Yesterday, on the main stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Omega announced the most complicated movement the brand has ever made. Forming two distinct models, the new Chrono Chime is a celebration of Omega’s history in split-second timekeeping and minute repeaters. The brand has found a literally unique way to blend the two functions into a new offering – a chiming chronograph. Coming in either a Speedmaster format or a pocket-watch version that looks back to the ’30s, both iterations are made from 18K Sedna Gold and house a very special movement that has more tricks up its sleeve than just a never-before-seen complication.
Let’s start with the movement, as it’s the same for both versions of the Chrono Chime. Called the Caliber 1932, it’s the result of more than six years of specific development in partnership with Blancpain. It represents 17 patents and 575 individual components. It is a 32.5mm hand-wound co-axial movement that ticks at 5 Hz. That’s right, a 5 Hz Co-Axial, thus the chronograph has the ability to register a 1/10th of a second resolution, just like the pocket watches used by Omega in 1932 for their first outing as the official timekeeper for the Olympics (which were in Los Angeles – sensing a theme?).
Along with the high beat evolution, the 1932 has 60 hours of power reserve (very respectable given the complication), mono-pusher chronograph control, a push-button for the chronograph chime actuation (which uses three chime cams), a vertical clutch, and employs a little more than 46 grams of Senda Gold in its construction. Impressively, the 1932 is a Master Chronometer with anti-magnetic resistance to 15,000 gauss thanks to more than 50 distinct components being crafted from non-ferrous materials.
In short, it’s a very complicated beast of a movement, and its centerpiece complication is the so-called Chrono Chime, which is activated via a button on the case (look for the one marked by a single musical note). When activated, there are three audible phases that chime the minutes (a low tone), the seconds in 10-unit increments (a paired tone), and finally the single-digit resolution of the seconds (with a high tone).
At this point, it will likely be easier and more rewarding if you just check out (and listen to) the demonstration on Omega’s website. In person, the sound is loud and clear enough to delineate between the three phases easily. Interestingly, Omega paid special attention to the gap that breaks up the three phases of the chime, ensuring that there is always a precise 1.5-second space between each phase. If you’ve handled more than a few minute repeaters, you likely know that this isn’t common and the delay between one tone and the next can often be several seconds long.
The finishing is done to a very high grade, even for Omega, and both of the following watches have 30 meters of water resistance and a five-year warranty. It’s a wildly complicated creation, but it’s also still a modern Omega and they were incredibly proud to say that the two examples that I saw in person are both production examples, not smoke-and-mirror prototypes.
Moving to the actual watches, the first is the Olympic 1932 Chrono Chime. It carries the aesthetic of the first wrist-born Omega minute repeater from 1892, which I suppose means that it looks like a pocket watch that was modified to accept a strap. Bearing reference 522.214.171.124.04.001, the Olympic 1932 Chrono Chime measures 45mm wide and 16.9mm thick. It has sapphire crystals front and back and the white grand feu enamel dial is surrounded by a 925 silver internal bezel that sports a guilloche finish meant to invoke a sound wave. The same finish can be seen used on the gorgeous sub-dials, the lower of which is flanked by both of the chiming gongs.
The strap is actually quick-change compatible and the Olympic 1932 Chrono Chime includes an additional wrist strap, as well as a pocket leash (should you wish to carry it like a pocket watch), and a leather neck strap for those who might want to try their hand at timing an Olympic sprint in the traditional fashion.
Next up is likely the most commercial offering of the two, the Speedmaster Chrono Chime (ref 5126.96.36.199.03.001), which adapts the shape of the CK 2998 into a 45mm Speedmaster silhouette that is 17.37mm thick and features a gorgeous aventurine dial and bezel which play host to a two-register chronograph with the 15-minute totalizer at three o’clock.
Like its old-school sibling, Speedmaster Chrono Chime has the same rose engine-turned-guilloche finishing for the sub-dials. With the included Sedna Gold bracelet, the Speedmaster Chrono Chime weighs a whopping 326 grams. While neither watches are specifically limited, both are numbered editions and Omega has stated that production will be limited to just a handful of models per year.
As is often the case with minute repeaters, both come with a special display stand that is meant to amplify the sound of the chimes. In this case, Omega has used production techniques from violin makers and spruce that is sourced from the Risoud Forest, on the border between France and Switzerland.
Specific pricing was not available at the time of the launch, but Omega has said that we can expect something in the range of $450,000.
In hand and on wrist, both watches are big, heavy, and feel very special. Of the two, I definitely preferred the Speedmaster Chrono Chime, not only for its familiar good looks but also for the lovely combination of the aventurine dial and the guilloche finishing of the sub-dials (which I think looks fantastic). While certainly wide and quite thick, the weight left the most notable impression on my wrist from either model. If you don’t mind a large watch, I could see the Speedmaster Chrono Chime being easy to wear once you’ve properly sized the tapering bracelet and entirely recalibrated for the raw heft of all that gold. Again, the movement alone has more than 45 grams of gold.
Being both expensive in the same way that water is wet and complicated to such a level that even Omega can’t make all that many, the pool of prospective Chrono Chime owners will be, naturally, quite limited. Interestingly, Omega shared that they expect the Chrono Chimes to appeal both to hardcore Omega collectors and to those who commonly appreciate highly technical complications from other easily-named brands.
Aside from perhaps the Speedmaster DNA on display, I think it’s safe to say that these are very niche offerings. As far as product goes, neither of the Chrono Chimes is likely to be in your future (or mine). That said, I think there might be a hint of something here for everyone, because not only does the new movement signal Omega’s place within the hierarchy of Swatch, but also the brand’s raw ability to push the Co-Axial movement into the next generation. A 5 Hz Co-Ax would be pretty dang sweet in a Speedy or a Seamaster, no?