Alpha or Beta, pt 4

Friday, March 13, 2020

Overall, exactly 6’000 Beta 21 movements were made from 1970 to 1971 and distributed between joint-venture participants following a pre-defined distribution key: So it was ex ante clear that Rolex will receive 1’000 movements and so they produced their Rolex ref 5100 ‘Il Texano’ as a limited edition, each with a hand-engraved serial number. Patek did the same with its 400 Beta movements that were put into Patek ref 3587 (just they didn’t put a serial number on each of the limited edition timepieces) and many other brands too.

Now, even tough these limited edition big and heavy massive gold timepieces were quite expensive -- usually the most expensive model of each brand – they were sold in no time after presentation at 1970 Basel fair and a lot of important customers were not happy they were not offered one.

As the CEH Beta 21 project was finished after production of the agreed 6’000 movements in total and also divergences in plans of technological development arise and made a continuation impossible, the CEH activities were taken over by the biggest spender Omega. Almost everybody started his own research to make an own improved quartz movement and the Project Beta 21 book was closed. Some of the fine examples, that were made in this period are in our collection and on offer -- click here.

But not completely: Until late 1970s Omega still produced a similar looking but technological slightly improved version of the Beta 21-movement in huge quantities: More than 50’000 “Beta 22” movements were made and put into their ElectroQuartz watches as well as into Patek 3597 or Patek 3603 – watches that were completely out-dated upon arrival, due to technological development and only made to satisfy disappointed customers who simply didn’t get any of the real limited edition Beta 21-watches (Patek ref 3587).

Needless to say, that these Beta 22-watches are not only uninteresting from a horological standpoint and historical irrelevant. The production numbers are not exactly known, but one could easily argue they were made in multiples of the original Beta 21-timepieces. However, they usually share the beauty, the size and the extraordinariness of the original and only the trained eye recognizes them by their small differences.