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Old 11 May 2021, 08:58 PM   #1
Travelller
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Icon17 Speedmaster Caliber 321 "Ed White" - A Pictorial

Let's welcome back, the one and only...


click-the-pics for hi-res goodness


Off we go...
...on another amazing adventure! It was on a "Speedy Tuesday" back in Jan 2017 that sent me (and 2011 other Speedmaster fans) on an exciting journey to procure the now-iconic Speedy Tuesday reference. For me, that little journey ended up lasting just shy of a year. In Jan 2019 and again on a Speedy Tuesday, Omega blew us all away with the announcement* that the venerable calibre 321 would be making a return!
*In large part through our friends at Fratello Watches

Once I heard the news, I knew I had to have it! But of course, Omega would need to house this most awesome caliber in a Speedmaster before we could even begin to think about something that could be (pre-) ordered and for me, that would have to be a steel Speedmaster. A few weeks after the news of the 321 broke, there were already rumors that the first watch that would have the honor of being powered by this iconic caliber would be in Platinum... . A very logical move by Omega, but alas, bad news for me and all the other steel-watch lovers.

Knowing however that we were about to celebrate the Apollo 11's 50th, I figured Omega might use the 321 and release both platinum & steel versions. Omega did release the 50th in March (2019), but it was in "Moonshine" gold, not platinum and it was powered by Omega's latest generation Speedmaster movement, the 3861. So by then, it was a given that the steel 50th would also have the 3861.

The 321 finally made it's appearance in July (2019) when Omega released the 321 Platinum. A beautiful watch indeed, just not one for me for a number of reasons (including but not limited to, the price tag). The 321 platinum was Omega's third big Speedmaster release in 2019 so it was looking less and less likely that Omega would release a steel 321 in the same year... .

But I knew ...correction, we all knew that Omega would have to eventually release a 321 steel Speedmaster! The New Year came and by now, much like Pavlov's dogs, we were all salivating in anticipation of each and every Speedy Tuesday in January... . The first Tuesday rolled around and... boom! There it was, the one many of us had been waiting for, the "Calibre 321 Chronograph 39.7 MM", aka the new "Ed White"!




"Caliber 321" - the Ed White ...2.0
Yes, the 321 steel Speedmaster was finally here and very much a "Speedmaster" in every sense of the word. With exceptions like the FOIS*, "Speedmaster 60th", etc. most production and limited-edition Speedmasters released in the past two decades have been Speedmaster Professionals, with it's familiar lyre lugs and 42mm asymmetrical case (c/o crown guards). It's quickly evident that the original straight-lugged, ~39mm Speedmaster case is the perfect home for the 321, which powered the very first Speedmaster released in 1957 up until Omega switched to the 861 to power the (now "Professional") Speedmaster in 1968. During that period, there were many firsts for the Speedmaster, including the FOIS* So why nickname it the "Ed White"? Because Omega chose to model this new Speedmaster after the 105.003 reference which was worn by Ed White during his 1965 Gemini IV EVA. The 105.003 also happens to be the last of the "pre-Professional" Speedmasters. It was however (and obviously) not the first reference to use the 321, nor the last... .
*First Omega In Space - tribute to Wally Schirra's private CK2998 Speedmaster.

But Omega chose this reference to model their first (new) steel-encased 321 reference. Aside from the 1005.003 being a perfect candidate for their 321, they had decided to use Gene Cernan's own 105.003 to model the new movement ...literally. We're talking about the use of tomography in order to replicate every single part on a 1-1 basis. In any event, a reference associated with astronauts White & Cernan will certainly make for a perfect Speedmaster to house Omega's 321! While Speedmaster fans will forever associate the 105.003 with White's EVA, it's also important to note that it is one of three references to have been on the moon's surface. Last but certainly not least, the 105.003 was the first to be "flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions"!



It's also worth noting that the 105.003 used the second (& final) generation of the 321. The only (visible) differences between generations; 1. a switch from an unfinished & symmetrical "clutch-lever" bridge to a nicer-finished, asymmetrical bridge; 2. The adjustment-index indicator went from arrow-shaped to a thicker "lozenge" shape.


Left: 1st-gen 321 c/o the Moonwatch Only book.

Other characteristics of the original 105.003 include the switch from alpha to baton for the hour and minute hands. It was the first reference to use only Tritium (the 105.002 had some batches still with radium). Omega also employed larger pushers than with previous references. The 105.003 can be further broken down into the sub-references 105.003-63, -64 and -65 (which eventually was renamed 145-003).

Characteristics that apply to most Speedmasters of this period include the stepped dial with long hour markers, deeper sub-registers, applied logo, chronograph seconds-hand's "drop" (vs. flat) counterweight, bezel with "Dot Over Ninety" (DON) / dot diagonal to 70 / "È" in TACHYMÈTRE, specific fonts (such as the "S" and "R" in "Speedmaster") and beveled caseback. Omega has not only respected these details with the new "Ed White", they went as far as using a period-correct 24-tooth crown with a very similar "Ω" (narrow loop, flat feet) from said period. The pushers, when compared to a production Speedmaster Professional are smaller, much like those from the original 105.003.



Omega even shaped the Laser-etched "Ω" on the sapphire crystal to match the Hesalite's from that period (narrow loop) ...sweet!



Of course the Caliber 321 "Ed White" is not a 1-1 re-production of the 105.003. The most obvious differences are a display caseback, ceramic bezel and sapphire crystal. The first one is a "must" IMHO - why would anyone want to hide such a beautiful movement, one of, if not the main reason for the existence of this reference. Wording-wise, Omega chose to keep the caseback as simple as the original's and all you will find is "Speedmaster" etched into it. There's nothing else to distract or deter you from enjoying the 321 movement - absolutely brilliant!



The other two main differences are a little harder to argue. Given a choice, I would have "lived dangerously" with an aluminum bezel and Hesalite crystal, both definite scratch magnets. It's hard to fault Omega for opting for the much more robust options of ceramic and sapphire, both which (IMHO) cannot be faulted in terms of aesthetics (more on the crystal below).



Last but certainly not least, everyone's thrilled by the flat-link bracelet (STZ013537) that comes with the Caliber 321 (and the Apollo 11's 50th). Not only is it period-correct (1960s - 7912, 1501, 1035, 1039), it feels very robust despite the fact that it's not as heavy as the contemporary (pre-2021) production bracelets. Not quite as light (or as "jingly") as the 1171 currently on my Speedy Tuesday but then you get a secure feel in return for a few grams more. As much as I LOVE the 1171, I have to admit this flat link is awesome... apart from the clasp's extremely limited fine adjustment options ...TWO?!? The contemporary has three, the 1171 like 8 (). I'd say 4~5 would be my idea of perfect, three is just enough to survive and two is going to be a challenge... sigh. But just look at it, what a beauty! The clasp's finish matches the links perfectly and the tapering is also period-correct. When I first saw the marketing pics, I wasn't 100% sure, but now that it sits on my wrist, the bracelet is going nowhere ...! If I have a craving to feel the 1171 grace my wrist, I'll just grab my SpeedyTuesday for the day... .




"Holy resurrection-by-tomography, Batman!"
The 1949 c.321 is based on Lémania's / Albert Piguet's "27 CH C12 17p" movement adapted by/for Omega (2310), Patek Phillipe (2872) & Vacheron Constantin (1141) back in 1942. As already noted, the 321 was replaced by the 861 (Lémania 1872) in 1968. The key difference between the two calibers is the conventional column-wheel vs. cam-lever mechanics for the chronograph complication (note that both make use of a horizontal / lateral clutch).


Left: the 1863 from my 3572.50

The 321 uses a balance-wheel balanced with screws along with a Breguet "overcoil" hairspring whereas the 861 uses a contemporary "annular" balance wheel and "flat spiral" hairspring. The 861 also beats faster at 21,600vph/3HZ vs. the 321's 18,000vph/2.5Hz. Speaking of which, the return of the 321 "corrects" an issue with all 861/1861 Speedmasters with chapter rings marked each 1/5s. The 321 moves the (chronograph's) seconds-hand five times per second, thus guaranteeing the hand will stop exactly on a marker. As the 861/1861 moves the hand six times per second, the alignment may be slightly off-index when the hand is stopped. The latest production Speedmasters as well as some LE Speedmasters use chapter rings marked each 1/3s which works wonderfully with the 3Hz movements.



Most movement upgrades are motivated by the desire to improve accuracy, reliability, robustness and/or minimize costs in terms of build, parts and maintenance. The shift from the 321 to the 861 was certainly based on one or more of those objectives. One of the most wide-spread arguments is that the cam-lever solution is simpler, more robust, as well as more cost-friendly. While this may be the case, one well-respected Omega authorized service watchmaker has flatly stated that there is little difference in the servicing-time between the two movements. In terms of robustness, he's seen the occasional column-wheel where a tooth broke off and conversely, has never seen anything happen with the cam-lever components. But that's about it. As for the balance wheel, the 321's "mass-adjustable" version may have a slight advantage for the watchmaker when it comes to adjusting the wheel's center of gravity.

There's also a difference in feel when the pushers are operated. The difference however, is minimal, at least when I compared the action between my three-year old 1861-powered Speedy Tuesday and the brand new Caliber 321. Could it be that bigger differences reported on the 'net are in actuality more related to a horizontal vs. vertical clutch setup?



The technical evolution of the Speedmaster is clearly through the 3861 which is now used for all current production Speedmasters. The point being that Omega re-introduced the 321 for fans of vintage Speedmasters and their iconic movements. Having said that, it should be noted that Omega did manage a few small upgrades to the 321, like an improved mainspring bringing the power reserve up to 55hrs from the original 321's (& 861/1861) ~45hrs. The movement's plates & bridges have a Sedna-gold PVD finish as well as the clutch-lever bridge being in silver. We can also assume the Breguet hairspring has been brought up to date, material-wise. Accuracy-wise, the Caliber 321 and (my) 1861s unsurprisingly return similarly good results. Time will tell if the accuracy is maintained thereby confirming the Caliber 321 is as robust (against shocks, etc.) as its successor.




Nothing in this world is perfect...
...but I'll be damned if the Caliber 321 "Ed White" doesn't come very close... ! When first announced, there were two possible show-stoppers for me; the sapphire crystal and the non-white lume. I was however optimistic regarding the Caliber 321's crystal, having seen enough photos... photos which showed the distinct lack of the dreaded milk ring... ! But you know how it is... often things look quite different in the flesh. I'm very pleased to say that all the photos out there do represent reality; this Omega sapphire crystal has no [discernible] milk ring! The topic has been discussed in several posts already but the bottom line is that the curved edge of the Caliber 321's crystal approaches that of Hesalite, where as the standard Omega sapphire is more of a "boxed" configuration with a 90° edge that promotes the milk-ring effect.



So we're down now to the last potential show-stopper, the "natural tritium" colored SuperLuminova. To be frank, it's not so much of a question of staying true to the original as it's simply my preference to have a dial that keeps to a particular color scheme. The Speedmaster is the ultimate monochromatic timepiece with waaay above-average legibility. Black & white, light & dark (...much like the moon ...heh). Having said that, I'm willing to accept that tritium may indeed have been produced in non-white variations (with pale yellow & pale green being the most popular assertions). I'll also have to admit that like most Caliber-321 owners here, I've also come to the conclusion that the pale yellow Omega selected is unobtrusive by and large.



That's about as positive as I can be about it, until we ...go dark. The Caliber 321 has the brightest lume of the three Speedmasters I own (or have handled - maybe another three... lol). You'd think that distinction would go to the Speedy Tuesday with all of its lumed surfaces, but no. The Caliber 321 in the darkness looks amazing with its simple and yet sufficient presentation (much like a basic Panerai diver).



At first I thought it might be the longer indices, then I considered the possibility of thicker (deeper) lume. While both of these may indeed play a part, the last "variable" in determining the base brightness of SuperLuminova is related to the color, as shown in the chart below. So while we all spend a whole lot more time looking at our watches in lit environments, I am more than okay with Omega's choice given what I believe to be the benefit of additional brightness in the darkness... !


Chart may be outdated. c/o RC TRITEC


A few more "points of interest"...
...that I'm more or less neutral about. Let's start with the presentation box. If you shell out €50K for a platinum Caliber 321, you kind of expect it to come in "deluxe" packaging and you just may raise an eyebrow when you find out it's presented like a standard* (production) Speedmaster. Of course, most watch boxes end up in the attic / cellar soon after the purchase which should make it a moot point. The silver lining is that the standard box* is pretty sweet and comes with some nice gear. You can actually buy it separately and it will set you back around €700... ! The best included accessory is the NATO strap (not that I plan on removing that awesome bracelet anytime soon...). You also get that most nostalgic NASA-issue velcro strap (albeit too long) as well as an elegant loupe and strap-changing tool. I'd much rather have all of these goodies than a gilded box or whatever €50K watches are usually presented in... .
*The 2021 3861-powered Speedmasters will come in a "mini-me" version which looks identical save for the lack of goodies...



Next up is the fact that Omega appears to be shifting from strictly limited editions to some "limited production" models. This trend applies to the Caliber 321 along with the 2019 Platinum 321 and the recent 2021 Snoopy III. Honestly, I don't know if this is a good move or not as one can debate the merits of either approach. I will admit that I feel "privileged" to be one of only 2012 Speedy Tuesday owners. On the other hand, the Caliber 321 is not for everyone and given the price and production volumes, it's doubtful that the reference will ever become "commonplace." In both cases, I know I have a real beauty on my wrist, one that not every Joe will be wearing ... *cough*Daytona*cough*.

Now it's time to delve into this "Caliber 321 vs. Daytona" debate ...not.
I have a much better idea; let's talk about how good the new "Ed White" makes my wrist look...




A big shout-out to the OB
Last but certainly not least, I need to once again raise my glass in honor of our local OB! Unlike the Speedy Tuesday "event", I can't say that the first 15mths of this journey were that eventful, but the beginning and end were certainly a wonderful rush. MINUTES after Omega / Fratello Watches announced the [Ed White] Caliber 321, I shot off a mail to my OB titled "Ed White 321 SS - 311.30.40.30.01.001 - I MUST HAVE ONE PLEEEEASE!!!" ...lol! There are watches that you have to "think about" and then there are watches that you know you must have. I have a great relationship with my OB - I visit on a regular basis to simply talk watches (read: hairspring types and not just available dial colors...) and it is always great fun. The months went by and we discussed all the latest goodies from Omega but rarely about the Caliber 321 as we knew it was a waiting game and no one wanted to spoil the great atmosphere with a childish "are we there yet...?" One day I received the most casually-titled email from the OB: "How are You." As I'm reading through it, I come across these magical words "...a UPS delivery from HQ just came in..." yesss!!! So after the agony of waiting for the city to reopen (...) I was finally able to pick up the Caliber 321. As always, we enjoyed a great talk and traded remarks about the reference for a lengthy period that easily went above and beyond the (OB's) call of duty for one humble customer. I can't emphasize enough the "added value" of such a personal and memorable experience when getting a new (and very special) watch. Thank you so much!




The price of admission...
...is indeed high. If like me, you're PASSIONATE about references from the chronograph's glory days, the Speedmaster Caliber 321 "Ed White" is a very special reference. The rebirth of the iconic 321 movement housed in a tribute to the well-known and loved Speedmaster reference, the 105.003, is pretty much Speedmaster nirvana. If you're more pragmatic than nostalgic, a new 3861-powered Speedmaster may make a lot more sense... particularly when factoring in the considerable price difference. Not only does the METAS-certified 3861 represent a substantial upgrade, you can also enjoy a few of the historical details shared by the new Caliber 321, such as the stepped dial, DON bezel, etc.
If, like me, you REVERE vintage watches but are not prepared to navigate the difficult and at times treacherous world of vintage collecting, the Caliber 321 is the ultimate Speedmaster.




~~~~~~


click-the-pics for hi-res goodness









The 39.7mm Speedmaster vs. the 42mm Speedmaster Professional


My fab trio - 3572.50, Caliber 321 & Speedy Tuesday


The bracelets vary not only in style but also in weight - 138 / 119 / 104g respectively (incl. watch)



A "deep dive" of the balance wheel & hairspring




The blue Breguet hairspring of the "upgraded" Caliber 321





~~~~~~
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Old 11 May 2021, 09:29 PM   #2
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Thank you for that awesome review & photos, the 321 is one of my favorite modern references next to the silver snoopy.
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Old 11 May 2021, 11:38 PM   #3
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Amazing detail and quality. Thank you.
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Old 12 May 2021, 12:21 AM   #4
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Those pictures are great, and thanks for the review!
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Old 12 May 2021, 05:13 AM   #5
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That was one heck of a post that I'll have to keep coming back to in order to fully digest...thank you!
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Old 12 May 2021, 05:33 AM   #6
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Awesome post, many thanks
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Old 12 May 2021, 07:24 AM   #7
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One of the best posts. Great work man thanks for the detailed write up and pics.
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Old 12 May 2021, 08:46 AM   #8
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Awesome photos and great write-up...thank you!
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Old 12 May 2021, 09:05 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Onequik135i View Post
Thank you for that awesome review & photos, the 321 is one of my favorite modern references next to the silver snoopy.
Thx a bunch Yes, the silver Snoopy is awesome as well

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Originally Posted by subtona View Post
Amazing detail and quality. Thank you.


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Originally Posted by trippinjimmy View Post
Those pictures are great, and thanks for the review!


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Originally Posted by raclaims View Post
That was one heck of a post that I'll have to keep coming back to in order to fully digest...thank you!
-Thanks Yes, it's a "bit much" but I felt compelled to cover this reference in its entirety - I want members to know what they would be paying for...

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Awesome post, many thanks


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One of the best posts. Great work man thanks for the detailed write up and pics.
Always grateful for the positive feedback, sir

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Awesome photos and great write-up...thank you!
The pleasure's all mine
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Old 12 May 2021, 09:15 AM   #10
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Great post. Great pics. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 12 May 2021, 10:33 AM   #11
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What a awesome post! That was fantastic to say the least. Thank you so much for posting.
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Old 12 May 2021, 11:05 AM   #12
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Love it
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Old 12 May 2021, 11:28 AM   #13
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Awesome write up. Is the 6 index being off to the left normal on this model?
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Old 12 May 2021, 04:57 PM   #14
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I’ve enjoyed reading this post, thank you.
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Old 12 May 2021, 05:38 PM   #15
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Great work.
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Old 12 May 2021, 08:43 PM   #16
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Amazing post and pictures. Thank you.
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Old 12 May 2021, 09:30 PM   #17
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Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 12 May 2021, 11:34 PM   #18
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This is excellent, thanks for sharing!
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Old 12 May 2021, 11:45 PM   #19
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The more I read and look at some of the photos on this thread, the more I like the watch.
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Old 13 May 2021, 06:35 AM   #20
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The more I read and look at some of the photos on this thread, the more I like the watch.
Yeah come on. One of these for you and a snoopy for Mrs ratty. You could swap!
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Old 13 May 2021, 08:05 AM   #21
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So good. Enjoy it
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Old 13 May 2021, 10:43 AM   #22
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Great post. Great pics. Thanks for sharing.
Thx! It was my pleasure

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What a awesome post! That was fantastic to say the least. Thank you so much for posting.
So many thanks It was hard work but I was very motivated by the subject matter and happy to share it with the TRF gang

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Love it
Great to hear it

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Awesome write up. Is the 6 index being off to the left normal on this model?
Thx I'm not sure what you mean - any pic in particular?
EDIT - Ah, yes... that's known as "manufacturing tolerances" and can / will happen to any dial from any firm. I recommend you steer clear of my Breitling Navitimer pictorial - with your level of OCD, you'd blow a gasket...

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I’ve enjoyed reading this post, thank you.
My pleasure, sir

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Great work.
Thx

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Amazing post and pictures. Thank you.
Many thx, William! I'm pleased to contribute when and where I can

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Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the compliment

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This is excellent, thanks for sharing!
Many thanks

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The more I read and look at some of the photos on this thread, the more I like the watch.
I'm happy to hear it - I think the Silver Snoopy will receive the lion's share of attention (and it's a sweet piece) but so is this little fella and IMHO it's timeless, classic, Iconic, ...

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Yeah come on. One of these for you and a snoopy for Mrs ratty. You could swap!
Mrs. ratty... ? EDIT aaah, yes, the Silver-Snoopy-Sharing Mr&Mrs ratty...

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So good. Enjoy it
Thx I am & I will continue to do so, for a long time...
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Old 13 May 2021, 10:56 AM   #23
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Thx! It was my pleasure

So many thanks It was hard work but I was very motivated by the subject matter and happy to share it with the TRF gang

Great to hear it

Thx I'm not sure what you mean - any pic in particular?

My pleasure, sir

Thx

Many thx, William! I'm pleased to contribute when and where I can

Thanks for the compliment

Many thanks

I'm happy to hear it - I think the Silver Snoopy will receive the lion's share of attention (and it's a sweet piece) but so is this little fella and IMHO it's timeless, classic, Iconic, ...

Mrs. ratty... ?

Thx I am & I will continue to do so, for a long time...
The macro shot of the bottom half of the chronograph hour counter and 6 o clock lumed index. It looks like the lumed index is off to the left. Maybe it’s just the 2 step manufacturing process of printing the white on the dial and then cutting the wells to fill in the lume for the hour markers.
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Old 13 May 2021, 10:59 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruin20 View Post
The macro shot of the bottom half of the chronograph hour counter and 6 o clock lumed index. It looks like the lumed index is off to the left. Maybe it’s just the 2 step manufacturing process of printing the white on the dial and then cutting the wells to fill in the lume for the hour markers.
See my "edit"
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Old 13 May 2021, 03:52 PM   #25
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Awesome, have a few beers:
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Old 13 May 2021, 05:59 PM   #26
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Impressive! Thanks for writing such a fantastic post on an amazing watch.
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Old 13 May 2021, 06:11 PM   #27
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Another excellent pictorial from you, Serge!

Thanks for sharing and big congrats on the new Speedy. You have created an amazing collection!
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Old 13 May 2021, 07:07 PM   #28
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That was beautiful, thank you so much


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
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Old 14 May 2021, 06:43 AM   #29
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Well written. Well photographed. The passion is clear. Happy you have this piece to wear and enjoy.
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Old 14 May 2021, 07:19 AM   #30
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Nice writeup and nice pics. I haven't taken the Speedmaster dive yet, but this may push me into doing it.

Very nice pics.
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