Much can be said about a particular watch. We can go into detail about its history, or how it changed in aesthetics over the years. But when the movement of a watch is concerned, that particular detail might get glossed over—if it’s mentioned at all.
And yet the movement of a watch is its beating heart, the thing that makes it what it is and allows it to do what it does.
Think of it: if John Harrison had not spent decades perfecting his marine chronometer, then Captain James Cook might never have circumnavigated the globe. If brands like Elgin and Waltham hadn’t developed the railroad chronometer after a devastating railroad collision in 1891, then rail travel might have been much deadlier. And if the Calibre .861 movement used in the Omega Speedmaster wasn’t as accurate as it was, then the astronauts in the Apollo 13 mission might never have made it home.
Regarding Omega, the brand has had a long history of producing accurate movements for their watches. The Calibre .861 (and its predecessor, the Calibre .321 used in the watches worn by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong) was just in a long line of chronometer-grade calibres. In the period just prior to World War II, the manufacture’s most famous movement was the Calibre 30T2.
The 30T2 was the brainchild of Henry Kneuss, Omega’s Assistant Technical Director. In the late 1930s he was tasked with creating a new movement following the principles gleaned from research by the manufacture’s technical department. Kneuss and his team had spent years conceiving what an ideal movement would look like.
Finally they hit upon an idea that Kneuss felt would be successful: a 30mm movement with a small escapement but a big enough barrel to power the watch.
Once Kneuss had completed his design, he submitted it to Jean-Pierre Mathey Claudet, Omega’s master watchmaker (who would, a decade later, use it as the blueprint for the tourbillon that would be sold for $1.2 million at auction).
The bimetallic construction of the 30T2’s balance, plus the eight adjustment screws on the balance wheel, made the 30T2 the best movement available on the market at the time. Omega lost no time in submitting it to observatory trials, both in Geneva and in England at the King’s Observatory in Kew, just outside of London. A certain variant that had passed through chronometer trials at Kew, known as the Teddington (Reference 2271), was later sold in Brazil in the 1940s, with a red star on the dial to denote that achievement.
While this particular watch (a Reference 2272) was produced just after the Teddington, in 1945, it still ranks as one of the finest dress watches Omega produced. Falling right in the midst of the Second World War, when the Calibre 30T2 was also being fitted into military watches, the champagne dial and the gold feuille hands soften the otherwise spartan design. Elegant and understated, its clean good looks (not to mention the 38mm size) still resonate with the discerning gentleman of today.
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