When the conversation ranges to Omega, most people think of the Speedmaster and the manufacture's fame with regard to NASA and the Gemini and Apollo missions throughout the 1960s and 1970s - and for good reason. The Speedmaster is arguably one of the most important watches of the last century and has remained a constant fixture in Omega's production since it's release.
But for all the praise, it's easy to forget that the true marvel of the Speedmaster lay at it's core - the movement.
The first Speedmasters were driven by the venerable Calibre .321, a movement that gets a lot of attention from collectors and enthusiasts. But the .321 had a handful of systemic issues. For one, the chronograph was operated by a column wheel system that was finicky and difficult to work on. It also had a steel breaking lever which wasn't ideal for absorbing the shock of stopping the chronograph and often led to bending the delicate teeth of the center chronograph wheel. Lastly, the .321 operated at 18,000 vibrations per hour, which, while very good for a chronograph, did not allow for COSC accuracy to be readily achieved.
In 1968, Omega released the Calibre .861 movement as an answer to the issues of the .321 and quickly put it into the Speedmaster. It featured a cam-switching mechanism for the chronograph and a synthetic breaking lever capable of absorbing more shocks. Additionally, vibrations per hour were increased to 21,600, allowing for accuracy to -4/+6 seconds per day - well within chronometer precision.
The Calibre .861 is almost always associated with the Speedmaster, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Omega was using their new movement in other lines as well, including the Seamaster and De Ville collections. Ringing in at a 35mm, the chronographs offer a wonderfully sized alternative the Speedmaster, and with with white, silver and colored dials, work well in an array of sartorial surroundings where the tool watch feel of the Speedmaster doesn't fly.
This particular De Ville dates to the late 1960s and has a handsome look with it's blue dial with polished baguette hour markers, white outer tachymetre track and white luminous baton hands.
With 1960s .861 Speedmasters selling at prices well over 5K, this De Ville is an incredible value - a moonwatch movement and looks that could kill.
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