Friday, October 07, 2005

Lawrence of Arabia's Omega Chronograph

On Monday I wrote to Omega asking if they could tell me more about T.E. Lawrence's (Lawrence of Arabia) Omega chronograph. Obviously, such a watch would be a prime candidate for the Famous Watches list if one could find, these days, a similar watch or one from the same series.

My question was forwarded from Omega Customer Service to the Omega Museum. This is the reply from Jean-Luc Miranda of the Omega Museum:


Dear Mr. Dennis,

Here is the full description of this famous time piece (#2885 in our Museum Inventory). This text is self-explanatory.

Lawrence of Arabia aviator chronograph-wristwatch, 1915: This watch of exceptional historical interest was worn by Thomas Edward Lawrence, British archaeologist, officer and writer, called Lawrence of Arabia (1888-1935). Animating a rebellion against Turkey from 1916 to 1918, he freed the Arabic Middle East countries. Caseback engraved with an "A" (Aviation) and the "Broad Arrow", symbols of the British army in which Lawrence firstly served in 1914, as an interpreter and second lieutenant, and a second time incognito upon his return from Arabia on August 30, 1922 under the name of John Hume Rossas, as a mechanic with the Royal Air Force. He enlisted a third time on February 23, 1923 changing his pseudonym to T. E. Shaw, which is why the guarantee slip dated April 18, 1933 (issued after a revision) included with this chronograph is made out in the name of T.E. Shaw and not in the name of the writer of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Calibre 18''' SO PB CHRO, enamel dial, 1/5-second minute track, hollow Arabic numerals with inner 13-24 in red small seconds at nine o'clock, 15-minute totalizer at 3 o'clock, blued steel Empire hands, lentil-shaped 925 sterling silver case with red gilt mono-pushbutton at 6 o'clock, caseback with hinge, Louis XV crown, curved loops, sewn "two leather straps" bracelet, silver buckle (ref. 568.18)

The serial number 4'428'513 shown on its movement identifies this chronograph wristwatch as ordered on September 23, 1915 by France or one of its colonies, while the serial number 4'789'732 on its caseback refers to a standard 17'''hunting type pocket watch ordered on September 1912 by the agent Joseph Sewill of Liverpool! The caseback interior was enlarged by hand in order to fit the case-middle size of the 18''' chronograph. Its dust-protective double back cover was eliminated to allow this replacement back, flatter than the original one, to snap when closing.

Consequently three corresponding riddles remain unsolved:

1. When, how and why this chronograph wristwatch supplied to France or one of its colonies reached the hands of a British army agent?

2. When, how and why was the original caseback replaced by one of another model?

3. When, how and why was it engraved not with the symbols of the Royal Air Force at that time (Initials AM for Air Ministry with a crown on top) but with those of the Royal Flying Corps established on April 13, 1912 and replaced by the RAF on April 1, 1918?

Thanks for your confidence in our products and best regards.

Jean-Luc Miranda

OMEGA Museum (Vintage Information)


In terms of hunting down related watches, it doesn't give me much more to go on (at least not to my amateurish skills), but it's certainly interesting reading in its own right. If I get my gumption up this weekend (and finish getting packed for London), I'll write Mssr Miranda with some follow-up questions.

Currently wearing a totally non-famous, 2005 Seiko Superior 5 in PVD, model SNZ443K1. Hey, I can't be absolutely fabuluous all the time and it's Friday. And it's a dang cool watch for the money.


Current Mood: contemplative, cold finally fading

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Astronaut Has Landed

[photo courtesy of previous owner]

It's been a hectic week at work, what with still nursing the won't-die cold and getting things in order before my vacation to London.

But today the Astronaut I won on eBay arrived. It's in great shape, and very funky. At first I thought it was running slow, but it was probably just a case of me not being used to how to set it accurately given some of the eccentricities of its hacking mechanism. Basically, the little lever on the back has a tendency to nudge the watch hands if you're not too gentle when you push it back in. I've reset the time and it seems to be running accurately now. We'll find out in the morning for sure, as I plan to wear it to work tomorrow.

I'm pretty pleased with it, especially since not only is it just plain cool, but it fits my Famous Watches theme from many angles.

What to get next...

A good vintage Seiko 6139 that deservedly holds a place on the famous watch list?

Or should I try to win the Hamilton Odyssee 2001 watch for sale on eBay. No, it's not horologically significant, and it would be a stretch to make it fit in the famous category, but it is cool looking and rare. Okay, I could make an exception if it's cheap enough, but otherwise I should focus on my core theme.

Keeping an eye out for a good 6139, and maybe something exciting will be found in London...


Current Mood: Farkin cold, still sniffly

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Astronaut Won!

Woo hoo!

Just won an auction for a near mint 1969 Accutron Astronaut on eBay. Wish I could post pictures here [edit: since moving from LiveJournal to Blogspot, I can]. The price of $535 (plus $4 shipping) might have been at the higher end (although I've certainly seen higher), but it comes with the original box, hang tag, and strap, which add to the value.

Can't wait to see it in person. Hopefully it will arrive before Michiko and I head off on vacation to London on 10/10.

I'm also bidding on a 1969 Omega Speedmaster, but I'll doubt I'll win that, as they seem to be closing in the $1200 range, which is more than I bid.

Still nursing my cold, but otherwise feeling lucky.


Current Mood: bouncy