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


Anonymous GLR said...

This watch appeared on the BBC's "Antiques Roadshow" television programme.

"Lawrence of Arabia's pilot watch appraised by Simon Bull
Pilot watch The owner of a First World War pilot's watch gets a shock when he's told that it belonged to Lawrence of Arabia. "Good God. To be truthfully honest, I always thought he was a fictional character." The owner bought the watch at a bric-a-brac stall in South Wales 20 years ago and hadn't realized that the "T.E. Shaw" on the repair bill that came with it was in fact better known as T.E. Lawrence. Simon Bull guesses that with the Lawrence connection the watch would be worth £5,000 ($7,500), or maybe even £10,000 ($15,000). "I'd better get it insured then!" says the owner."

11:44 AM  
Blogger albion said...

Can anyone tell me if its possible and even beter how i can get hold off one of those watches . Not the reall laurance one ofcourse but there must be more made.
please let me know

Eric @

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Keith Purdon said...

I remember seeing the programme that the watch appeared on and later it was announced that it had been sold to the Omega museum. I can't remember the exact amount but it was well in excess of Simon Bull's valuation.

1:18 AM  
Blogger The Vintagent said...

Yes, add a zero to his estimate!

5:26 PM  

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