Omega Seamaster 300 1968

Omega Seamaster 300 1968

Utrinque Paratus – Ready For Anything

As any regular visitor to my site will know, I’m not just passionate about watches, I’m passionate about the stories a watch can pay testimony to. The extreme environments that supreme engineering can withstand, the resilience of exquisite watch making in the face of unparalleled odds.

And in particular I love imagining the provenance of a watch that might have survived the second world war or been present at significant events throughout the century. Often these are wild speculations on my part and I’m never anything than 100% truthful about the history of any watch I buy. So if I’m selling a dirty dozen piece from the second world war and I choose to believe that the slight scratch on the case is from hand-to-hand combat with Rommel in the African desert well, that’s my business and pleasure!

The 1968 Omega Seamaster 300 currently sat on the desk in my study is possibly the best example of that historically significant and authentically proven provenance I have ever come across.

However sometimes a watch comes into my possession that simply has its whole history laid out before me. Every intimate detail of its journey and provenance confirmed in the sort of detail that brings a unique piece to life.

The 1968 Omega Seamaster 300 currently sat on the desk in my study is possibly the best example of that historically significant and authentically proven provenance I have ever come across.

This beautiful watch (originally purchased through the Naafi in 1970) has proudly adorned the wrist of my customer (a member of the Parachute Regiment) in the ensuing 47 years through some hugely significant events including the infamous Bold Guard Exercise in which 5 members of the Parachute regiment lost their lives in Germany. Grahame was a member of the regiment and I cannot do better than to recount his own words. I’d urge you to his read his account not simply for the fact that his treasured Omega was with him throughout, but because these are words that deserve to be heard by the people Grahame proudly served throughout his illustrious career.

“Bold Guard. I remember that night. The 11th September 1974. The sadness, and the humour. Yes humour, that only Soldiers will understand. Not disrespectful humour.

As I get older, I thought it better to put my recollections down in writing while I still can. I remember the RAF briefing we all got at their Hanger in Aldershot. Usual good briefing, but at the end, there was a ‘By The Way!’. There is a canal at the end of the DZ. You should not be near it, but remember your Water Drills.

I wonder if, like me, others went away from the briefing thinking about the usual idyllic Canals we have in the UK. Many of them not much wider than a narrow boat, and you could wade through a lot of them. We had our own in Aldershot, and I had been in it a couple of times. For a dare once, I had also jumped a lock.

This mental picture was a stupid one for me, as I knew about the Kiel Canal, its size, and that German Battle Ships used it during the War. It just did not register. Thinking too much about the Exercise and a new adventure.

Came the night, and I was number 11 out the door. I cannot remember if I was Port or Starboard. We had a good flight, and I exited into the dark. Check canopy, look round, all clear, release container. Then I had time to plan my landing. I remember thinking, ‘That’s a big field.’ as it stretched in each direction. Then it dawned. The Canal. I was heading towards it, like a magnet. Steer away! I pulled the appropriate lift web down, and I ended up with handfuls of rigging lines.

I landed on the bank of the canal, and I really mean the bank. I was on the top edge of the slope, down to the water. I also remember landing in vegetation, which crunched under my body. Drills kick in. Get out of your chute. Retrieve your Bergen, and weapon. Get your bearings, and the direction of your RV. Only then did I realise that there were people in the water. They were shouting, but could not be seen. No one that I heard was shouting for help, and I assumed that they would be OK. I did however leave my chute, and ran to my RV, and reported to the CO, regarding people in the Canal.

The RV was a short distance away, and along with the others who had already made it, we ran back to the Canal, to see if anyone needed help. The Heavy drop was now raining down on us. We were running, and looking up, and anyone who has had that experience will know, that you are sure the Platforms are coming straight for you. An optical illusion. You twist and turn, and they follow you. The Air bags were exploding on impact. There was a lot of shouting now. I was back at the canal edge, and people were shouting from the far bank, and from the water. Platforms were hitting the water. It was dark. Then the ship loomed out of the darkness, and passed us by. We all knew that it was not good.

The Exercise was officially cancelled, and everyone tried to establish what had happened. Who was where, and who was missing. First light brought home the tragedy.

I was allocated to the Recovery Party, which mainly consisted of REME, RAOC, RCT, and Medics, everyone else was cleared off the DZ. Over the next 2-3 days I helped recover the vehicles and bodies from the canal and the forest next to us, where both personnel and vehicles had also landed.

I remember the silence when we found a body trapped under a platform in the Air Bags. His Lifejacket was inflated. He would have made it. Unlike some of the others, who were still in their chutes, or uninflated lifejackets.”

I’m sure that, like me, reading Grahame’s first had account of that night and the horrors he witnessed brings home the pride we all feel in our service personnel and the sacrifices they make on our behalf. I deal in pre-owned and vintage watches simply because I get an enormous sense of history from the pieces that come into my possession.

Sometimes however it’s about more than whether a watch can withstand an environment or offer faultless performance under extreme pressure. It’s simply about recognising the trust that men and women of action place in a certain watch or brand. Grahame chose this Omega Seamaster 300 because he knew it would never let him down. It didn’t.

←  Back to Timeless Stories