At the beginning of 1952, in the midst of The Cold War and ongoing hostilities in Korea, The British Air Ministry ordered 5,900 wristwatches from its long standing London supplier, Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Ltd. They in turn contracted Omega to manufacture the watches to the precise specification of The Air Ministry. The original order was issued to Omega on 27 June 1952 and delivery of the watches was to be made in May 1953.
These watches were designed and manufactured to a very high standard. They were originally made to be waterproof and the 283 calibre shockproof movement was finished in rose gold. The inner casing was constructed from soft iron to make the watch antimagnetic. This ensured that the aircrafts instruments did not affect the watches crucial performance during flight operations.
Interestingly, these watches were originally issued with “Thin Arrow” radium dials. However, these were considered too dangerous by the MOD when stockpiled and they were therefore recalled and redialled with safer Tritium “Fat Arrow” dials.
Only 5,900 of these watches were ever manufactured and issued to the RAF in May 1953. Consequently, they are rather appropriately referred to today as the “53 Omegas”.
Due to the relatively small number produced, good examples of these Omega 53 watches are becoming rarer and increasingly harder to find.