It’s June 3, 1965. Edward Higgins White II just became the first American to walk in space when he ventured outside the Gemini capsule. He was among NASA’s Astronaut Group 2, a select group carefully chosen for this program. On his wrist? The Speedmaster 105.003 featuring OMEGA’s hand-wound Caliber 321 chronograph movement. The Speedmaster 105.003, now known as the “Ed White,” would go on to become one of the most sought-after vintage timepieces among serious watch collectors.
Early last year, OMEGA reintroduced the Caliber 321 in a limited edition platinum Speedmaster. Though the 321 was discontinued in 1968, it remained highly coveted for its beautifully intricate design as well as its historical significance. While the release was met with overwhelming excitement, Speedmaster collectors were left wondering when OMEGA would release a more period-correct (and accessibly priced) steel Speedmaster with the 321 movement.
On the first #SpeedyTuesday of 2020, one year after the rebirth of the Caliber 321 was announced, we were greeted with some exciting news – OMEGA has released the highly anticipated Speedmaster Moonwatch 321 “Ed White” in Stainless Steel.
A caliber with a remarkable history
Not only was the caliber 321 featured in the first ever Speedmaster, the movement is famous for being used extensively in manned space flight. As mentioned above, Ed White was wearing the Speedmaster 105.003 when he made history as the first American to walk in space, during which he floated outside of the spacecraft for an unprecedented 20 minutes. This accomplishment is widely thought of as America’s first significant stride in the Space Race – it renewed faith among the American public that the United States could win the race to the moon. OMEGA’s new release draws inspiration from the iconic model worn by Ed White, honoring his legacy and celebrating space exploration as a whole.
A legend returns in stainless steel
Aesthetically speaking, the new “Ed White” is a complete re-creation of the original to which it pays homage. However, it benefits from having been constructed in the modern day, boasting a black ceramic bezel insert, sapphire crystals covering the dial and caseback, and a movement with historically renowned DNA, yet modern precision and durability.
It has a 39.7 mm stainless case, a stepped dial, cream-colored indices and hands, and of course, the historically-significant 321 movement, which is visible through the caseback. Spec for spec, this piece is everything watch connoisseurs could have wanted and more.
Perhaps most noteworthy is the fact that every single timepiece and accompanying 321 movement is assembled, timed and adjusted by one single watchmaker within a special department inside the OMEGA production facility in Biel, ensuring a level of detail and accuracy that is normally only found in more hands-on, artisan-based independent watchmaking firms. Thus, the watch is not only an aesthetically true homage to the original “Ed White” – it is even produced in the same small-scale manner as it would have been in the 1960’s.
At $14,100, the “Ed White” is priced quite a bit higher than your average Moonwatch. That said, in my opinion, it is still a value proposition, as this watch isn’t your average Moonwatch. This piece is for someone who wants a Moonwatch that not everyone else will have. If the standard Moonwatch is a Mercedes, the “Ed White” is the AMG version. Taking into account the amount of personal attention and care that goes into producing just one of these watches, it is understandable that OMEGA will only be able to produce somewhere between 1,000 to 2,000 pieces per year – hardly enough to support the anticipated demand.
It is a rare treat when a brand pulls no punches in delivering a badge of their heritage, and the “Ed White” Speedmaster is above and beyond.
In addition to being the first American to walk in space, White was also the senior pilot on the Apollo mission, where he faced a tragic death after a fire erupted during a training. White was buried with full military honors at West Point Cemetery and in 1997, he was awarded with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.