You’ve likely all seen/heard/read the big news this morning—occurring on the overplayed “Speedy Tuesday”, no less—about the release of Omega’s new Moonwatch Calibre 321 in steel. That’s right, as we’ve been expecting/waiting for, the relaunched hand-winding (and I hate the term) icon of a caliber has appropriately been wedged into a steel 39.7mm case and slathered in vintage-inspired details from the old reference ST 105.003 Speedy from Ed White’s space walk in 1965.
While this news is spreading like wildfire, with many singing praise from rooftops, the real conversation to be had here is all about one thing—pricing. We knew from the moment Omega announced the return of the Calibre 321, which contrary to popular belief could not have taken the ‘extensive research and reconstruction’ touted by the marketing materials, that any watch fitted with the new-old caliber would come at a premium. That said, I’m still bewildered by the fact that those in charge of Omega’s pricing strategy determined that $14,100 USD was the appropriate ask.
Rewind to last year, specifically to Omega’s significant festivities at Cape Canaveral where I had the chance to chat with (among others) Omega’s sitting CEO and President Raynald Aeschlimann shortly after the formal announcement of the 321’s return. At the time I only had one real question on my mind; one question that I asked Raynald directly: ‘Given the caliber 321’s roots as a utilitarian everyman’s chronograph, was there any intent or plan for this caliber to be offered in a more basic and utilitarian steel-cased model down the road?’
Of course (as I’ve seen him do on several occasions), Raynald danced his way around the question without offering a tangible answer, leaving me to wait and speculate until this release landed, which has sadly confirmed nearly a year’s worth of speculation and suspicion.
There are a number of things wrong with a $14k sticker price for this new Speedy—a position I take regardless of knowing that I don’t have a horse in this race. While I can 100% respect its history, and the fact that countless folks out there are Speedy-obsessed, the Speedmaster just doesn’t do anything for me as an enthusiast and watch collector. Closest I’ll ever get to wanting to add one to my personal collection is my appreciation for the Flightmaster, but I digress.
Before even looking at outside competition, the new Speedmaster Moonwatch Calibre 321 fails when facing offerings within its own collection. Yes, I get that Omega has a dedicated workshop for the caliber, a workshop where a single watchmaker deals with a single caliber/watch. But what is that really worth, if you’re in the market for a steel Speedy? At a technical level the 321, past or present, is not a better caliber than the 1861 it eventually evolved into. It’s certainly a quality caliber, robust enough for NASA to bring it into service, and in present guise more elegantly finished than its counterpart, sure.
The point is, Omega already produces the Speedmaster FOIS in a 39.7mm steel case—a recreation of the first Omega in Space, and a watch that can be had for $5,300 on a leather strap. It uses different hands, and does not have the ‘Dot over Ninety’ bezel from the original ST 105.003, nor does it have an exhibition caseback. It’s hard to ignore the question of whether or not the new 321 is worth 2.67 times the price of the FOIS when examined at a purely physical level. Taking things a step further within the world of Omega Speedmasters, would you rather have the reissue 321 for $14k at retail, or a clean, original ST 105.003 Ed White for slightly less than that?
While we’re at it, let’s go through the rest of the catalog. Co-Axial Speedys remain significantly less expensive, and even Dark Side and Grey Side of The Moon references undercut the new Speedmaster 321 by just over $2,000. Speedy Tuesday releases and Snoopy? Both came in a hair over half the price of this latest release. Outside of the solid gold anniversary piece that launched last year (north of $34k), only one limited edition Speedmaster in the current offering eclipses the 321 by a couple grand, and it’s the only one that does so with some semblance of legitimacy. A 357-piece limited edition Split Seconds speedy is out there, powered by a self-winding co-axial caliber with a double column wheel setup. It priced out at $16,200, and unlike this new release (which is not limited) it will be quite scarce in the grand scheme of Speedmaster references.
Taking the lens up a few thousand feet for a moment, we’re all well aware that there’s ample price correction going on in the market, though the direction of said correction is incongruous. While some (Zenith, among others) have been taking steps to make corrections downward overall, we’ve seen steady increases from the likes of Rolex, AP, Patek, and others. Now, on that side of the equation there are a couple of things at play, but more than anything it’s a matter of greater demand than there is supply, and prices are being pushed upwards after the existence of said demand for existing models. In the case of Rolex, the brand has been slowly but consistently updating the specifications of its calibers, further justifying an increase in retail pricing (reportedly 7% in the coming month for the UK market).
This is precisely the difference at hand here. Sure, it’s the return of a caliber that many glorify and obsess over, but what is that really worth? Is it worth 2.67 times that of the Speedy FOIS? At some point there has to be a ceiling where even the most hardcore Speedy enthusiast sees through the shimmering veil of heritage and nostalgia that masks the new 321’s true value.
At the end of the day, take this position on Omega’s ‘latest and greatest’ for what you will. After all, we all know that watch buying is an emotional decision as much, if not more than it is a matter of math and physically attributed value. We also know that there are MANY Speedmaster fanatics out there, and based on sales of past Speedy Tuesday releases, Omega is bound to sell at least a good handful of these to collectors that will be happy to part with the demanded $14,100 sticker price. Would I support the decision personally? No. Do I think it has the slightest chance to become the next Daytona or Nautilus, inflated on the secondary market do to high demand and low supply? While anything is possible, I sincerely hope not.