Omega has produced one of the best watch ever in the 50 and 60… One of them is Constellation
This is one purchased by one collector…to share with you
- Purchased in July 2011 on Bbay from Texas, USA
- Year of manufacture ----- 1966-1967
- Case ref. number ----- CD168.004
- Calibre 561, in-house chronometer grade movement, automatic winding, 24 jewels, 19,800 beats/hour, "goose-neck" timing regulator with adjustment screw, INCABLOC shock protection system.
- Movement serial number ----- 24 million
- Case diameter ----- 35.6mm without the crown
- Width between lugs ----- 18mm; 16mm gold plated Omega tang buckle
- Power reserve ----- 50 hours
- Hour, minute, second hands with non-quickset date function
- Solid gold 14k bezel; gold-capped case and lugs on stainless steel
- Original, unrestored, champagne colour, 12-sided "pie pan" dial with cross-hair.
- Dauphine hour and minute hands; hands and hour markers with black onyx inserts.
- Stainless steel case back with 14k solid gold observatory medallion.
A Flawless dial
35.6MM is big watch at the 60s
I was looking at another Constellation on eBay, a ref.168.005 (a more popular model), and ready to bid on it.
That watch seems to have a missing hour marker at 3 o'clock, or some sort of minor flaw. There was 3 to 4 minutes left before the end of that auction so I decided to just quickly browse what other Constellations were available for sale and come back to bid on the 168.005 at the last 15 seconds or so.
That's when I found a ref.168.004 that caught my eye, which I ended up buying instead. There was something unique about the 168.004 that I didn't quite appreciate at first, but I'm glad that I bought it instead of the 168.005 (or other similar variations).
What's special about my Constellation compared to other case references such as a 168.005:
- Larger size; 35.6 mm wide instead of the usual smaller 34 mm. That's almost as big as the 36 mm Rolex Datejust.
- Larger area of gold-capping. In addition to the lugs, the perimeter of the case is also gold-capped, making the watch look as if it is made entirely of solid gold unless you flip the watch over to reveal the stainless steel case back. The other reference variations don't gold-cap the case perimeter, making them look rather cheap by comparison.
- Hidden crown; the crown is recessed and almost flush with the case, giving the watch a rounder, smoother, crown-less appearance. However, this makes the watch unable to be wound manually; you must wear it to keep it running.
- Shorter and more slender lugs, makes the watch appear bigger.
The unique features found on the 168.004 is an attempt by Omega to make the Constellation more contemporary looking, in keeping with the design trends of that era.
Omega did a lot of gold-capped watches, similar to what Rolex did on a smaller scale, which Rolex called theirs, the "Golden Egg". A sheet of gold is moulded under pressure onto a stainless steel case, forming a physical bond, resulting in a durable, hard-wearing gold surface.
Gold-capping is not the same as gold-plating, an electrochemical reaction for depositing gold particles onto a base metal surface. The thickness of gold on a typical modern gold-plated watch is roughly 20 micrometres or less, which might easily wear through to reveal the base metal underneath after a few short years.
The gold layer on a gold-capped Constellation (and Rolex's "Golden Egg") in contrast is at least 200 micrometres (1/5 of a millimetre). The thickness is more than 2 sheets of quality photocopying paper, which explains why many vintage Connies, like mine are still wearing well even after more than 50 years.
Also, the movement inside my Constellation (serial #24,43x,xxx) is also a bit special in terms of Omega movement history.
Back in the 1950s and 60s, Omega produced most of the chronometer watch movements in Switzerland that were tested and certified by the COSC, much more so than Rolex or any other watch company. Not only did Omega produce the most chronometers, sometimes the watch movements would be sent in large batches to be tested and COSC certified to demonstrate the high standard and consistent quality of the company's work.
There were 3 such milestones when Omega sent in consecutively numbered movements by the tens of thousands all at once to be tested and passed the chronometer certification in flying colours.
Shown more clearly the goose-eck adjustment in Black
Beautiful and shinning parts after 5 decades
The first such production run was between June 27th and Sept.22nd, 1949 when a series of 1000 calibre 352 "bumper" automatic movements with serial #s between 11,418,001 and 11,419,000 were submitted, and all passed with "particularly good results".
The second time occurred during the period Jan.22, 1959 and July 4, 1960 when 20,000 mid 500 series movements with #s between 17,000,000 and 17,019,099 were submited, and all passed with "particularly good results".
The third time was from Oct.5, 1964 to Feb.10, 1966 with a consecutive series of 100,000 calibres 551 and 561 movements of serial #s from 24,410,000 to 24,509,999. Needless to say, every single one of those movements passed with "resultats particulierement bons" appellation.
The "particularly good results" rating was the highest level of chronometer certification achievable at the testing agency at that time. So I own one of those 100,000 calibre 561 movements certified during that 3rd milestone achievement, present in my Constellation.
The servicing history of the watch was unknown when I first picked it up. Even though the seller had stated that the movement was serviced recently by his watchmaker, the watch ran slow by almost 1.5 minutes a day. A trip to my watchmaker revealed that the oil and lubricant had gummed up, meaning the movement hadn't been properly maintained for quite a long time. After the overhaul, it kept time at roughly +3 to +5 seconds a day. For the past year however, it has been slowing down quite noticeably, so perhaps it's time for another overhaul this summer.
With purchasing watches online, it is often easy to fall victim to encountering fakes, frankenwatches, and repainted dials. So researching the watch you're interested in beforehand is essential.
I don't know about Rolex, but It is rather surprising that a number of Omega models, including the Constellation seem to have features built into them that actually help against counterfeiting (if you know what details to look for, that is). Things such as the printing on the dial, their fonts and alignment of letters, case reference numbers, movement serial numbers, movement calibre, variation in the shapes of the lugs and the crown, and even minute detail differences in the case back observatory medallion all help to determine the authenticity of the particular watch at hand. The Constellation dial, in particular is a complex array of letters, logos, symbols, fonts, serifs, cross-hair, etc. which is not easily reproducible in its entirety during redialing. A repainted dial is often identifiable, again, if you've done your homework and know what to look for.
A knowledgeable gentleman, a watch guru, he is so humble to say he does not know Rolex….