It was only a matter of time before this happened. After the release of a platinum-cased special edition of the iconic Speedmaster “Moonwatch” outfitted with the recently re-invented Caliber 321, Omega has now introduced a “more accessible” version of that timepiece, equipped with the same manually wound movement housed in a stainless steel case.
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Caliber 321 Stainless Steel takes its primary aesthetic inspiration NOT from the famed Reference ST 105.012 model, which was the watch that Buzz Aldrin famously wore on the lunar surface in 1969, but from the earlier Reference ST 105.003, which astronaut Ed White wore in 1965 when he became the first American to walk in space. Its steel case is 39.7 mm in diameter, with the ring of its familiar tachymeter-scale bezel made of polished black ceramic (Zr02), accented by tachymeter markings in white enamel.
Collectors of vintage Speedies will also appreciate details like the “dot over 90” on the bezel, a subtle detail that identifies a Speedmaster model as being from pre-1970. This model’s stepped, black dial is distinct from that of its precious-metal predecessor (which was modeled on the 1969 Moonwatch reference, and used black onyx for its dial and actual moon meteorite for its three subdials), in that it uses standard tone-on-tone subdials with white markings in the classical tricompax arrangement — elapsed minutes, elapsed hours, and running seconds at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, respectively — along with the emblematic Moonwatch hands and vintage-style Omega logo.
Launched in 1957, the Speedmaster was originally powered by Caliber 321, a column wheel chronograph movement based on the legendary Lemania 2310. The watch that went to the moon with the Apollo 11 crew was powered by the same movement. In 1968, Omega replaced Caliber 321 with Caliber 861, a cam-actuated chronograph movement. However, purists have long pined for the revival of Caliber 321 and lusted after is traditional column wheel construction.
It was notable, and remains prized by vintage-watch collectors to this day, for its use of a monobloc column wheel, machined from a single piece, and for its attractive architecture. As part of its two-year-long project to reconstruct this manual-winding chronograph movement as accurately as possible at its atelier in Bienne, Switzerland, Omega used a digital scanning technology called “tomography” to study the movement inside the ST 105.003 worn by Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan in 1972, and use its design as a blueprint.
The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Caliber 321 Stainless Steel — which some have already nicknamed the “Ed White” — is priced at $14,100 and, unlike the platinum Moonwatch with Caliber 321, is not a limited edition.