A ROYAL Omega Speedmaster – the King’s watch

In the 1970’s whilst getting his military training from the Duntoon Military College, His Royal Highness Maha King Vajiralongkorn Rama X graciously gifted his watch to one of the friends attending the College. The watch is, A Royal Omega Speedmaster – The King’s Watch. How it made its way to Australia and beyond speaks to the incredible relationship and bond the Thai Royal family and the country of Thailand share with Australia.

In June 1962, Thailand’s (late) Royal Highness King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) and the Queen of Thailand made their first visit to Australia. Their trip was the first ever by a foreign Royal family and sowed the seeds for the relationship between the two countries in a speech he delivered at a dinner with Australia’s Prime Minister Robert Menzies and guests.

The late King Rama IX said, “.. in the past, you called Thailand or Siam a country in the Far East but our country is not the Far East but the Near North”.[1]  This closeness of proximity set the tone for the wide-ranging and deep cultural relationship shared between the two countries.

His Royal Highness Maha King Vajiralongkorn Rama X and Her Royal Highness at The Royal Wedding in 1978. Mr Ian Marshall (left of HRH), was graciously gifted an Omega Speedmaster 321 chronograph that the King is seen wearing on multiple occasions throughout the Australian government documentary during his education and time at the elite Australian Military College called Duntroon.

The Australia Years

It is now known that His Royal Highness Maha King Vajiralongkorn spent some six and a half formative years in Australia.  He attended Australia’s oldest private school, The King’s School Parramatta, where he was treated just like all other students and boarded at Macarthur House.[2] In the school journal, at that time His Royal Highness Maha Prince Vajiralongkorn wrote, “The word Australia is no longer just a word but brings up memories of gum trees, wattle in bloom, dust, floods, outback mineral reserves, and Australians.”[3]

A documentary produced by the Australian Embassy showcasing his time in Australia can be viewed below.

Duntroon Academy

In 1972, His Royal Highness Rama X started the first year of a four-year course at the prestigious Royal Military College of Australia (RMCA), so-called Duntroon, which was founded in 1911.  The college is a comprehensive officer training institute, offering both military and academic education for cadets learning discipline, teamwork, and about themselves. His fellow staff cadets noted His Majesty was treated normally, became part of a team and class, and had to fulfill the requirements just like everyone else.

Duntroon is regarded as one of the finest military training facilities and training courses in the world, turning out some of Australia and New Zealand’s finest officers, aside from it being the source of leadership and military training for His Royal Highness King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Royal Military College Australia Duntroon Omega Speedmaster
The Royal Military College of Australia, so called Duntroon the training ground for the some of the finest officers in the world. Image – Canberra Times

Past Duntroon’s attendees and classmates who shared these experiences at Duntroon at the same time, including former and sitting Secretaries of the Australian Defence Department, (Duncan Lewis, Sir Peter Cosgrove, and David Hurley), note that the Royal Military Colleges values and training were substantial and varied.  They had a serious focus on academic achievement in the form of a university degree, essential drill, and teamwork skills which when combined would better prepare one for life and a career. 

The latter instilled the exercise of command, confidence in how one carries oneself, and leadership, installing both an action and contemplation component of the individual.  These skills combined enabled one to achieve more than one thinks one can at a national level and in the case of an event.

Sir Peter Cosgrove noted that at that time of study, His Royal Highness Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was “embraced by classmates and did splendidly.”[4]  Given his status at that time, the Prince also had a dual role running a parallel life when undertaking cultural roles when stepping into the Thai community within Australia.

Special Bonds

Whilst military training is often sworn to secrecy, a special bond forms between cadets. One of those enlisted was New Zealander Staff Cadet (Ian) Marshall. Having joined the New Zealand army, he came to the specialist Duntroon to complete his four-year officer training from 1972-1975. He found himself in the same year, class, and unknowingly became friends with His Royal Highness, who was also attending Duntroon.

A Royal Speedmaster, Omega shipment to Thailand
The Omega archives noting delivery to Thailand in February 1968, fifty-five years ago, at a time when HRH Maha King Vajiralongkorn Rama X was Prince.

In a letter detailing his experiences post-retirement, Mr. Marshall noted that following a training exercise in December 1974, he discovered his watch was broken.  After returning to Duntroon and bemoaning his broken watch, he wrote that he wished to buy a new one at Duty-Free following his return home at Christmas.

This is where our Royal Speedmaster flies in. Mr Marshall notes in his letter that His Royal Highness King Maha Vajiralongkorn then went to his locker and picked out the Speedmaster and handed it to him.  His Majesty graciously gifted him one of his favourite watches. In staff cadet, Marshall’s letter recalling the event said, “No, you can wear this. Consider it an early 21st Birthday present… he had recently been to the Omega factory and had another, and a few other brands as well”. [5]

The Omega Speedmaster watch was a popular choice on His Majesty’s wrist. The model, bearing ref ST 145-012, used a 321 calibre with the serial number 250006351.

A Royal Speedmaster Dial
A Royal Speedmaster Serial number

The personal watch of His Royal Highness Maha King Vajiralongkorn Rama X ever so graciously gifted to his friend at Duntroon Military College – Mr Ian Marshall.

One interesting case marking that remains a mystery even with the Omega archives department concerns the A3481 number stamped in the inner caseback.

Omega Speedmaster Inside caseback 145-012-67 SP
Omega Speedmaster inside caseback 145-012-67 SP with the unusual A3481 case stamp.

The History

The Speedie was delivered on February 22, 1968, to Thailand. It is pictured being worn by His Royal Highness King Maha Vajiralongkorn many times throughout the Australian Government’s official historical documentary video noting the special attachment between the King of Thailand and Australia.  At the time of the 1968 delivery, the age of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince was just 15, so perhaps it was a special gift from his late father, King Rama IX Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In the graduating year, the Australian government video notes that His Royal Highness received experience in helicopters and that his unit travelled all over Australia. Theoretical leadership training was extended to practical experience in the field.  They had to qualify and call in artillery fire, a manual mathematical process at the time and some of these decisions amounted to making life or death decisions going into the field.

His Royal Highness graduated from Duntroon in 1975, with the ceremony attended by his mother the Queen of Thailand, alongside Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser.  Other graduates summarized their Duntroon graduation as preparation for what was to come and providing them wonderful career options.

Sir Peter Cosgrove noted that the time His Royal Highness King Maha Vajiralongkorn spent in Australia highlighted that, “The whole of the Thai nation placed a lot of trust in Australia.”[6]

Duncan Lewis, a talented Australian, who started as a Staff Cadet and was a friend of His Royal Highness at Duntroon later became the Australian Secretary of the Department of Defence, Ambassador to Belgium, The European Union, Luxembourg, Nato, and leader of Australia’s Domestic Security Intelligence Agency graduated in the same class as His Majesty King Rama X. Mr. Lewis noted in the Australian documentary that post-graduation he joined His Royal Highness serving the Elite Special Services Air Regiment in Western Australia.

His Royal Highness returned to Thailand to serve his country and later secured a pilot’s license.

Special relationships are often shaped by military experiences; Duntroon was no different. Staff Cadet Marshall was in the same class for the duration of his Duntroon military training.  He graduated with His Majesty the King.  The Omega Speedmaster gifted to him as an early 21st Birthday present was worn for the next 40 plus years, excepting exercise, perhaps one of the things it is best suited for.

Their ongoing friendship led to Mr. Marshall being invited as an official guest at the Royal Wedding in January 1977, The King’s Parade in 1979, the first birthday of HRH Rama X’s firstborn son, and serving as the official officer during his Royal Tour of New Zealand in November 1989.  

Communication and unique photographs from Mr. Campbell helped detail the remarkable heritage and history of this Omega Speedmaster. It details how a Royal Speedie with a 321 calibre, the personal watch of His Royal Highness King Maha Vajiralongkorn, was graciously gifted to him whilst they studied in Australia’s Royal Military Academy, Duntroon.  His Royal Highness also gave a photo with a personal notation whilst in royal dress and wearing the gifted watch to Mr. Campbell.[7]

The King’s incredible ticking Speedmaster gift has grown new wings and commences a new journey and flight.

[1] Documentary and the relationship between the King of Thailand and Australia, produced in 2021 by the Australian government.

[2] Documentary and the relationship between the King of Thailand and Australia, produced in 2021 by the Australian government.

[3] Documentary and the relationship between the King of Thailand and Australia, produced in 2021 by the Australian government.

[4] Documentary and the relationship between the King of Thailand and Australia, produced in 2021 by the Australian government.

[5] Personal statement letter and photographs from New Zealander and now retired Ian Marshall.

[6] Documentary and the relationship between the King of Thailand and Australia, produced in 2021 by the Australian government.

[7] Personal statement letter and photographs from New Zealander and now retired Ian Marshall.

2 thoughts on “A ROYAL Omega Speedmaster – the King’s watch”

  1. Hi Andy, I almost bought this watch when it was on Trademe, Milo beat me…I live in Bangkok originally from Nelson NZ.
    Milo then offered it to me later on but I didn’t have the money..
    Obviously you bought it, what a great find, I’m very envious..lol
    If you ever want to sell the Omega, please let me know first..
    Thank you
    Kim Brice .

    • Greetings Kim and thanks for your mail, it went through a few other hands before making its way to me. It now is with a prominent speedmaster collector where I think it will be staying. If he changes his mind I will let you know. Andy 😉


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