2018 has been a highly memorable year for Omega thus far. Notably, the overwhelming success of the Omega Speedy Tuesday Ultraman Edition and the redesign of the legendary Seamaster made waves in the industry, and further embedded the influence and prominence of Omega. Compared to the above, the launch of the new Constellation “Manhattan seems to have fallen under the radar.
The Constellation series has served as a hallmark of Omega for decades. And to understand its significance it helps to know about the history of the Constellation.
The Omega Constellation series was first released in 1952 and was conceptualized owing to the huge success of their limited chronometer wristwatch, the Omega Centenary, which preceded it in 1948. As it was so popular, Omega decided to produce the Constellation series which were aimed to uphold the standard and quality of the Centenary. Initially released in a slim and elegant case of either stainless steel, rose gold or yellow gold, the Constellation watches featured domed dials (colloquially termed “Pie-pan” dials) with dauphine hands and diamond-shaped hour markers. True to its name, every Constellation watch had a gold star applied on its dial, which would eventually become symbolic of the Constellation series. The caseback is as iconic as the dial, featuring an engraving of an observatory with eight stars adorning the sky. This is in reference to Omega sweeping the competition and breaking eight chronometric records at the Geneva Chronometer Trials in 1931. With such allusions to success and excellence, the Constellation was undoubtedly one of Omega’s flagship watches at the time.
The next milestone of the Constellation series was in 1982 when the series had a redesign. Termed as the Constellation “Manhattan”, the watches were then equipped with integrated bracelets, had bezels with Roman numerals printed on them, and four “claws” on both the latitudinal ends of the case. These “claws” served the function of securing the flat sapphire watch crystal in place so that the watch remained waterproof and that the crystal will not fall off.
The Constellation “Manhattan” laid the foundations for contemporary Constellation watches as the design elements of the latter could be heavily traced down to those of the former; though they are not without certain enhancements. For example, the bezels now have Roman numerals that are engraved instead of printed, rendering the bezel with greater depth. The “claws” are also slimmer and svelter, and are now more vestigial and ornamental than functional; the flat sapphire crystal is replaced with a more substantial and secure domed sapphire crystal. The enduring presence of the “claws” shows how it has been an integral part of the Constellation’s identity and design. Although the “Pie-pan” dials are now absent, the overall design lineage of contemporary Constellation watches is highly evident, with the gold applied star on the dial and the same observatory engravings on the casebacks. With many historical elements present on the contemporary watches, they retain the exclusive “Constellation” identity while having the advantages of modern watchmaking technologies. The contemporary Constellation watches are more accommodating for female customers now, with options for diamond-set bezels as well as diamond indices.
In 2015, Omega released the Globemaster, mainly catering to their male demographics. The Globemaster is, in many ways, a tribute to the pre-Manhattan Constellations of the 1950s. The signature “Pie-pan” dials are back and incorporated into the Globemasters. Adorned on the dials are the gold applied stars and engraved on the casebacks are the same observatory with eight stars above it. Technically, the Globemaster is a tour de force. It was the first Master Chronometer by Omega as it passed rigorous testings of the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS) in addition to the standard COSC. A prominent factor is the usage of the famed Omega Co-Axial escapement, which was invented by the late and esteemed horologist, George Daniels. This escapement significantly reduced friction of the movement, enhancing accuracy and serviceability. Globemasters are also magnetic resistant up to an astounding 15,000 Gauss, making them some of the most magnetic-resistant watches in the world. The Globemaster was thus a nod to the early Constellations and easily superseded the standards that were held in the past.
The unveiling of the new ladies’ Constellation series in Shanghai, accompanied by four well-known ambassadors, signifies Omega’s commitment to its female and Asian markets. Early in the year, Omega launched their first women-dedicated pop-up boutique, Her Time, in New York City. The boutique was stylishly designed, with opulent decor aimed at reaching out to their female customers. It also contained an exhibition presenting Omega’s history of women’s watchmaking. As mentioned by Omega’s CEO, Raynald Aeschlimann, the boutique aimed to make people realize that “Omega’s commitment to women goes back over 100 years”. The new female Omega Trésor watch was an overwhelming success at the boutique, a testament to the strong relationship that has been built and developed between Omega and its female customers.
There is also now an increased emphasis by Omega on its Asian markets due to the increased demand of Swiss watches in Asia. In 2017, a whopping 50% of Swiss exports headed to Asia, particularly Mainland China and Hong Kong, where sales figures are increasingly encouraging. For Omega itself, Mr. Aeschlimann remarked that half of its business came from Asia, with the Constellation being a market leader and being sought heavily after by middle-class Chinese buyers. In June 2017, Omega witnessed double-digit sales growth in China. The timing for Omega could not be better. With the launch of their new manufacturing facility, Building O, in Switzerland, Omega could readily meet the increasing demand of Asian markets.
The Constellation, despite receiving lesser attention relative to other Omega watches, is looked upon as the watch of choice in China. This speaks volumes about the Constellations’ design – one that is timeless and evocative. The Constellation has also heavily inspired the Globemaster, an exquisite dress watch that is also a technical triumph. With so much historical significance, the Constellation is a watch that is highly worth more than a second look.