Since its inception, the Constellation model family has symbolized the greatest achievements of Omega, from anniversaries to mechanical innovation.
And yet a Constellation watch never made it to the Moon or onto the “big screen”, so it’s significance in the Swiss watchmaker’s lineup has seemingly diminished.
For those who dare explore its past, they’ll find some beautifully formal references along with others that are much less so. But in their own individual way, each one helped the Constellation reach the point it’s at today.
Read on as we recap exactly what those turning points are, and where they may lead this emblematic Omega collection in the future.
History Of The Omega Constellation
The history of the Constellation, like the modern catalog, is chock-full of many different references and wildly varying designs.
For that reason, and with the sake of brevity in mind, we’ve concentrated on the following points in time:
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Omega’s 100th Anniversary
In 1948, Omega turned 100 years old and therefore looked to celebrate, as well as mark the occasion, with a special timepiece. What they came up with was the Omega Centenary Chronometer.
The first Omega watch to be produced in a limited edition (6,000 pcs), the 1948 Centenary was also the first automatic chronometer ever offered by the brand.
The Centenary featured a yellow gold case, welded “lyre” lugs, a gold dial, applied gold indices, and dauphine center hands. Most importantly, it was powered by the Omega Calibre 331 bumper movement that imparted the self-winding functionality.
The limited edition Centenary was so popular that Omega continued producing it in a non-limited version, albeit with a different movement, the cal. 333. This would continue until 1952 when the Swiss watch manufacturer devoted a new model family to the style, one which they named the Constellation.
The First Omega Constellation
The first Omega Constellation was released in 1952 not as a single offering but as a tiered one. Plain versions were available as the reference 2648 and 2652, while more deluxe varieties were available as the 2699 and 2700 reference models.
All options boasted the same case shape, automatic bumper movements (chronometer Omega Calibre 35X), and an applied star on the dial. The difference between the upper tier and lower tier versions, aside from water resistance, was reserved to the style of dial.
Most notably, some of the deluxe versions were equipped with what came to be know as the “pie pan” dial accompanied by gold “diamond” indices. It is these two features which stand out in history as hallmarks of the Constellation model and, though they were not a permanent feature of the model line, one of these came back in a modern Constellation release which we cover further down this page.
Aside from the dial and index styles, the first Constellation watches also possessed a feature that would remain with the model family throughout its entire life – the caseback medallion.
The caseback medallion, with an image of the Geneva Observatory and exactly 8 night stars, represented the 8 chronometry records that Omega set in 1931. It is this picture, with the stars arranged as a constellation, that gave birth to the model’s name.
A New Movement
As the Centenary model that inspired it, the early Constellation watches were quite successful. Naturally, over the subsequent years after the ’52 debut different dial, case metal and bracelet variations were made available.
1955 marked a transition to a new generation of engine, from the 35X bumper movements to the Calibre 50X (500, 501, 505). These new movements boasted the modern 360-degree rotor instead of the bumper mechanism and were highly regarded for their accuracy and reliability. They would also make a date function possible in future Constellation models.
The Constellation, Omega’s first mass-produced chronometer watch, would go on to grant the brand with an industry-wide title: the largest manufacturer of chronometers in the world. Even Rolex, who was renowned for making chronometer watches, did not produce and sell as many as Omega did largely thanks to the revolutionary Constellation watch.
The “C-Case” Constellation
The original style of Constellation thrived until the mid ’60s when it was redesigned. The new “C-case” or “C-type” design integrated the lugs, which no longer protruded from the ends of the case, while also giving the case a tonneau (“cushion”) profile.
Overall, the influence of the space age in the new aesthetic was quite apparent.
The dial of the Constellation also saw some changes. No longer offered in the pie pan style, the contour of the dials were either flat or slightly domed. The indices, too, were re-imagined.
The diamond indices of the past were now replaced with applied baton indices. In many instances, the dauphine hands were also replaced for ‘stick’ hands.
Towards the later years of production, some of the C-cases were equipped with “knurled”, almost fluted (like a Rolex Datejust) bezels.
As with the pie pan dial, this bezel style would also be revived in the future.
While it is not openly advertised, it’s widely rumored that the C-case Constellation, or at least some variation of it, was designed by none other than Gerald Genta.
The genius mind behind the original Royal Oak, Nautilus, and the IWC Ingenieur watches, he would have devised this Omega watch decades before his more-recognized masterpieces.
The Rectangular Constellations
The C-case was not the only style of Constellation being produced in the ’60s. Towards the end of the decade, around the same time quartz timepieces were beginning to take hold, rectangular cases were also rolled out in the Constellation line.
Along with the square-ish cases came a movement upgrade, this time to the Swiss watchmaker’s most recent Calibre 1001. Although not as refined as the previous 500 series, the 1001 was intended to be easier (cheaper) to manufacture in a time when lower costs were necessary for survival.
The C-case and rectangular-case Constellations marked a clear deviation from the model family’s origins. A very formal, flashy, possibly even opulent wristwatch in its earliest form, the new designs toned down all of these aspects substantially. It is not known what may have sparked this change of direction, but it is clear what fueled it in the subsequent years: the Quartz Crisis
The Quartz Constellation
When compared to other Swiss watch manufacturers, Omega was quick on their feet when it came to quartz. Seiko released the Astron, the first quartz watch (in full-gold), in 1969. Only a year later, Omega introduced not one but three quartz timepieces of their own, one of them being the Constellation Megaquartz f2,4 MHz.
Still the only wristwatch to have achieved a marine chronometer certification, the Megaquartz was large and rectangular, effectively the exact opposite of the first Constellations. Yet one aspect of this beast would be saved; the integrated, tapering bracelet would become one of the signatures of the contemporary Constellation line.
The Constellation Manhattan
Arguably one of the most significant changes to the Constellation model family came in 1982 when the Constellation Manhattan debuted.
The newly-designed Constellation possessed a tonneau-shaped case and an integrated hinged bracelet. It is this exact combination of case shape and bracelet design that remains the essence of the Constellation collection even after 35+ years.
The Manhattan also presented a face-lift with a new crystal that stretched over the bezel and which was held down by “claws” on either side.
Nicknamed “griffin claws”, these brackets were in fact what helped grant the watch its water resistance rating, and would eventually become synonymous with the Constellation watch. Later, when advancements in case construction were made and the claws were no longer necessary, the symmetric structures remained as part of the aesthetic design in one way or another.
The Constellation Manhattan also served as a platform for the rebirth of mechanical movements in Omega’s collection from this point forwards. In 1984 it was equipped with the Calibre 1111, an upgrade on the previous 1001, and one which would later save as the base caliber for day-date complications.
The First Co-Axial Omega
The Manhattan style proved so successful for Omega that it ultimately took over the entire Constellation line, though not without some slight alterations.
None of the changes were more important than the one presented with the 2003 Constellation Double Eagle.
A self-winding chronometer chronograph, the Double Eagle was powered by Omega’s first ever Co-Axial Calibre 2500. With an innovative escapement mechanism developed by British watchmaker George Daniels, co-axial movements are now the standard throughout Omega’s modern catalog.
The Constellation Globemaster
It would take another 12 years, until 2015, to see a substantial change to the Constellation line. This finally occurred with the release of the Constellation Globemaster.
The Globemaster is an amalgamation of many different Constellation references over many decades. Generally speaking, this kind of move on behalf of a brand does not work well, often appearing as a cheap play on previous successes. This is precisely not the case with the 2015 Globemaster.
The watch boasts a 39mm steel case that heavily resembles the C-cases of times past. Its bezel is likewise fluted as the same vintage examples, though here it’s crafted of scratch-resistant tungsten carbide. The pie pan dial needs no explanation nor do the applied baton indices and stick hands.
Yet internally, the Constellation Globemaster is a different beast. Upon its debut, it boasted the first ever Co-Axial Master Chronometer movement, the Calibre 8900. Not only is the movement resistant to 15,000 gauss, it’s also certified as a “master” chronometer by METAS, the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology.
What does this mean? In short, it means the movement is quite accurate as well as reliable inside and outside the case, much more than a regular COSC chronometer.
The Globemaster Constellation brought some much-need innovation to the Constellation line. Since the release of the steel-and-tungsten version in 2015, additional two tone varieties, as well as an awesome annual calendar option, were also introduced.
By no means is the Globemaster the new face of the Constellation line. As a matter of fact, as of this writing, there are exactly 614 different Constellations on Omega’s online catalog, with only 20 of these being Globemasters.
The previous numbers regarding Omegas extensive product lines shed some light on why the historic Constellation family has taken a backseat to the brands other offerings.
With its endless case + dial + movement combinations, the Constellation looks to please everyone without truly impressing anyone. Even when a new release as exciting as the Globemaster occurs, it’s seemingly lost under the pile of other Constellations with which it shares only the name.
It’s possible that this is just the role that the line is meant to fulfill, in which case it’s performing its duties well. There appears to be plenty of historic significance for Omega to build upon, it’s now on to them to take that leap.
Until this happens, if it ever happens, we recommend checking out some of our other popular watch guides below:
- History Of The Omega Speedmaster
- How Did The Seamaster Model Line Get Its Start?
- Brand Guide: Omega Watches History
- The Omega 2017 Trilogy Reissue Review (All 3 Watches)
- Bespoke Unit Watch Homepage
"A very interesting recap of the Constellation's history. I can say that it's never really caught my eye, but some of the vintage models shown here could make for unique collection pieces!"Rating: 5.0★★★★★