Omega's Mic Drop: Introducing the Omega Speedmaster Chrono Chime
So, 575 components, over 20 world-firsts, and a split-seconds chronograph that chimes. How’s that grab you?
Innovation in watchmaking – true innovation—is rare. One of the last true innovations in mechanical watchmaking came from George Daniels, who invented the co-axial escapement in the 1970s. Half a century later, Omega has moved the ball forward with the just-released Calibre 1932.
This is game-changing serious mechanical innovation, and it required not only the massive expertise of Omega, but also of its sister companies Blancpain and Breguet. It is a testament to the love of mechanical watchmaking and represents the work of dozens of people and almost seven years of research and development.
Buckle up, this is about to get technical.
The Calibre 1932: What Doesn’t It Do?
There are so many features and functions engineered into this watch movement that it’s easier to say what it doesn’t do. It has no date function, and, well, that’s about it. So if having the date on your watch is important, here endeth the lesson.
Now that we have that out of the way, this movement consists of 575 individual components, and the movement alone is an owner of 17 new patents. It is also important to note this is a brand-new fully integrated movement. This is not module-based: everything you see here was developed for the Calibre 1932.
The first challenge in building a minute repeater that can chime the elapsed time of a chronograph, was actually determining how to build a higher frequency and more accurate version of the Daniels co-axial escapement. The master watchmakers determined that without a 5Hz frequency, any new chronograph would not be able to measure the required 1/10th of a second interval.
It was also important to have that 1/10th of a second accuracy as both a statement of mechanical and engineering pride, but also a tribute to the 1932 pocket chronographs that were used in Omega’s first Olympic timed events in Los Angeles. Beyond the 5Hz movement frequency, the calibre also uses the latest in anti-magnetic technology: Employing a silicon hairspring and 50 non-ferrous materials, the watch is able to pass the exacting standards of Master Chronometer status.
The movement contains three chime cams, two entirely handmade gongs, utilizes a magnetic control to regulate the chimes (to a consistent 1.5 seconds between chimes), and a mechanical “brain” that is able to regulate the movement against any manipulation that could harm the chiming function. The result is a watch that can chime elapsed time on demand at the push of a button.
The movement employs over five different hand-finishing techniques ranging from black mirror polishing to satin brushing, and all bridges are crafted in 18K Sedna gold as further homage to vintage movements of years past. The movement alone represents almost 46.5 grams of gold weight.
Watches Worthy Of The Movement
As Omega’s Vice President of Product, Gregory Kissling, said during the recent product presentation: “It’s an incredible movement, but people don’t wear movements, they wear watches.” Right he is, and the Calibre 1932 launches in two very different cases, each worthy of this groundbreaking movement.
The first is the Olympic 1932 Chrono Chime. Furthering Omega’s desire to pay tribute to the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, this watch takes its design cues from those pocket chronographs of yore. The grand feu enamel dial has special cutouts so that the gongs can be seen working their magic, while pocket watch style lugs allow the wearer to switch this piece onto a strap for wrist wear, a neck strap for timekeeping, or a pocket-watch style leather strap.
The dial also features several elements in .925 sterling silver. The sub registers and the rehaut are all hand-decorated in a guilloche style unique to Omega known as “exclusive acoustic waves.” This pattern is an exact visual representation of the sound waves produced by the watch’s chimes. Speaking of those chimes, each watch is hand-tuned to its case, ensuring that the gongs and chimes work in perfect unison with the watch case for precision and accuracy that rivals the exacting chronograph function. This first Olympic 1932 Chrono Chime will be limited in production.
Chrono Chime, Speedmaster Style
While the Chrono Chime above pays tribute to the 1932 Olympic Games, this numbered edition, to be produced in limited executions due to the complex nature and hand-finishing work needed, pays tribute to the 1962 Speedmaster worn by NASA astronaut Wally Schirra into space: The Omega Speedmaster 2998.
Utilizing the 2998’s signature straight-lug case, this watch is also crafted from 18K Sedna gold, but is a different animal from the Olympic 1932 Chrono Chime in many ways.
The dial of the Speedmaster Chrono Chime is also made using grand feu enamel, but this time it is done in aventurine using a newly patented process by Omega. The aventurine glass is broken down into very small parts and then hand-applied to the 18K gold dial and fired until it produces a beautifully lustrous stardust pattern on the watch. The aesthetic is a far more traditional bicompax layout; the cutouts for the gongs now move to the 9 o’clock position on the dial.
The dedicated chime pusher moves to the 8 o’clock position, and the split-seconds chronograph pusher moves to a more traditional 2 o’clock position on the watch. The Speedmaster Chrono Chime also gains a matching solid 18K Sedna gold bracelet that is brushed and polished to perfection. The dial sub registers and rehaut still feature the guilloche “exclusive acoustic waves” pattern.
As one would expect, the watch is large and heavy. Coming in around 43mm wide and 17mm thick and being cased in solid gold, the watch has a commanding presence on the wrist. Let’s be clear though, this is a very wearable watch. It is extremely comfortable, and, in Speedmaster guise, surprisingly understated.
With current official retail prices CHF 420,000 (ex. VAT) for The Olympic 1932 Chrono Chime and CHF 450,000 (ex. VAT) for the Speedmaster Chrono Chime, this is not a watch you will likely be seeing everywhere you go. In conversation with Omega CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, he noted that he expected the piece to appeal to both collectors of the brand as well as collectors of haute horology. These pieces decidedly represent Omega’s latest entry into that field. You can find out more at Omega’s website.
While this is not a watch for everyone, it is a watch that needed to be made. It is a watch that in many ways only Omega could make. This is the brand’s reminder that it has been pushing innovation for most of its history, and that it is still very much an engineering company dedicated to making the impossible, possible. It's not just a new calibre, it is a love-letter to mechanical watchmaking, and a reminder that Omega is one of the greatest names to ever be stamped onto a dial.
(Images © OMEGA)