Let’s get straight to the point: the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 in steel is THE ultimate Speedmaster. Period! Whether for its design, its accuracy, the level of details, the overall execution, the historical relevance and, of course, its absolutely superb movement, it has it all. When it was officially revealed, we knew Omega had created a real showstopper, a watch that was destined to become a success. Still, we wanted to confirm all of these statements by putting the watch to a test, on the wrist – and, let’s be honest, we also wanted to enjoy it for ourselves, even for a short period of time. So, fasten your spacesuit and let’s have a close look at the Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321.
Before we move on to the ins and outs of this Speedmaster Calibre 321, we have to return to early 2019, when Omega announced that it was working on a recreation of the legendary movement that was found in the case of all early Speedmasters – from 1957 to circa 1968, the last models with the 321 being the 105.012 and 145.012, until the launch of the Calibre 861, in the reference 145.022. Just as iconic as the watch that contains it, the Calibre 321, based on a Lemania ébauche (the 2310), is a column-wheel and horizontal clutch chronograph movement, regarded as more “prestigious” than the robust but simple cam of the 861.
So, in January 2019, Omega announced that a special division of its manufacture was dedicated to the hand-assembly of these beautiful, entirely faithful movements (it really is a 1-to-1 recreation with only minor updates). Of course, once we knew about the movement, the first question was to find out which watch would bear the movement. One thing was sure, it couldn’t be the classic Professional Speedmaster Moonwatch. Due to the low production numbers of this engine, it had to be something exclusive and rare. Thus, expectations for a stainless steel vintage straight-lugs model were high.
The first watch to be equipped with the Omega Calibre 321 was introduced in July 2019, and it wasn’t what Speedy enthusiasts really envisioned. Indeed, Omega placed it in a nice, very well executed, modern-shaped platinum Speedmaster with a black polished onyx dial and meteorite sub-dials. But there was something even more collectable, even more desirable around the corner. Collectors knew it, we knew it and Omega knew it too. And in January 2020, the answer came… A stunning, ultra-faithful, historically correct reproduction of the reference ST105.003, the new Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321.
inspired by the ST105.003
And so, the Calibre 321 in a vintage re-edition of a Speedmaster appeared in a stainless steel case. The first question that comes to mind concerns the choice of the watch itself. Why recreate an ST105.003 and not a CK2915 (the first Speedmaster), a CK2998, a ST105.002, a ST105.012 or a 145.012? While I can’t speak for Omega, here’s my take on this. For the CK2998, the answer is simple. Omega already has a watch in collection that is fairly close to the original model, the FOiS, as well as other models bearing this name. As for the CK2915, while it would certainly make sense in terms of historical relevance, Omega already reproduced this watch in 2017, within the 60th-anniversary trilogy (yet with a Calibre 1861).
The 105.002 was a transitional watch that was identical to a CK2998 but relied on a new internal reference system. Not of great interest, to be honest. The following references, namely the ST105.012 and the 145.012, are so-called “Professional” watches and as such, they feature a case that is almost identical to the modern Moonwatch.
However, the 105.003 is an important and beautiful watch. The CK2915 and the CK2998 were still “work in progress” in my books and didn’t display some of the typical elements of a Speedmaster. The 105.003 is, on the other hand, more emblematic, more recognisable, with its white baton hands. It is also the last of the straight-lug Speedmasters, the last of the so-called “pre-professional”. Also, it is the watch that was tested by NASA and flight-qualified. Finally, it is the watch that was worn by Astronaut Ed White, during the first American EVA (extravehicular activity).
Ed White was an aeronautical engineer, U.S. Air Force test pilot and NASA astronaut, and the first American to walk in space on 3 June 1965, during the Gemini IV space flight. During the mission, White was equipped with a Speedmaster 105.003 strapped around his wrist – this was prior to the qualification of the watch by NASA – making it the first Omega to be worn in outer space. And this background story explains why this specific reference is often nicknamed the “Ed White” Speedmaster. The historical importance of this reference combined with its pure, pre-professional and very recognisable look could easily explain why the 105.003 was selected as the watch to be reissued and to receive the recreated Calibre 321.
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321
So here we are, mid-2020 in Biel, face-to-dial with the Speedmaster Calibre 321. And yes, it looks the part. No debate, the watch is amongst the best Speedmaster watches ever created. But we’re not here to digress on the enthusiasm we experienced when first handling the watch, so let’s go into the details that make this 105.003 recreation special.
A faithful Case
First of all, it is important to note that the case of the Speedmaster Calibre 321 has never been used before by Omega. It isn’t the same as the CK2998, the FOiS or the 60th Anniversary model. It is, indeed, new to this watch, even though the differences are subtle. The Speedmaster underwent countless evolutions from its earliest days, updating parts more often than the reference numbers changed (and that says a lot). As such, in order to deliver complete exactness, this re-edition of the 105.003 has been modelled with precision after the original watch.
Still, the case will look quite familiar, and so are its proportions. It has the classic straight-lugs profile, unprotected crown and pushers, and a symmetrical case. The profile of the lugs itself is also straight, being the most obvious difference here with a modern CK2998 or FOiS – a detail that remains, however, period correct. The finishing of the case is classic to all Speedmasters, with polished flat surfaces and brushed casebands.
Proportions are, of course, identical to the vintage model, with a 39.7mm diameter and a height of 13mm – which is around 1mm less than a Professional Moonwatch. The design of the Speedmaster Calibre 321, with its straight lugs, has one side effect, which affects the lug-to-lug measurement, of about 48mm. Despite their smaller diameter, straight-lug cases are more elongated and come close to a Professional case. The result is a watch that only wears slightly smaller than a Moonwatch – which is objectively fine as the dimensions are well balanced. The watch has both presence and comfort and feels exactly like a vintage Speedmaster 105.003 should have felt back in 1964.
The case features an external bezel – of course, this is the Speedy’s trademark – featuring a black insert with tachymetre scale. If the shapes, dimensions and overall look are identical to a 105.003 (incl. the important dot-over-ninety), the Speedmaster Calibre 321 shows some evolutions in materials. The bezel’s insert is made of shiny black ceramic, while the scale is executed in white enamel – both ensure durability. In the same vein, the watch is topped by a sapphire crystal – no Hesalite here – that, however, mimics the look of the vintage plexiglass with a laser engraved Ω logo in the centre.
Altogether, and without surprise, the case feels exactly like an old Speedmaster – or any Omega watch – should. Solid, finely executed, precisely assembled. But not overly luxurious, as this wouldn’t fit the overall concept.
Dial & Hands
Everything that we just said about the case can be said about the dial. Once again, from a certain distance, it looks like a normal Speedmaster. However, everything here is once again an extremely faithful reproduction of the original model. Starting with the dial itself, the base is the classic matte black colour with a fine grained effect. However, the dial isn’t just a Moonwatch dial. It has the period-correct “step dial” profile, where the minute track sits lower than the rest of the dial.
In the same vein, the sub-dials are more recessed than a classic Speedmaster and the angled flange is more pronounced and wider. The central part of the counters still has a fine concentric pattern. All of this is clearly faithful to the original ST105.003 and has been interpreted by Omega to make sure the watch feels exactly like it should have been in 1963.
Moving into the details, the inscriptions are also unique to this model. For instance, the minutes and hours markers are longer than a modern model. The Ω logo is, as you would expect, is a metallic applique and has the so-called “narrow flat feet” style – used by Omega when the 105.003 was for sale. The same is true for the “OMEGA” and “Speedmaster” inscriptions, which use the historical fonts. Of course, no “T” mention next to Swiss Made, as the dial doesn’t use tritium paint anymore.
Finally, the hands have been modelled after the 105.003, meaning that, unlike the CK2998, they have the classic white colour and baton design – this reference was the first to use the Professional hands, while the CK2998 had metallic Alpha hands. This also means a white central seconds hand with a diamond-shaped tip. In the same vein, the subsidiary hands are painted white. Finally, Omega has decided not to use “fauxtina” and to stick as close as possible to the original colour of tritium paint (when new at least). As such, the hands and hours indexes are filled with light-beige-coloured Super-LumiNova.
Bracelet & Buckle
To end our overview of the habillage comes the bracelet and its buckle. This might be where the watch makes the largest concession to modernity. Although the bracelet mimics the look of a vintage “flat-link” bracelet – for instance, a Ref. 7912 that was used on the 105.003 – its construction is far more robust. Not folded links, it’s solid links all around. Still, the design remains close enough to its vintage counterpart, yet a bit thicker and heavier. The central link is brushed and the external elements are polished. The bracelet measures 19mm between lugs and 16mm at the buckle.
The clasp of the Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 is also a strong evolution over the original model. Again, more modern, more robust and equipped with safety pushers. Yet, Omega has closely reproduced the look of the original buckle, with the vintage Ω logo, which sets this watch apart from the rest of the production, even vintage-inspired models. Also, important to note, this isn’t the same bracelet as the Speedmaster 60th-anniversary edition. The one present here is even more faithful, flatter and thinner.
Being lighter and thinner than what you’ll find on a standard Moonwatch, the bracelet adds great comfort to the watch. Also, the look is not only period-correct but also has a touch of elegance. And on a daily basis, there’s not much debate concerning solid links, they are simply better…
The Calibre 321
Now comes the pièce de résistance: the movement. As indicated by its name, the Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 proudly features Omega’s 1-to-1 reproduction of the historic Calibre 321. Reproducing the habillage is a thing. Recreating a movement is the next (if not ultimate) level. The presence of this movement is the final argument, the very reason why this watch matters, why it is so desirable, why it makes it a true collector’s item and why it also is placed in a different price range.
What Omega has done here is simply staggering. As we mentioned in our previous article: “The Omega Museum team compiled extensive historical research and original plans to reconstruct the movement as accurately as possible. Going even further, they also used “tomography” technology (digital scanning method) to see inside the true Speedmaster ST105.003 timepiece that astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan wore on the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.” As a result, all parts of the Calibre 321 have been reborn in respect to their authentic specifications, with a construction that faithfully respects the designs from the past, down to the smallest screw.
Naturally, manufacturing methods have evolved and the parts feature a superior finishing; the movement is pretty impressive in this department. The bridges and the main-plate are plated with Sedna gold and the bevels are polished… Also, once the parts are received, assembly is done in a dedicated atelier in Biel, working in a more traditional way than the ultra-modern line for co-axial movements. Also, the assembly of a movement is performed from A to Z by the same watchmaker, who also assembles the rest of the watch.
Regarding the specifications, the movement still runs at 18,000 vibrations/hour; however, the power reserve has been upgraded to 55 hours. Winding is smoother than on a Calibre 1861 and the pushers, thanks to the column-wheel and horizontal clutch architecture, are very pleasant to actuate.
Concerning the caseback, Omega has decided to go for a sapphire crystal, not a solid steel back like those used in the ST105.003. It would have been a shame to hide the movement, which alone justifies the very existence of this Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321. Without seeing it, you would end up with yet another handsome Speedy. Being able to see it greatly contributes to the appeal. Maybe, Omega could have added an additional plain caseback with a seahorse logo in the box (like Patek does, for instance). This way, authenticity-driven collectors could have chosen the closed option. But, if you ask me, that gorgeous machinery has to be seen.
Next to a Speedmaster FOIS
When we shot the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321, we put it next to a Speedmaster “First Omega in Space”, which is inspired (but not reproducing) a CK2998 model. While the look feels close, in fact, not a single part is shared between the two watches. The dimensions are the same (39.7mm in diameter) and both watches have symmetrical cases, but the 321 doesn’t have a bevel on the side of its straight lugs, for instance. Same goes for the dial, hands, logos, pushers/crown, bezel… Nothing is identical.
Yet, the First Omega in Space shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’re in the market for a contemporary “straight lugs” Speedmaster, the FOiS is a superb offer. It’s 80% of what a vintage Speedmaster could be, and this is already more than enough for many watch enthusiasts. The last 20% in authencity offered by the Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 certainly makes the difference, but this watch plays in a different league – both in terms of availability and price. So don’t forget the FOiS, it remains one of the best Speedies for sale currently.
What do we think about the Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 in steel? Short answer: it is mega! It is, without doubt, the ultimate Speedmaster. Omega has done an incredible job at reproducing the watch visually and mechanically. And just for that, this watch is a masterpiece. A small comment to those saying that it looks too modern, too polished… Well, Omega deliberately avoided the patina effect here and instead went for the original specifications and look. So, in fact, this watch is identical to what an ST105.003 looked like when it came out of the manufacture in 1963/64.
For who is this watch? I’d say that the Speedmaster Calibre 321 shouldn’t be your first Speedmaster (nor your second or third). It is a watch that requires a profound love for the model and advanced knowledge of the history of the Speedmaster. It is advertised by Omega as a collector’s watch and should really be seen as such. To me, it is a watch that has to be earned, and not given to anyone.
Now comes the question of the price. Over 13k euros/dollars/francs is a huge step up compared to the price of a Professional Moonwatch (EUR 4,900 on bracelet) or a Speedmaster FOiS (EUR 4,700). But many factors have to be considered, the main ones being the exclusivity of the watch, its manufacturing process, the low production numbers and, of course, its movement that has nothing to do with a tried-and-tested Calibre 1861. So yes, the price is high, but the watch that you’ll get in exchange is stunning…
Availability & Price
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 Steel (Ref. 3188.8.131.52.01.001) is launched as a non-limited edition watch. Certainly, this is great news but there’s another side to the coin. Don’t expect this watch to be widely available. It is a true collector’s item and, considering the way the movement is assembled, production numbers will be low (by Omega standards). In addition, these movements are shared by this steel version and the platinum model. While most of the movements will be encased in steel, we can’t expect thousands of Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 to come out of Biel a year – and that, for a normal year without a pandemic.
The watch can now be ordered from Omega boutiques, and deliveries of the first examples have started already. The price for this rather exceptional Speedmaster is EUR 13,900 (incl. taxes), certainly a substantial price for a Speedy… but the Moonwatch Calibre 321 is not your standard Moonwatch.
More details can be found at omegawatches.com.