I’ve covered lots of Omega Seamasters and Speedmasters — the brand’s most popular families — in my series of Fratello Friday columns on Omega, but let’s not forget about the Constellation. Although the current Constellation is popular mostly in Asia, past models were considered to be the brand’s flagships just about everywhere. This week’s article reveals my five favorite Omega Constellation timepieces of all time.
Deep in my heart, I really love Constellations almost as much as I do Speedmaster watches. The only problem – for me – is the size of the Constellation models, which results in my own small collection of vintage Constellations being in the bank’s deposit box all the time. Introduced in 1952, the Constellation was a totally new collection within the Omega catalog. Well, perhaps not totally new: I’d say they had a bit of inspiration from an earlier model called Centenary. The now-almost-forgotten Centenary models were introduced by Omega 100 years after the founding year of the company (1848). The first Omega Constellation watches featured an automatic movement with a so-called “bumper mass-weight.” Different from a rotor that makes 360 degrees turns, these were weighted masses that were oddly shaped and much smaller than normal. They used a smaller angle for moving around and actually “bumped” from side-to-side, hence the name. Not long after, around 1955, Omega started to use new calibers with normal rotors (the 500 series). One of the most famous Constellation models are those nicknamed “pie-pan” due to the shapes of their dials. These particular models are highly sought after by collectors. In the 1950s and 1960s, a gold Constellation was as expensive as a gold Rolex Day-Date and considered to be on a similar level. All these Constellations were chronometer certified and were prized as high-precision timekeepers.
In the 1970s, the Constellations were modernized to the design standards of that period — including using the occasional tuning fork movement or even a “Mega-quartz” movement. It’s fair to say that the design of the Constellation went all over the place at the time, at least until 1982, when Omega introduced the Constellation “Manhattan” model. This watch is well known for its four claws that push on the crystal. Later and current models still feature these claws, but they no longer have a functional purpose. (All photos used in this article are copyright, Antiquorum.)
1. Omega Constellation Ref. 14381 (ca. 1960s)
This Constellation model was produced and sold in the early 1960s and has the so-called “pie-pan” dial. Some of the dials are a bit more extremely shaped and others only have a slight domed effect. This model has a gold dial, gold stick markers and dauphine hands. The Omega logo and wording, as well as the star emblem, are all applied to the dial. The back of the watch (not pictured) has an embossed Constellation emblem. Inside is the beautiful and highly praised Caliber 551 movement, with a nice, copper-colored finish. With a diameter of 34 mm, this Omega might be too small by current standards, but it still makes a great watch for formal occasions.
2. Omega Constellation Ref. 4365 SC “Grande Luxe” (ca.1950s)
Considered to be the Holy Grail for a lot of Constellation collectors out there, the Grande Luxe in rose gold has a sort of integrated, brick-style bracelet, which may have been the inspiration for the bracelets on the DeVille Co-Axial that was introduced in 1999. These Grande Luxe Constellations are very sought-after, and for a mint-condition model you’ll have to have deep pockets. Inside is the copper-colored Caliber 505 movement. The gold, pie-pan-shaped dial has a very nice finish and feature the diamond-shaped hour markers that Omega also used on the regular Constellation models in the 1950s. Again, applied logo and wording here, and wonderful dauphine hands. Also, take note of the shape of the crown. More information can be found here.
3. Omega Constellation Ref. 2782 (ca.1955)
Constellations came in gold, gold/steel and steel. The gold and the steel versions are most popular and tend to be more expensive then the gold/steel combinations. The gold/steel combinations are also being referred to as gold-capped, since it is a solid gold shell over a stainless steel frame. In any case, the model below is in stainless steel and also has the diamond shaped hour markers we saw on the Grande Luxe. This is an early Constellation, as it still has the “bumper” movement, Caliber 354. This model has the 10-sided crown so typical of these 1950s Omega watches, as well as the applied logo and wording on the dial. This particular model has a nice patina on the dial, showing that it has lived life. The gold/steel models and stainless steel models always came on a strap. If you do find one on a bracelet, it means it was either fitted later on or the dealer did that on request at the time.
4. Omega Constellation Calendar Ref. 2943 (ca. 1959)
My number 4 is a gold-capped Constellation with calendar from the late 1950s. Don’t confuse gold-capped with plaque or doublé, though; this is a solid gold shell (in mainly 14k gold). The black-dial Constellations like this are considered to be rare, and therefore very coveted by collectors. Its copper-colored Caliber 504 movement has a date feature and is nicely presented by a gold, framed aperture on the black dial. The gold stick markers on the dial give the black dial a “trés chique” appearance. Again, the beefy lugs and 10-sided crown make it a typical Constellation from that period.
5. Omega Constellation Marine Stardust Ref. 196.0013 (ca. mid-1970s)
Here is an example of a chunky, stainless steel mid-1970s Constellation. However, it is a rare one, not just because of the shape and size or the Megaquartz (with a frequency of 2.4 Megahertz) movement, but also because of the Stardust dial. There are also regular black-dial versions of this watch, but this Stardust version is the one you should be looking for. The bulky bracelet looks similar to the one used on the Omega Speedmaster 125, the anniversary model from 1973. The Megaquartz Caliber 1510 movement is a high-precision timekeeper. The Stardust dial is made out of aventurine quartz, a material we’ve recently seen used in the Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonphase (click here).
This article was originally published on February 14, 2014, and has been updated.