Omega Pilot 1953, a tale of watch rebirth (EN)

The Omega Pilot 1953 “thin-arrow” in my opinion is the most usable of all RAF assigned military watches. Very pleasant to wear, as it has a 37mm case, comfortable on the wrist and very much readable – many nowadays prefer it to the other sweep-seconds RAF pilot watches, i.e. the Mark XI from IWC and JLC. And it is also the most comfortable for your wallet, being still inexpensive compared to the other two.

**** This article is available in both English and Italian. Questo articolo e’ sia in italiano che in inglese ****

Case is a ref. 2777-1SC, with screw back, and it has inside the Omega marks, while at the back the RAF assignment numbers. It was only produced for one year and, as far as I know, only for the RAF.

The Omega Pilot 1953 has been one of the last military watches to use the classic 30mm Omega movement (the other being the Railmaster assigned). In this case is a cal. 283, with “de-luxe” finish in beryllium-copper and regulated to chronometer standard, although without the “special regulator” or a swan-neck regulator.

Like most pilot watches, it has a Faraday cage to shield the movement from magnetic fields, formed by a thick dial of ferrous material, a ring round the movement and a thick dust cover at the back.

Dials were produced with radium indices, but in 1958-1960 the British MOD implemented the new rules for radioprotection, and all watches were recalled and their dials changed with others using tritium , made by some of their specialists (Mountfichet facility). These dials were less refined, with a “fat-arrow” painted at six, and a different position of indices etc – still however functional and highly visible.

Recently (years 2000-2002) Omega Bienne has found a fornityure of “thin arrow” but with wells without any luminous. They were filled with supeluminova luminous and they were used for a couple hundred watches comeing back to Bienne for servce /rtauartion.

Basically, these were the dials:












I first met this type of watch on a site of military watch collectors ( and mainly thanks to BillG, who discovered by chance that Omega still had those dials but without luminous.

And as I had recently bought a “Fat-arrow” at a London auction, I sent it to Omega Bienne, with lots of instructions, and a barrel of hopes.

Six months, and many pounds later, this was the result:

















A fantastic watch, and the closest to “new-old-stock” conditions I had ever seen. A movement which was a pleasure to listen to and to charge, dial and hands simply perfect.

But … perhaps it had lost something, may be the scars of aging, and that patina which makes dials flavoursome, in a word what somebody calls “wabi” of the well lived watch. Ay any rate, a thoroughbred watch.

Consequently, when six years later I came across an original “thin-arrow” I jumped on nit and talked to Joachim Kretschmar, a German/Australian dealer and restauration artist – as the dial had rust spots and a lot of dirt.












Well done Joachim! ….., the luminous is still there and screaming at the Geiger, but all is cleaner. I have later changed the plexy (the original one has no Omega sign) , a good clean to the case and service complete to the movement. And … here it is Mr Thin-Arrow Omega, the 1953 pilot watch!














Thanks to the investigative skills of watch aficionados, sometime it is possible to find original documents in the archives of Watch Companies, telling us exactly how many watches of a certain type have been produced, to whom and when they have been shipped etc

In this case, the luck is that the order was done after WWII, and Maisons had no reason anymore to be secretive on what they were producing and for whom.  Second luck is that the order has been a single event, and only one distributor  (Goldsmith of London ) which was the historical supplier for the Ministry of Defense.   Here is an image of the order:

as it is visible, the order was for 5000 watches in the 8th July 1952, and the different specifics of this model are carefully detailed.
In the composite image below are visible:

a- Omega calibre 283 Omega, with the iron ring spacer around the movement.
b- Assignment numbers on the back, including the NATO number 6B/562 (MOD-specified, RAF navigator watch) with a progressive number and the year (1953).
c- Inside back with the Omegas marks.
d- dustcover completing the anti-magnetic Faraday effect cage.
e- Aluminium “doo-hikey” which was keeping the dustcover in position
f- This was sometime substituted by Goldsmith with a round paper piece, impregnated with a chemical anti-oxidant.















And this is the image from the Omega Museum which made Bill G. hypotesize that some original dials should still be present in Omega, and that perhaps they could be luminous-filled at the moment of use
















It is now clear, thanks to discussions on MWR (and particularly to Joachim Kretschmar), that Omega Bienne had (surely until 2002) a little stash left of NOS thin arrow dials (like in my 2777 here below). So when customers sent their 1953 to Bienne for full service, the watch came back with this dial. The wells, until then kept empty, were filled with SL.

After 2002, the watches sent to Bienne came back with different dials –like in the lower part of the image. Still 1.5mm thick, still SL, but with a different type of graphics. The zero was more rounded, a seven slightly more curved and the feet of the Omega logo curved upwards.

Attention must be used because there are reprinted dials in the market. quite similar to this last type. Some are recognisable because are quite thin, like a civilian dial, and certainly are not fit to close the anti- magnetic cage.

Other are dials (ex fat-arrow) simply reprinted, usually with a thin-arrow. These are obviously not from Omega, and have thin-arrow with luminova indices – something which never co-existed in history.