In astronomy, the term constellation refers to a group of stars whose movement through the celestial vault is consistent and predictable. What better name could there be for a line of watches whose name became synonymous with the world's chronometers?
In watchmaking, the name Constellation has been closely linked with the art of creating luxurious precision watches at the highest level since 1952, when Omega launched the family. It has always been defined by the combination of sumptuous yet elegantly refined cases and dials with ultra-precise movements.
The symbol of this line was to be the Cupola of the Geneva Observatory, where Omega had just reset its own record for precision in 1951, surrounded by eight stars representing its greatest chronometric achievements at the world’s observatories including the 1931 “clean sweep” at the Observatory of Geneva where Omega broke the record for precision in every category.
The progenitor of the Constellation line is without doubt the appropriately named “Century”, a limited edition self-winding chronometer wristwatch launched in 1948 to celebrate the firm’s 100thanniversary. This watch, not intended for series production, was greeted with such enthusiasm that the decision was taken to create a watch with all the same qualities on an industrial scale. It started with the movements, which were all self-winding chronometers that had received the mention of “Especially good results” during testing.
The line would soon develop into a series of watches which were finished to different degrees. The Constellation available in steel or gold, the Constellation Deluxe only available in gold with applied gold indexes on the dial and finally the Constellation Grand Luxe, which was available in gold and platinum with corresponding dial and the so-called "Brick link" bracelet. The Grand Luxe model was delivered in a solid silver presentation box.
In the United States this line of watches was at first known as the Globemaster due to a trademark conflict which was resolved in 1956. Many of these watches simply have the Constellation star on the dial. Later OMEGA’s American agent would produce a line of lower quality watches under the “Globemaster” name.
In 1958 the Constellation line was further expanded with the Constellation Calendar. It was available in the three different levels of finish from standard to Grand Luxe. At the same time the Constellation was advertised as being “For the man who already has a watch”, an allusion to the fact that a Constellation was so much more.
The form of the Constellation remained little changed until 1964 when the so-called "C-case" watches were introduced. The name was a reference to the form of the case, which resembled two interlocked Cs. The change would also be incorporated in the first ladies' Constellation, launched in 1967.
This period would see much diversification in the form of the Constellation line including square watches and many pavé diamond models. Probably the most significant would be the "Integral" line launched in 1969 based on a 1965 patent, whose hand-finished bracelet and case were integrated, thus forming a consistent and flowing design from one element to the other and back again. This form of integration would soon be adopted by many other brands and has become one of the main features of the luxury sports watch.
On August 25thof the same year, watch No.25699737 was delivered to its new owner. This “standard” model in steel would find its way back to OMEGA in 2005 for its normal service after which the owner requested that the watch be recertified as a chronometer. Impressively, just over 36 years later, on October 25th2005, the watch was recertified a chronometer by COSC.
The 1970s saw the introduction of quartz technology to the wristwatch and this also applied to the Constellation line. Some of the most accurate watches ever produced in series were developed for the Constellation line, including the famous Marine Chronometer which is, to this day, the most accurate autonomous wristwatch and the only watch to be certified as a marine chronometer. However it wasn’t a Constellation Marine chronometer that stunned the watchmaking world with a 0 error rating. It was a calibre 1021 self-winding movement destined for a Constellation that held the distinction of achieving absolute perfection when it received its certificate marked “Especially good results”, showing a variation of 0.00 after 15 days of testing in five positions and at varying temperatures.
The next evolution for the line came in 1982 with the introduction of the Constellation “Manhattan”. This watch introduced the four now-familiar "griffes" or claws which originally held the sapphire crystal in place and helped ensure the watch remained waterproof. It was an immediate success and has become the design standard for the Constellation line. Many of the features of this watch are still found on today's Constellations, including the half-moon facet on the lugs, the integrated hinged bracelet and indexes on the bezel. This watch has, over the years, found its way onto the wrist of many celebrities and world leaders, most notably, perhaps, Mikhail Gorbachev. The fact that Gorbachev was an OMEGA man also found its way onto the silver screen in the 1996 film, My Fellow Americans, whenU. S. President Russell P. Kramer, played by Jack Lemmon, exclaims "That's a Constellation. It was given to me by Gorbachev!" after giving his steel and gold Constellation it to a truck driver as payment for a ride.
2012 marks the 60thanniversary of this line which continues to set the standard for luxury watches and remains, as its original advertising claimed, for those “who want the finest watch that man can make”.