3. 2. 1… It’s funny that perhaps the most common three numbers to say in a row also hold such strong significance in the world of horology. Of course, I’m speaking of the famed Omega Caliber 321 that powered the original Speedmasters from 1957 – 68, notably including the very models worn on the Moon (ST 105.012) and during the first spacewalk (ST 105.003). Though very similar to its successor, the far more common 861 (later 1861, with a few variants noted by the last digit), in general function, the 321 was a column-wheel chronograph. Named for the turret-shaped component used in the engaging of the chronograph, a part that is generally associated with higher-end movements due to the precision required in their making, column-wheel chronos are lauded for their smooth feel and aesthetic appeal. (For more on column wheels, click here)
But why bring up this iconic, albeit often discussed caliber today? Well, in what was at least a surprise to yours truly, Omega has announced that they are bringing it back. And not just in spirit, as in a new column-wheel chronograph with the same name for the sake of nostalgia, rather a replica of the 321, ready for modern production. According to the press release, Omega assembled a team of “researchers, developers and historians, as well as the finest craftsmen and experienced watchmakers” who worked in secret for two years to recreate the 321 as accurately as possible. They even took the name “Alaska 11” which is a playful reference to the codenames used by Omega in the 60’s and 70’s on NASA projects.
So why did Omega bring this back now? Well, take a look at the year. The Apollo 11 Moon landing took place in July of 1969; 50 years ago. When you take a look at all of the different anniversary and limited edition Speedmasters that have come out in the last few decades, the one thing that has been missing is the Caliber 321. Needless to say, they’ve been patiently waiting for the right date, and it has finally arrived.
Now, we just have to wait as patiently as possible to see what Speedmaster the new 321 will go into. Clearly, it will be a 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moonlanding model, likely staying as true as possible to 105.012 reference, hopefully with step dial and applied logo. Get your wallets ready, as that one will go fast. What follows that will be more even more interesting, frankly. Will they have a 321 version of the Speedy Pro always available? Will this be reserved only for special editions? Will it be discontinued once again? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
For more on the Omega Speedmaster, check out Omega Speedmaster: the First 15 Years