 321 has slotted neatly into my daily rotation. It has little to do with the case size or shape (as that’s more or less identical to the 60th), but more to do with the bracelet. The new flat-link style bracelet on the Speedmaster Calibre 321 is simply amazing. Some of you asked me to put a strap on it, but I simply don’t want to remove it. I prefer the bracelet.
The main difference in these watches, and also partly responsible for the price difference, can be found in the movements. In the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary, you’ll find the calibre 1861 hand-wound chronograph. Used from 1996 till the end of 2020 in the Speedmaster Professional. It is a shuttle-cam chronograph, whereas the calibre 321 movement uses a column-wheel.
The 321 movement has historical significance, as it was used on the moon in the Speedmaster 105.003, 105.012, and 145.012 references. Later, Lémania’s version of this movement was also used in chronographs from Patek Philippe and other high-end brands. Starting in 1968, Omega decided to start using calibre 861 (later 1861) instead. It had a higher frequency (3Hz) than calibre 321 (2.5Hz/18,000vph).
If you want a calibre 321 on your wrist, there’s only one option here. But if the movement is of less relevance (also perhaps due to the price of €14,000 for the Speedmaster Calibre 321 reference 3184.108.40.206.01.001), the Speedmaster 60th might be a very good alternative.
The Calibre 321 watch proudly displays the movement through a sapphire case back, while the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary stays a bit truer to the original, employing a closed case back engraved with the “Seahorse”/Hippocampus logo. Both case backs have the bevel, which also made its comeback on the new Moonwatch Master Chronometer.
One of the first things to notice, when comparing the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary with the Calibre 321, is the different handset and bezel. The Speedmaster CK2915 had “broad arrow” hands and a steel bezel. Omega basically reproduced these for this 60th-anniversary edition. The steel bezel is a tad smaller and the steel gives the watch a different feel for sure. But, still, it is very much a Speedmaster.
Some of you are a bit upset by the use of “faux patina”. Mainly because it tries to look like something it is not. I agree to a certain extent, but also would like to add that there’s nothing wrong with it from a purely aesthetic perspective. It just looks nicer with the creamy-looking Super-LumiNova on the hands and dial. But that’s all a matter of taste, I think.
If you look closer, it becomes apparent that the case finishing is different as well. On the Speedmaster 60th, you will find that the lugs have quite a significant bevel. According to Omega, the first three generations did not come with such a bevel. All Speedmaster models that left the manufacturer in those days, had no bevel on the lugs. Only afterward, during service and even at Omega in Switzerland, they received a bevel on the lugs.
Now, we see some contradicting discussions and messages about this, as there are watches apparently “untouched” that have this bevel. But we also see old advertisements and CK2915s that do not show a bevel. This article is not to debate the existence of the bevel on the first three Speedmaster generations though, but we see that Omega used one on the Speedmaster 60th anniversary. Even if the lug-bevel was never more than an aftermarket addition, it has become widely associated with those early cases and feels at home on this anniversary model.
On the Speedmaster Calibre 321, there’s no such bevel on the lugs. Therefore, the profile also looks a bit different. What’s more, is that the pushers on the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary are slimmer. The Speedmaster Calibre 321 appears to be a bigger watch in general. This is not only due to the larger bezel diameter but also because of the white baton hands and black ceramic bezel. There’s also the step dial and deeper recessed subdials on the Speedmaster Calibre 321.
Last but not least, there’s the crystal. While the Speedmaster 60th respects the materials of the original CK2915 perhaps a bit more, using Hesalite and steel, the 321 uses a double-domed sapphire and a ceramic bezel. Here again, it is all a matter of preference. For daily wear, I have to say that sapphire and ceramics do have an advantage. For looks and heritage, Hesalite is of course a winner here. I can also imagine, that reproducing the Ed White in all its glory, so steel case back, aluminum bezel, and Hesalite crystal would put off a lot of people who own an original 105.003.
The Calibre 321 bracelet is supreme
One of the main reasons the Speedmaster Calibre 321 became one of my daily wearers, is the bracelet. It is incredibly comfortable, light-weight, and yet offers quite a solid feel. The bracelet on the Speedmaster 60th does feature a micro-adjustment in the clasp (without having to fiddle with tools), but it is thick and bulky. It makes the Speedmaster 60th 38.6mm unnecessarily heavy and chunky. That’s why I either wear it on NATO (as pictured) or on a 19mm leather strap.
However, the good news is — and I tried it myself — that the bracelet of the Speedmaster Calibre 321 does fit the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary. The case of the Speedmaster Calibre 321 has a little notch between the lugs, and the end link of the bracelet has a lip that fits right in. However, it fitted my Speedmaster 60th, but I can also imagine that for the best result, you need to file down the lip of the end link a little bit.
A few thoughts
Choosing between these two Speedmaster watches isn’t easy. The Speedmaster 60th Anniversary is a great buy. It offers a lot that Speedmaster enthusiasts are after: a straight-lug case, “Broad Arrow” hands, steel bezel, etc. The major flaw is perhaps that it doesn’t have the same movement as the original Speedmaster CK2915.
The other flaw, in my opinion, is the bulky bracelet. I also have to add that I’ve spoken to a number of owners of this watch, and they had no issues with it whatsoever. The Speedmaster 60th Anniversary is discontinued and officially sold out. The number of produced watches — for a limited edition — is quite high, so you might be able to find an unused one on a display somewhere. The pre-owned market also offers a number of them, for just below the original retail price. Just make sure you get the full package (large box, paperwork, booklets, etc.).
The Speedmaster Calibre 321 is a different story. I don’t want to go into the topic of the higher cost compared to the other steel Speedmasters over and over again, we covered that in video and in a number of articles. The retail price is €14,000 and the production is very limited. This has to do with the way this watch is being manufactured. It is being assembled by hand, and, of course, features the calibre 321 chronograph movement. This movement has its own specially dedicated workshop at the Omega manufacture. Omega’s maximum production capacity for the calibre 321 is between 1,000 and 2,000 units per year.
However, given the fact that the manufacture was closed last year due to Covid-19, gives me the impression that far fewer have been made so far. Is the use of the calibre 321 and the new bracelet worth double the amount of the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary to you? That’s a question only you can answer (but we’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below). Would I have bought the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary knowing the Speedmaster Calibre 321 would hit the market three years later? I would. I like the watch a lot, and it has a cool vintage vibe to it. Even more so than the Speedmaster Calibre 321.
Which model would you pick? Cast your vote and tell us why!