More than 39 million people live with blindness worldwide, and yet 32 million of those cases are completely treatable and preventable. The figures are shocking and frustrating, especially when you consider that often all it takes is a simple 20-minute operation to restore a person’s sight. Unsurprisingly, 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries, so the question is how to reach them and local doctors to help them.

The idea for the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital came to life in the 1970s when concerned leaders from both the medical and aviation industries decided to join forces to create a mobile teaching hospital. Doctors and nurses from developing countries are rarely able to participate in overseas training programs due to the high costs of tuition, international travel and accommodation, so the idea was to take surgical knowledge and expertise, equipment and training directly to them.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

The Flying Eye Hospital

Now on its third airplane, Orbis International has flown to over 92 countries since its first flight in 1982. In 2015 alone, Orbis’s team of volunteer ophthalmologists trained 30,326 medical professionals, and carried out 2.13 million screenings and examinations on the Flying Eye Hospital and in Orbis’s partner institutions.

The beauty of restoring the sight of a visually impaired person goes far beyond the life of the individual; it strengthens communities by allowing adults to return to work and enabling children to go to school and receive an education. People can then contribute to their community, helping to build a better future for their families. Restoring a person’s sight transforms lives.

Rob Waters, Orbis UK Chairman and ophthalmologist, shares one of his first memories of working for the organization: “It was perhaps my first or second mission to Khartoum in Sudan and I remember going out to find people who needed our help. We went to the refugee camp on the plains of Omdurman in the blistering heat and it stretched as far as the eye could see. It was a horrendous place in many ways, people struggling for water and struggling to survive.

“We found this young 23-year old girl who was blind from cataracts, which is entirely unnecessary, and her life was without hope. She couldn’t get married, she couldn’t have children, she couldn’t do all the simple things in life, she couldn’t feed herself, she had to be led about, she couldn’t work, she couldn’t contribute to her community, so her life was null and void. So, we met her and operated on her and removed the cataracts from her eyes. It was the most wonderful moment taking the bandages off and watching her over the following days and seeing that girl’s life restored. It was the most wonderful thing and I have never forgotten it. It was a very emotional moment for everyone who was there and such a fulfilment for what we do.”

After being housed in a DC-8 and then a DC-10, the hospital’s new home is in an MD-10 aircraft. This modified jumbo jet is equipped to perform the most advanced eye-care screenings and operations, as well as train in-country medical colleagues. The hospital is equipped with a 46-seat classroom, a cutting-edge operating theater, a patient-care and laser room, an updated flight deck, an administration room, an audio-visual and IT room, an observation room where visitors can watch live footage of operations, an instrument sterilization/sub-sterile room, a pre- and post-operative care room, a biomedical work area and patient and staff changing rooms.

Everything has been thought out to the last details to maximize space on the 181-foot plane. The operating theater is located directly over the center wing box for optimal stability. It has also been designed as a self-contained unit so it can be transferred from one plane to another if needed.

Omega and Orbis

Omega has been a proud sponsor of Orbis since 2011. The partnership started with the production of a documentary called Through Their Eyes, which followed the British actor and Omega brand ambassador Daniel Craig on his visit to the Flying Eye Hospital in Mongolia. The film was so successful in raising awareness about Orbis’s life-changing eye-care programs that a second documentary was produced called The Hospital in the Sky, this time featuring Omega’s long-term brand ambassador Cindy Crawford, who visited the Flying Eye Hospital with her daughter.

“The initial idea was to help Orbis by letting them use our communication machine to gain visibility,” explained Jean-Pascal Perret, Vice President of Communication and PR, Omega. “We produced a film for them with our brand ambassador Daniel Craig, which was the start, and then we created a special Hour Vision Collection dedicated to Orbis that was a tremendous success, much to our surprise.”

Other Omega brand ambassadors have also donated their time in the production of print advertisements for the non-governmental organization. Famous personalities such as Nicole Kidman, Chad le Clos, Michael Phelps and Sergio Garcia have joined the cause by giving their time.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
Cindy Crawford with daughter Kaia visit the Flying Eye Hospital

In addition to working with its brand ambassadors to support this great cause, Omega also supports Orbis in many other ways. One of the watch brand’s initiatives has been to provide teddy bears to all the Flying Eye Hospital’s young patients, who are often extremely nervous before treatment. The nurses use the teddy bears to explain what the doctors are going to do and each patient gets to take his or her teddy home afterwards.

“After our trip to Mongolia with Orbis, we noticed that they sometimes had teddy bears on board and they were using them to explain to the children what the doctor was going to do to them. We thought this was very nice and since the bears weren’t an organized thing, we decided to provide every child with a bear,” continues Perret.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
Omega teddy bear
Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
Michael Phelps and Nicole Kidman with Omega teddy bear

Omega also provides vital funds to the cause via donations and through its De Ville Prestige Orbis Collection. These special timepieces celebrate the ongoing partnership with Orbis and its Flying Eye Hospital by donating a portion of the sales of each timepiece to the organization’s work.

There are three different models in the collection. The first model features the brand’s Co-Axial Caliber 2500 and comes in a 39.5mm stainless steel De Ville Prestige case. The dial has been crafted in an elegant blue lacquer that has been sun-brushed and is of utmost elegance. On close inspection, the decoration is comprised of a pattern of teddy bears, a subtle reminder of the young patients who will benefit from the sale of this watch. Other features include a date window at three o’clock, rhodium-plated hour and minute hands and an Orbis blue central second hand. The watch is available on a navy-blue leather strap or with a stainless steel bracelet.

The second model is dedicated to the ladies. Coming in an elegant 27.4mm stainless steel case with a matching bracelet and powered by a quartz movement, the De Ville Prestige Orbis Ladies Collection also features the blue teddy bear motif dial, but this time with the addition of eight sparkling diamonds.

Last but not least, a 32.7mm stainless steel version is also available for ladies, featuring a white mother-of-pearl teddy bear dial, a date aperture at eight o’clock and an Orbis blue second hand.

All of the De Ville Prestige Orbis timepieces come with a teddy bear logo on the vertically brushed caseback that has been designed especially for these watches.

“Over the last 10 years, since I have been involved in the management side of things, we have tripled our size and this year we will treat in the region of 6.4 million people,” says Orbis UK’s Waters. “But what we need to do is reach the goal of eliminating preventable blindness. We can do that in the next 50 years, but I would really like to achieve it in the next 20 years,” he concludes.

Hopefully with help from Omega and the sales of the De Ville Prestige Orbis Collection, this will become more than just a distant goal—it will become a reality and change lives, for everyone deserves to see.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
De Ville Prestige Co-Axial 39.5MM Steel on leather strap
Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
Orbis logo and teddy bear motif
Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
De Ville Prestige Co-Axial 32.7MM Steel on Steel
Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
De Ville Prestige Quartz 27.4MM Steel on Steel

Editor’s note: TickerART Print was inspired by the story and created a series of limited edition prints to continue the excellent work that this organisation does. 100% of the profits from your purchase will go directly to Orbis and its foundations. Visit now at

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital