What Makes The Omega Speedmaster Calibre 321 So Special?
Out of all the watches in my collection, the Speedmaster Calibre 321 is one of the pieces I appreciate most. Without making this article a love letter to the watch, let me explain several things that make the Speedmaster Calibre 321 incredibly special.
For the price that you’ll need to pay for this watch, these are things you can and should expect. The normal Speedmaster Professional Master Chronometer retails for €6,700. The Speedmaster Calibre 321, however, has a €14,800 price tag. I’ve touched upon the ownership of the Calibre 321 in this article and compared it to that other re-edition of a few years ago, the 60th anniversary, here.
Speedmaster Calibre 321 — It’s in the details
So what makes the Omega Speedmaster Calibre 321 reference 322.214.171.124.01.001 so special? You probably know by now that this Speedmaster is produced separately from all other Omega watches, except for the tourbillon pieces. The tourbillon watches and the Speedmasters with caliber 321 are produced in a special atelier.
Two-fold assembly of the caliber 321
In this workshop, each watchmaker works on one watch at a time. Therefore, each Speedmaster Calibre 321 is assembled and regulated by the same person. Omega has communicated this from the start. A lesser-known fact, however, is that each caliber 321 is assembled twice. The watchmaker will put it together, adjust/regulate it, disassemble it, clean it, and put it together again. The logic behind this is that watchmakers can examine if all components are working together as they should. It is the old way of doing things, and you will only see it today with some high-end brands. A. Lange & Söhne is a well-known example of a brand that still does a two-fold assembly. It is a time-consuming activity, so the capacity of the watchmakers takes a hit here.
Omega also decided that all of the Speedmaster Calibre 321 watches can be only serviced in the workshop in Bienne. According to the brand, it has to do with the required skill set of the watchmaker. I can also imagine that Omega wants to control the 321 movements and parts and keep that as much in Bienne as possible.
Omega has stated that it wants to produce between 1,000 and 2,000 watches with caliber 321 per year. We’ve heard rumors, however, that production is rather on the lower side than on the higher end of that range. Omega does not communicate numbers (even to us). It is evident, however, that the pandemic didn’t allow watch manufacturers’ workshops and production facilities to work at full capacity.
Laser-engraved Omega logo
You can also find interesting differences between the regular Speedmaster Professional and this Speedmaster Calibre 321 in the details. The sapphire crystal, for example, has the Omega logo in the center, just like the Hesalite crystals on the Speedmaster Professional. Omega uses laser engraving to etch the logo on the underside of the sapphire crystal. The brand did this before with the Seamaster 1948 and again with the Calibre 321 in Canopus Gold.
Galvanized dial showing more detail
Looking at the dial of the Speedmaster Calibre 321, you will notice that it looks different from the Speedmaster Professional Master Chronometer Moonwatch. It has not been varnished like normal dials, but rather, it has been galvanized. This adds only a little more thickness but allows more detail in the dial. The circular graining of the sub-dials, for example, is more present in the Calibre 321 than in the varnished Moonwatch dials. We have received some questions about the Calibre 321 dial, and people often mention the “step”. Some wonder if the step is also possible because of the galvanized finishing technique. The Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday Ultraman, for example, also had a step dial but Omega used aluminum to make it that way. The current Speedmaster Professional has a step dial too, but this is because Omega has improved its varnishing technique.
No milky ring
One of the most noticeable differences with the Speedmaster Professional Master Chronometer with sapphire crystal has been the lack of the “milky ring”. The Speedmaster Professional with sapphire crystal always had this white glow (or “milky ring”) around the perimeter. For some, this is the reason to rather go for the Hesalite edition, while others seem to like it. On the Speedmaster Calibre 321, however, this effect is non-existent, or at least far less prominent. Although not confirmed (yet), it most likely has to do with the metallization of the base of the crystal. Also, the height and finishing of the surface might play a role here. We’re awaiting Omega’s official answer on this topic.
A new crown
Some of you also noticed that the crown system is different on the Speedmaster Calibre 321. The gasket is not inside the crown anymore, but rather, on the crown tube. This is to keep the original crown with the watch. In the past, Omega would simply replace the crown during service because there was a gasket inside of it. Thus, on an older watch, you will find a different crown than it originally came with. To prevent this from happening, Omega put the gasket on the tube instead of inside the crown. It’s also less costly this way, of course.
An illogical order of serial numbers
Last but not least, we’ve received some questions about the serial numbers. I received my Speedmaster Calibre 321 quite early on, and it has an 888xxxx serial number. Afterward, I noticed that some had received Calibre 321 watches with 887xxxx serial numbers. We asked Omega about this, and the brand confirmed that the series would start with the 888xxxx serial numbers and continue with 887xxxx. Upon completing that range, Omega will start using 889xxxx serial numbers. A reason was not given, but the number 8 does do well in certain countries in regions.
Speedmaster Calibre 321 ownership
Having owned the Speedmaster Calibre 321 for over two years, I noticed a few things. The watch is incredibly comfortable, not only because of the size (the Speedmaster 60th Anniversary and FOiS models are similar) but also because of the bracelet. It’s thin and light and makes this watch a joy to wear.
I am also amazed by how well this watch holds up. I have watches I’ve owned for a shorter period that show more signs of wear. Omega’s Speedmaster Calibre 321 keeps its shine, it seems, and not only on the ceramic bezel and sapphire crystal. The level of detail on the dial is quite amazing; the circular grain in the sub-dials is clearly visible, while on my Speedmaster Professional Master Chronometer, I need to use a loupe to see it properly.
Admiring the movement
I also noticed that I take this watch off my wrist quite often to observe and enjoy the Sedna Gold-plated caliber 321. My first Speedmaster was a 145.012-67 with caliber 321. This modern Speedmaster Calibre 321 actually enables me to wear it on a daily basis without having to worry about scratches, dings, and so on. You can also wear your vintage Speedmaster with caliber 321 every day if you want, but with vintage watches, I noticed I am a bit more careful. It is more difficult to have them repaired or restored properly if something goes wrong with them.
Price and availability
The price of the watch was a big discussion at first (and that’s even before two price increases since its introduction), but I feel it has become less of an issue. Yes, it’s a lot of money for a watch in general. Still, it is also a very different watch than the Speedmaster Professional with caliber 3861, and it is manufactured in a very different way. And, of course, that’s a story to tell to customers and contributes to the price. It’s a bit like a gold watch, which is more expensive to produce than a steel watch, but there’s a price to be paid for its exclusivity. The same applies here. However, I don’t mind and found myself enjoying the Speedmaster Calibre 321 a lot. It gets more wear than any of my other steel Speedmaster watches.
There’s a long waitlist for the Speedmaster Calibre 321, and most deliveries will be allotted to Omega boutiques. Even though authorized dealers accept you on the waitlist, I haven’t seen them receiving these watches, at least not where I live. Given the fact that there are only between 1,000 and 2,000 examples per year (rumored to be the lower side of that), it’s probably more “limited” than the Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award 50th Anniversary. However, if you’re after this watch, I suggest putting yourself on the list at a boutique rather than spending the asking prices on Chrono24 or similar platforms.
You can find my in-depth review of this Speedmaster Calibre 321 here. Let us know what you think of this watch in the comments below.