Breaking News: The New Steel Speedmaster With Caliber 321 “Ed White” It's here, finally! by Robert-Jan BroerJanuary 07, 2020 MIN READBreaking News: The New Steel Speedmaster With Caliber 321 “Ed White”
On this very first Speedy Tuesday of 2020, we have some exciting news to share with you. It took Omega exactly one year from the introduction of the new caliber 321 to the introduction of the first steel Speedmaster with this movement. On this very day, one year ago, Speedy Tuesday fans were invited to Biel to witness the re-introduction of this column-wheel chronograph movement, and the guessing began.
Only a few out there guessed it right, and in hindsight, it is easy to tell you that the big give-away was the watch that was used as the subject for their tomography process to get the exact version of the caliber 321 that was used in Gene Cernan’s watch, a Speedmaster 105.003.
It was the topic of discussion a number of times on forums and in the #SpeedyTuesday Facebook group, when will it be introduced and what will it look like? When Omega introduced the platinum Speedmaster with caliber 321, some of you thought the steel version would be exactly that. A steel version of the platinum Speedmaster caliber 321 with onyx dial and meteorite subdials. Anyway, it isn’t. It is a steel Speedmaster with straight-lugs, sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel and a see-through case back. And a steel bracelet, and an awesome one. I always try to keep my cool and stay as objective as possible, but if that’s what you’re looking for today, I have to disappoint you. My heart rate is currently up quite a bit due to this news from Omega’s headquarters in Bienne. Let’s have a closer biased look at this new watch.
Speedmaster Caliber 321 in steel
2020 starts with a blast in my opinion, with the introduction of this stainless steel Speedmaster caliber 321. Based on the Speedmaster 105.003 (also known as the ‘Ed White’), but manufactured according to new standards. Every watch (and movement) is assembled and adjusted by one single watchmaker at Omega’s production facility in Biel, connected to the headquarters.
Ed White in space, wearing his 105.003
The connection with Ed White has been explained by Mike in this article a while ago, he was the first astronaut using the 105.003 during an EVA on June 3rd 1965 (Gemini IV mission). The spacewalk took 23 minutes and on his wrist the Speedmaster 105.003, today nicknamed after Ed White. Ed White was selected for the Apollo program and was on board the Apollo 1. As you know, all three astronauts (White, Grissom, and Chaffee) were killed during the accident with the Apollo 1 on January 27th, 1967.
Not a Limited Edition
movements are assembled by a special department inside the Omega manufacture, each watchmaker will be responsible for an entire watch
Back to the Speedmaster Caliber 321 in steel, the new “Ed White”. I’ve recently shared it before with you in this article, but I think we will start to see less limited edition Speedmasters from Omega from now on. The Speedmaster Platinum caliber 321 and this model in steel are the giveaways for me. They would be the perfect watches to be a limited edition, but instead, Omega chooses not to. A good decision, in my opinion. These watches should be part of the backbone of the Omega collection, especially this stainless steel Speedmaster caliber 321. That said, this doesn’t mean Omega will be able to produce many of them. Because these watches and movements are assembled by a special department inside the Omega manufacture, each watchmaker will be responsible for an entire watch (instead of the watch moving around inside the manufacture to different ‘workstations’), the capacity to produce the caliber 321 Speedmasters is somewhat limited. A number between 1000 and 2000 has been communicated with us. This means you will be able to order one of these watches, but chances are there you have to wait a bit. But I am pretty sure Omega will be more sane with the deliveries of these watches than the company with the crown.
Modern Interpretation Of The 105.003
It is easy to make the mistake to think this new steel Speedmaster caliber 321 is an attempt from Omega to re-create the Speedmaster 105.003 reference. I don’t think that was the goal, and if they would have wanted to do so, they would take the route of the Speedmaster 60th anniversary that commemorated the first Speedmaster reference CK2915, with a Hesalite crystal. To make a distinction between the regular ‘Moonwatch’ and this steel Speedmaster caliber 321, Omega must have decided to use a different case design. The straight-lug case is comparable to the one of the CK2998 editions and the 60th anniversary edition of 2017, without crown guards and a smaller diameter than the 42mm Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’. The new Speedmaster Caliber 321 is a modern watch in many ways, using a sapphire crystal and a ceramic bezel (with white enamel tachymeter scale). The caseback shows the movement through a sapphire crystal.
There are a lot of small details from the original “Ed White” on this new Speedmaster caliber 321 in steel, like the step dial, applied logo, teardrop counterweight on the second hand, and the bezel with Dot-Over-Ninety.
A common misunderstanding is that ‘Professional’ was added because of the qualification by NASA, but Omega already started to do so before the Speedmaster was tested and qualified
105.003 On The Moon
The 105.003 is one of the original Moonwatch references, as we explained here. The Speedmaster 105.003 was the reference that was tested and qualified by NASA, and then Omega started sending the 105.012 (and later on 145.012) to NASA to be used by the astronauts. These 105.012 and 145.012 references had a crown guard and had ‘Professional’ printed on the dial. A common misunderstanding is that ‘Professional’ was added because of the qualification by NASA, but Omega already started to do so before the Speedmaster was tested and qualified. The 105.003s that were in possession by NASA also have been used by Apollo astronauts on the Moon. So in total, there are three references used on the Moon, the 105.003, the 105.012 and the 145.012. So technically, the 105.003 is a Moonwatch as well. Below, an original (late) 105.003 with caliber 321 movement (and a dial turned ‘tropical’).
In the new caliber 321, Omega used a Sedna gold treatment on the parts to resemble the original copper-colored parts
A lot has been written already on the (new) caliber 321, so it doesn’t make much sense to repeat everything here. But perhaps good to know a few things. The movement is exactly the same as used in the platinum version of the Speedmaster caliber 321. It is based on the 2nd version of the original caliber 321, this can be easily identified by the shape of the clutch bridge. In the first generation, the clutch bridge was symmetrical shaped, in the second generation (1964 onwards) it was asymmetrical. This movement was used in the reference 105.003, 105.012 and 145.012. In the new caliber 321, Omega used a Sedna gold treatment on the parts to resemble the original copper-colored parts. The clutch bridge that I just briefly mentioned above is in German silver. A more thorough write-up on the new caliber 321 movement can be found in our hands-on review of the Speedmaster caliber 321 in platinum. Just like the platinum Speedmaster caliber 321, this new steel version also has a sapphire caseback.
One of the modern Moonwatch Achilles heel in terms of design has been the bracelet. The last really good bracelet, design-wise, was for me the reference 1479 that Omega used between 1989 and 1996. The 60th anniversary Speedmaster from 2017 already had an improved bracelet, although the clasp was a bit too bulky in my opinion and the links a bit too thick. The Apollo XI models, both the steel and the Moonshine gold version, have awesome bracelets though. Bracelets that tapers nicely from 20mm. This new Speedmaster caliber 321 in steel has a bracelet that is based on the original 1039 reference bracelet, which looks a bit like the one on the 60th-anniversary edition, but much better executed.
Price and Thoughts
This new Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 “Ed White” in steel with reference 318.104.22.168.01.001 is absolutely stunning. Purists might say it is a pity it doesn’t have a Hesalite crystal and a solid steel caseback, but as I wrote above, it is a watch that will be in the backbone of the Omega collection from now on. It is not meant to be an exact replica of the original 105.003 “Ed White”, but a modern watch for daily use with inspiration from the original 105.003. I love this watch and my order is in. The Speedmaster Platinum 321 is a beauty too, but price tags aside, the steel would still be my pick (and is). When you are seeking a vintage Speedmaster, then (perhaps) this watch is not for you. But for those who appreciate the look of the original 105.003, its history and the caliber 321 movement, and want to wear it daily, this is a no-brainer.
With a price of CHF13.000 Swiss Francs, this watch is much more expensive than the standard Moonwatch (which we can expect to increase in price as well once Omega will do the upgrade to the caliber 3861 movement), but that only makes sense to me. It is definitely a lot of money, but compared to what’s out there, I still feel the price is right for this kind of watch. It is a new direction Omega is taking, and with the higher price tag(s), you also will receive more watch in my opinion. New movements, better bracelets, nicer details etc. It all comes at a certain price, and with that in mind, I don’t have an issue with an increase. As long as you get something cool in return.
More information via Omega online.
Brand Omega ModelSpeedmaster Moonwatch 321 "Ed White"Reference322.214.171.124.01.001DialBlackCase MaterialStainless steel, Ceramic bezelCase DimensionsDiameter: 39.7mmCrystalSapphireCase BackSapphireMovementCaliber 321, hand-winding movement, Ticking Speed: 18000vph, Jewels: 17, Power Reserve: 44 hours, Sedna gold plated finishingStrapStainless steelFunctionsTime, ChronographPriceCHF 13000 Swiss FrancsWarranty5 years Brand of the Month
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About the author
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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