This is our second Omega Constellation reference guide. This time we're focusing on the executions featuring the so-called C-Shape case design - another Gerald Genta classic. The Omega Constellation is one of the most well-known watches today and throughout its illustrious history. However, looking back on 70 years of this flagship numerous references as well completely different designs have come up. You easily loose track of how much the constellation has evolved. This here is our second guide on our way through the reference jungle - the C-Shape Era.

September 20, 2022

Omega Constellation Reference Guide - The C-Shape Era

  


Marcus Siems     Marcus Siems @siemswatches
    Collector, Author, Data Analyst


 

Reference Jungle This here is our second Omega Constellation reference guide. This time we're focusing on the executions featuring the so-called C-Shape case design - another Gerald Genta classic. The Omega Constellation is one of the most well-known watches today and throughout its illustrious history. However, looking back on 70 years of this flagship numerous references as well completely different designs have come up. You easily loose track of how much the constellation has evolved. This here is our second guide on our way through the reference jungle - the C-Shape Era.

 

Did you know that during the 1960s Omega's Constellation collection sold better than Rolex's Datejusts[1]? The Pie-Pan dialed versions have been major factor in the success of the brand during its time. Yet Omega - together with Gerald Genta - turned a full 180 degrees to envision a completely new design in the 1960s. So ... how did this all play out?

 

Part 2. The C-Shape Era

The C-Shape was Omega's third execution of the Constellation collection and introduced in 1964[1-4]. Designed by none other than Gerald Genta it was supposed to become a design revolution of the lineup, while the Pie-Pan was still in production! In stark contrast to the late Artdeco appeal of the Pie-Pan Constellations, the C-Shape featured a much cleaner dial appearance with slim baton hands and jet markers. A contemporary approach to the Constellation concept.

 

vintage 1970s Omega Constellation C-Shape 168.017 in steel with Champagne dialHow do you design a dress-casual watch fit for the 60s and 70s? Well... look no further. Photo @goldammer.me

 

The namesake for these pieces comes of course from the new case-shape - reminding one of two Cs opposite to each other. Lore has it that Genta chose this shape with the model being the third iteration of the Constellation lineup in mind - the literal third letter of the alphabet[1]. This elongated case appearance gives the watch a larger feel than Pie-Pan Constellations while still having approximately the same diameter. A shape that very well fits into a time that starts to embrace larger cases in general[5].

The "C-Shape Era" lasted for 14 years - from 1964-78 - a critical period in all of watchmaking history. So the question now becomes: how many different iterations of this model do we see, what variations exist and what makes the C-Shape such a classic? Here, we have a closer look at the literature[1] and empirical data[6] to form a quantitative reference guide of this unique Omega design.

 

vintage 1970s Omega Constellation C-Shape with index handsHow do you date such a model? Is it a rather early or late C-Shape execution? Find out through the next sections. Photo @goldammer.me

 

The References

All in all, we see about 7 main references appear between 1964 to 1978. Keep in mind Omega's referencing system in which equivalent bracelet watches (368.xxx) and women's watches (568.xxx) get distinct reference numbers[7].

The main evolutions of the C-Shape Constellations happened by movement updates: From the original 561 (shared with several Pie-Pan references) to the 564 and 751 (Day-Date version) to the 1000er variants (both Date and Day-Date). 

 

Ref. Avail. Date Caliber Bezel Variants
168.009 1964-66  D 561 flat gold*, "frosty" dial
168.017 1966-72 D 564 flat steel*, "frosty" dial, diamond marker
168.027 1966-72 D 564 fluted thick baton, "frosty" dial
168.019 1967-72 DD 751 flat index hands, "frosty" dial
168.029 1967-72 DD 751 fluted index hands, "frosty" dial
168.0056 1972-78 D 1011 fluted index hands, dial font, color dials
168.0057 1972-77 DD 1021 fluted index hands, dial font, color dials

Table 1. List of common Omega Constellation references from the "C-Shape" era, their key design features and some of the known variants. *most prevalent materials. D = date, DD = day-date. "Frosty" dials are sometimes referred to as "silky guilloche" as well[1].

 

With every movement update Omega introduced subtle variations in the design as well. The hour marker and hands got a little thicker over time, fluted bezels were introduced in 1966 and the dial font and text arrangement changed for the latest iterations of the C-Shape[1] (compare also below).

 

Comparison of vintage Omega Constellation C-Shape in yellow goldSubtle nuances differentiate between the early 168.009 (1966, left) and the later 168.017 (1970, right). First, the hands and hour marker are slimmer on the early reference. Second, the 168.017 (right) displays a "sun guilloche" finished bezel, putting it in between classic flat and fluted bezels. Third, the crown is less pronounced in the later model and shows more grooves. Fourth, several C-shape Constellations featured "frosted" gold dial finishing (right). Yet these dial variations occur all throughout the C-Shape era. Interestingly, all Constellation Date models of the time (also counting the Pie-Pan versions) featured the same bevelled date-window. Photos @goldammer.me

 

The Numbers

But how much variance do we really see? we looked into the available watches on the market to further quantify how often you can find which options[6]. Here, we are looking particularly at the used materials, bezel style, dial texture and color - the features that actually vary the most for these timepieces*.

 

Distribution Omega Constellation C-Shape Design FeaturesFigure 1. Quantitative Guide to the Omega Constellation C-Shape. Showing the overall market availability on the left (C-Shape in gold, Pie-Pan in gray), the distribution of case materials (middle left), dial colors (middle right), and bezel styles (right). Data from Chrono24[6].

 

For the absolute numbers two very interesting patterns emerge. First, it appears most C-Shape Constellations are available from the late 1960s, indicating that late references are not as sought after at the moment or simply not been produced that much. Second, The C-Shape is also much less available than its predecessor - the Pie-Pan Connie. Combine this with the vintage prices at the moment and you can see that the Pie-Pan is definitely the more appreciated watch by collectors and enthusiasts right now.

  

The Materials and Colors

Overall, we see clean design elements dominate the picture. In the material distribution we observe over 53% of C-Shape pieces come in steel compared to only about 38% of the Pie-Pan executions. On top 61% come with a bright dial (silver or white) versus 34% in gold and 7% in black and blue combined. 

 

vintage 1960s Universal Geneve Polerouter C-ShapeOpps... how did that get in here? Another Genta C-Shape design but not the one we're talking about here. Also another C-Shape that is atm less popular than its predecessor ... a pattern? Photo @goldammer.me

  

And if the customer at the time wanted something with a little extra flavor Omega introduced texture as a new design dimension. About 34% of these C-Shape Constellations came with a fluted bezel, about 36% came with this stunning frosty dial patterns - and 22% of pieces had both, bezel and dial texture.

 

The Conclusion

If we take all these information into account it's sure that the C-Shape truly is a stand-alone piece of Omega's history. It is not simply a successor to an outstanding design - the Pie-Pan Constellations - it writes its own story and is something completely new!

 

vintage 1970 Omega Constellation Pie-Pan in yellow goldBezel texture... check! Dial texture ... check! Wrist presence ... double check! Photo @goldammer.me

 

If anything you should see this third generation as rather shy and minimalistic bigger brother to the Pie-Pan Constellations. The subtle markers, hands and the ultra-slim bezel really leave a lot of dial to these pieces while elongating the wrist-presence with its case. From a design perspective it's a remarkably novel and contemporary approach Omega took here.

Finally, what connects the Pie-Pan and the C-Shape Constellations if not the design? Easy, it's the concept of high precision and accuracy. And putting this idea into completely distinct frames without clutching to past designs is a real testimony to this core principle. Staying true in the one dimension that mattered to the brand is what put these timepieces apart from the pack. Era by era by era.

 

 

* An important point to keep in mind with this analysis is that listed watches are most likely biased towards higher-value pieces. As such this might skew the distribution in terms of for example the material but also in general the amount of Constellations vs. other collections from the brand.

 

- See also our other Omega Constellation Reference Guides:

Pie-Pan Era (1952-1970)

C-Shape Era (1964-1978)

 

References

[1] C-Shape Omega Constellation; Desmond, Omega Constellation Collectors;

http://omega-constellation-collectors.blogspot.com/constellation-c-shape

[2] A History Of The Omega Constellation, From 1952 To Today; Jack Forster, Hodinkee;

https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/stellar-history-of-the-omega-constellation

[3] History of the Omega Constellation Collection - In-Depth; Rebecca Doulton, Monochrome;

https://monochrome-watches.com/history-of-the-omega-constellation-in-depth/

[4] The Pursuit of Timekeeping Accuracy: Omega Constellation; Anthony Tyme, Vintage Portfolio;

https://www.vintage-portfolio.com/de/the-pursuit-of-timekeeping-accuracy-omega-constellation/

[5] When Did Watches Start to Get So Big?; Marcus Siems, Goldammer Vintage Watches;

https://goldammer.me/blogs/articles/history-watch-size

[6] ~50,000 Watches + 520 Constellations from Chrono24, extracted 2020 Nov. 29th and Jan. 6th 2022; Karlsruhe, Germany;

https://www.chrono24.com/

[7] An Overview of Omega Reference Codes for Wristwatches; Old-Omegas;

http://www.old-omegas.com/omrefcod.html

 

All rights on text and graphics reserved to the Author.

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6 comments

  • Hi guys, great article, also loved the video. I’ve just bought a Ref. 168.017 and was wondering if the milanaise bracelet from the top picture on this page would fit that? I’ve been searching the net for the bracelet reference but couldn’t find it. However, I’ve found some Omega documentation of fitting bracelets for the 168.017, and it says that only two bracelets fit it: 1040/518 and 1172/515.

    Love to hear back from you, I’m really curious on this bracelet!

    Cheers,
    Gabe

    Gabriel on

  • Hey Shel, if you have additional questions regarding your timepiece please send me a DM via IG. Thanks.

    Marcus on

  • I purchased (1/6/1966) an Omega Constellation at the Thule AB Base Exchange. It has movement # 2442967. Stainless case #168.004. Based on available information, it is a C shape.

    Would appreciate any additional information you can provide.

    Shel Leader on

  • I purchased (1/6/1966) an Omega Constellation at the Thule AB Base Exchange. It has movement # 2442967. Stainless case #168.004. Based on available information, it is a C shape.

    Would appreciate any additional information you can provide.

    Shel Leader on

  • Hey Neil, thanks so much for your input. I totally agree on the wrist presence, particularly for lighter colored dials, the dial circumference makes a huge impact.
    Regarding your second point: What we see in the data as well as “expert statements” the time of the late 60s started a bit of a revolution for case design towards more daring shapes in general. That for example also holds for (sports) car design or jewelry. It’s an epoch of abstract “organic” shapes and the C-Shape fits this overall trend just perfectly. On top you’ll see that starting with Patek in the late 60s watchmakers start to employ in-house case makers, something you haven’t really seen before. And this accelerates the rate of creative shapes. It’s hard to say whether Omega has really been the first using the C-shape, plus at the time the actual case maker might have been supplying several brands. But I love the idea of hearing out some historical voices about these design revolutions.

    Marcus on

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