Michael Jackson’s Thriller album had just been released, the first‑ever CD player was sold in Japan, and Time magazine’s Person of the Year was the personal computer. The year was 1982, and technology was changing the world—the world of watches included. The entire industry of mechanical watchmaking was in the midst of a revolution, all thanks to the advent and popularity of quartz-regulated watches. It was during this revolution that one of Omega’s most popular timepieces was reborn. The Constellation Manhattan was small, elegant and distinctive—an excellent ladies’ watch, in other words. It became so popular that it actually overtook Omega’s famous Speedmaster and Seamaster collections in terms of sales volume.
As the story goes, the designer of the watch, Carol Didisheim, was trying to puzzle out the ever-present issue of water resistance. Inspired by an acquaintance’s story about his morning shave in front of a mirror surrounded by four claws, Didisheim figured that a similar construction method could hold the sapphire crystal and rubber gasket securely against the case of the watch, thereby ensuring a degree of water resistance. The claws have now become the most distinctive feature of the Constellation Manhattan, with two each flanking the left and right sides of the case.
Besides the claws, the defining hallmarks of the collection also include the barrel-shaped case, half-moon facets at the top and bottom edge of the case, and the integrated hinged bracelet. These stayed true throughout the three revamps—in 1995, 2003 and 2009—that the Constellation went through. This was particularly significant for the claws, which had by 1995 ceased to be a necessity for ensuring adequate water resistance.
This year, the Constellation Manhattan has been revamped for a fresher and more modern take but the four hallmarks remain. The bezel, for instance, is now more slender to give a wider appearance of the dial, and the claws have been slimmed and integrated more smoothly with the case. The new detailing on the crown is also exquisite. Each of the crown’s ridges is shaped like a tiny half-moon to mimic the facet detail on the case. Plus, the clasp on the bracelet comes with a new adjustable release, which allows the wearer to extend the bracelet by 2mm, to accommodate any fluctuation in wrist size as the day goes by.
The new Constellation Manhattan comes in three different sizes: 25mm, 28mm, and 29mm—all small and dainty. The 25mm and 28mm models both come with the quartz movements—the calibre 4601, to be specific, much like the 1982 original. The 29mm model, however, is equipped with Omega’s Master Chronometer calibres 8700 or 8701, which have had to pass eight different stringent tests that evaluate each movement’s ability to keep accurate time when exposed to different strains, including strong magnetic fields of up to 15,000 gauss. The fact that some of the new Constellation Manhattan watches have mechanical movements instead of quartz is also an indication that the pendulum has swung strongly back in the direction of mechanical watches.
The Constellation collection, while attractive, is made even more so by the brand’s stable of beautiful female ambassadors—Australian silver screen star Nicole Kidman, supermodels Cindy Crawford and Alessandra Ambrosio, as well as Chinese actress Liu Shishi. To paraphrase CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, “Omega makes incredible products, but when these products are worn [by Daniel Craig or Nicole Kidman], it makes the watches even more powerful.”
(See also: 9 Watch Dials That Are Exquisite Works Of Art)