Now that virtually every Swiss watch name under the sun has its own integrated bracelet sports watch, it’s about high time that we start to see more diversity in design, available features, and broader, more wearable options for a wider range of wrists. Granted, it could definitely be argued that the long-running Omega Constellation is far from a dedicated sports watch (to be fair, the brand does have the Seamaster Aqua Terra filling this role), but it does still neatly fit into the current zeitgeist of watches marrying seventies and eighties-era nostalgia with fully modern proportions, finishing, and chronometric standards, even if its bracelet is more of a clever visual trick than a purely physical integration. And now that it’s available on a slightly larger 41mm case with what’s possibly the most comfortable rubber-backed crocodile leather watch strap I’ve ever laid across my wrist, the Constellation is primed for an entirely new generation of collectors looking for a watch that’s a little left of center, but something that still enjoys strong historic continuity and an indisputably excellent modern engine.
As it approaches its seventieth birthday, the long-running Omega Constellation collection has seen it all, experiencing nearly seven decades of unique watchmaking trends that have informed its many design iterations. From dressy mid-century pie-pan dials at the beginning in 1952, then the world-first integrated bracelet watch in 1969, to the ultra-thin quartz references of the mid-eighties that followed, Omega seems to have honed in on a more unified vision of the Constellation, now represented in two key collections: the Globemaster with its coin-edged bezel and pie-pan dial, and the clawed bezel ‘Manhattan’ re-issue that we’re examining today, which is a fully-formed modern remaster on the 1982 classic.
Now available in both 39 and 41mm variants, the newest 41mm ‘Manhattan’ Constellation references come in a variety of dial and bezel combinations, but I’d argue that the silk-embossed textured “linen” dial with its ceramic bezel and sharply contrasting black hands, logo and indices is the reference to get. As a fully modern watch with genuine historical clout, this variant in particular feels the most true to this design brief without feeling like its size was increased simply to meet a trend or appease a specific demographic. For me personally, most 39mm or smaller watches that have any type of bezel are left with too small of a dial opening, creating the visual perception of a watch that wears even smaller than its measurements suggest. But at 41mm and with a bezel, things with this particular Constellation offer the best ratio of visual balance and wearability, thanks to some very compact lug-to-lug dimensions.
Furthermore, the Liquid Metal-filled ceramic bezel introduces an air of sportiness and masculinity that you just don’t get with the solid stainless steel bezel variants in either case size. It’s a sleek new aesthetic that feels especially relevant for those who might have been turned off by the art deco trappings of the Constellation – without betraying the reference’s signature design elements like the Roman numeral hour markers or the ‘claws’ at 9 and 3:00 on the bezel, which once served a distinct purpose back in 1982, preserving the watch’s water resistance by clamping the crystal and caseback together.
Inside, we’ve got Omega’s Calibre 8900, which is a Master Chronometer movement that’s anti-magnetic to 15,000 Gauss and subjected to a battery of tests to ensure it passes METAS timekeeping certifications that exceed the standards set by COSC – all stuff that most watch fans should be quite familiar with by now. Not to disparage Omega’s newest Master Chronometer movements, which are objectively excellent and absolutely deserving of credit where credit is due, but the real unsung hero of the Constellation line is its semi tonneau-shaped case, which, like the Globemaster, is a treat for both the eyes and the wrist. Here you’ve got beautifully sculpted and delicately brushed sides that are split betwixt by contrasting polished bevels. Then under the wide, flat bevel at 12 and 6:00 are tucked the lugs, which can accept both the excellent hypoallergenic rubber-backed leather strap, or the faux-integrated bracelet that can be interchanged from the 39mm variant – a nice touch for watch fans, enabling the watch to wear very confidently, and very comfortably on a wide variety of wrist sizes.
As excellent as the new 41mm Constellation is on paper and on the wrist, in a season when it seems like the online watch community has been waiting on bated breath for the year’s newest Seamaster and Speedmaster references from Omega, releasing what feels like the polar opposite product is a bold move. But market interest must be considered, and the Constellation has long remained one of Omega’s strongest selling lines in much of Asia – and with much of that part of the world finally recovering from the year’s Covid crisis (the Swatch Group has already reported double-digit growth in Mainland China in May and June over 2019), perhaps the Constellation is indeed just the right watch, at just the right time.
The new 41mm Omega Constellation is expected to land in stores starting in September of this year. The price of the stainless steel model with the polished ceramic bezel as photographed is $6,500. Head over to omegawatches.com for more information and availability on the rest of the collection.