It's no secret that we're all lovers of Rolex here at Watches of Wales. We buy and sell more Rolex watches than any other brand and for a good reason. Rolex watches are universally renowned for their top-level quality, designing and manufacturing. Their watches are designed for professionals and made by them. But Rolex isn't the only domineering Swiss watchmaker with a long, illustrious history and models that first came out when your grandpa was a young whippersnapper.
Omega is a fabled name in the watch industry and is as renowned for its design and build quality as Rolex. Having handled loads of them in our time, we're confident in saying that Omega can match Rolex in terms of build quality and even exceed them in some cases (no pun intended!). We all know of the Speedmaster, that's as well-known as the Submariner, and the Seamaster. But, if you go onto Omega's website, you'll see a model name which you might not be familiar with called the Constellation.
The Constellation model began in 1952, one year before the Submariner and four years after the Seamaster. It was based on a 100th anniversary of Omega piece sold in 1948. Constellation models can be easily recognised by the star on the dial and the observatory on the caseback of each watch (except most of the newest ones).
Where does the observatory come in, and why is it still used today? Well, this stems back to the older days of watchmaking when observatories tested the accuracy of mechanical watches while also keeping an eye on the cosmos. Observatories used to be relied upon to keep the most accurate measured time thanks to their highly advanced equipment and optics. This included rudimentary quartz clocks and, eventually, atomic clocks, although it seems they don’t usually have atomic clocks any more. Therefore, up until the 70s and 80s, observatories were the home of the most accurate timekeeping and were the perfect place to test mechanical watches.
Many of the most popular observatory trials were held at the observatory in Neuchâtel in the 1920s -1960s. Being surrounded by Swiss watchmakers made Neuchâtel the perfect place. Although, it's worth noting that observatory testing has occurred in places such as Besançon in France and Kew in the UK. The observatory trials saw all kinds of wristwatches put to the test to earn the crown of most accurate. Longines, Zenith, Seiko and Girard Perregaux are just some of the watchmakers who won awards for their exceptionally precise movements, one of the most long-lasting and probably most desirable are watches fitted with Longines' high-accuracy Ultra-Chron calibre. However, Girard Perregaux's calibres were also incredibly well regarded.
Being a maker of fine movements, Omega also had plenty of success in observatory trials. The stars on the back of many Constellation models highlight this, representing two chronometer world records and the six first-place titles Omega won between the 1930s and the 1950s.
The most sought-after Constellation models are some of the earliest. They feature a "pie pan" dial, the name for which came from enthusiasts as the convex dial appears to represent an overturned pie dish. These models have aged remarkably well and can often be found being worn as a part of a collector's regular rotation. Constellation, Constellation Deluxe & Constellation Grand Luxe were some of the models Omega came up with in this period, with the round case of the watch fitting easily with all kinds of straps and bracelets. Gold seems to have been the favourite material for these watches. The "pie pan" dial is in use today on some watches, specifically, the Constellation Globemaster collection, which is a set of watches that are more formal than regular Constellation pieces.
All manner of shapes and varieties of the Constellation followed the original pieces with their "pie pan" dials, including a range using quartz movements. As you'll know, these movements are very accurate and help keep costs down in some places. Omega uses quartz movements today for some of its watches in the Constellation range, particularly the petite ladies' models, but some of them have a mechanical movement inside, too, so there's plenty of choice.
As for the Constellation of today, the original form of that design appeared in 1982, thanks to Carol Didisheim. Interestingly, a record with her name on can be found for a US patent filed by Omega in 1982 for a new watch case design. The current model features "claws" of sorts at 3 O'clock and 9 O'clock on the case. These are decorative nowadays, but when Didisheim's Constellation was first released, they served the practical purpose of squeezing the gasket between the case and the crystal, keeping the case water-resistant. These "claws" became a decorative feature in the mid-90s as the Constellation appeared more familiar to today's watches.
The newest generation of the Constellation, the 41mm gent's watch with an eye-catching ceramic bezel, came in 2020. It also brought the Master Chronometer movement with it, which is visible through the caseback in place of the observatory caseback. Smaller quartz versions still have that caseback, but the majority of the lineup has been upgraded with Omega's latest and greatest mechanical movements.
The Constellation has consistently been a favourite across the Omega range. Despite not having the sporty appeal of the Seamaster or Speedmaster, the Constellation is still in production in a number of varieties, although the chunky Constellation Double Eagle chronograph is sadly not one that survives to this day. A shame. Nevertheless, it's clear that these are desirable and have earned their place in Omega's lineup.
If you're interested in purchasing a Constellation, please do get in touch and we'll endeavour to source one for you, assuming we don't have one in stock already. Our website is continually updated as we buy and sell all kinds of watches. Don't worry if we don't have the watch you want in stock. We buy and sell a lot of watches, so another one is bound to come around, but you can always contact us, and we can help you source the perfect timepiece for your collection.