Recently I was approached by Stef, a gold buyer who amongst other things purchases old gold cases for scrap. He had acquired a calibre 352 RG powered watch that had the word Constellation on the dial, and he suspected that he had something special. He sent me some pictures of the watch: those appearing in this post.
This was not an easy watch to evaluate. The movement was made in around 1951, which would be correct for an early calibre 352 RG powered Connie, but the Omega database had no record of case 14.311 SC (SC stands for Secondes Centre). The case markings on the inner case back were however, in my opinion, authentic. The proper Helvetia mark appears, and another stamp - a key with the number 4 impressed - indicated that the case was made by a known Omega case maker of the period, Antoine Gerlach SA of Geneva.
I had seen a 14311 with a very interesting lug shape some years ago and noted it as an authentic model in my records after having contacted the Omega museum for confirmation. When Marco Richon’s “Omega, a Journey through Time” was published, further confirmation was available because, on page 363, a picture appeared of this very case showing a ‘Globemaster’ dial. ‘Journey’ confirms that case OT 143.11 was one of the first Constellation models ever produced and notes that the word Constellation was omitted from the dial because the name was owned by Lockheed. The full story of these ‘no-name Constellations appears in an article I posted a couple of years ago here.
In assessing this watch, I came to the conclusion that case and movement were most likely to have been together since production, but the dial raised some questions. Close scrutiny of the dial reveals, in my opinion, an early re-finishing effort. While the upper case script is passable and the lower case Constellation script leaves a little to be desired, there is no star above the six o’clock marker. Further, some of the indices on the chapter ring do not match up perfectly with the centre of some of the applied hour markers and so it can be reasonably concluded that the dial has as least been refinished.
I initially believed that there were two plausible explanations for the missing star. (1) Somehow the star went missing on this dial during the refinishing process, or (2) Another dial was used to replace the original. One way in which to determine if the star was on the dial is to remove the dial from the movement and examine the back of the dial to see if there is evidence of a rivet once having been set above six o’clock. The purchaser, Paul Hoyt, did just that and established that the dial did not have any evidence of a covered hole where the rivetted Constellation star would have been. So that rules out option (1), but is option (2) the only option left, or could there be another explanation?
The two rarest cases in the early ‘bumper’ series of Constellations are OT 2737 and OT 14.311. The combination of a 1951 batch calibre 352 RG with an OT 143.11 case indicates one of the earliest Constellations to appear on the market. The stamping of OXG on the balance cock verifies that this particular 14.311 was earmarked for the United states, and therefore confirms that the Constellation lettering would not be present because of trademark restrictions.
The answer to the dial dilemma is also contained on page 363 of Omega a Journey through Time. While showing US Globemaster advertisements and pictures of this case style that reveal an applied star without the Constellation script, another advertisement features the exact same 14.311 case without the star on the dial and the exact style markers as on the dial above. In this advertisement, heralding Roger Bannister's historical 3 minute 58 seconds 1954 Olympics record, case 14.311 is described simply as an Omega Chronometer.
Therefore, the most plausible explanation for the "missing" star is that the same case was used for two different members of the Omega collection. Case 14.311 powered by calibre 352 RG was promoted both as a Globemaster and an Omega Chronometer. In both instances the full uppercase script was used. This is further established by a listing on page 263 of 'Journey' where a black dialled 14.311 is shown described as an Omega Automatic Chronometer.
Paul Hoyt of Connisseur of Time chose the refinishing option and the first picture demonstrates the wisdom of that decision. The watch dial was refinished to reflect the true history of the watch.
Return to home page
Return to home page