Omega's Enduring Vision To End Preventable Blindness With Orbis International

THM Desk
24 Feb 2024 |
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In an era where consumers increasingly seek purpose-driven brands, brands are embracing corporate social responsibility like never before. Omega exemplifies this shift through its longstanding partnership with Orbis International, a visionary non-profit dedicated to eliminating avoidable blindness worldwide.

1.6 Million medical and optical treatments in India

This strategic alliance signifies a new age of corporate citizenship, where luxury brands leverage their global influence and resources to drive meaningful change. By aligning with impactful causes that resonate with ethical consumerism, companies like Omega demonstrate their commitment to using business as a force for good.

But where did Orbis International begin from?

The concept of Orbis began in the late 1960s when Dr. David Paton, a renowned US ophthalmologist and faculty member at The Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins, recognized a glaring disparity after his experiences abroad. He was troubled by the acute lack of eye care and ophthalmic training in developing nations, where blindness was widespread and 90% of the world's avoidable blindness occurred. The high costs of international travel, tuition, and accommodations prevented most doctors and nurses in low-income countries from accessing training in the USA, creating a vast gap in eye care provision.

Dr. David Paton first thought of the idea of project Orbis

Driven to bridge this divide, Dr. Paton conceived the idea for a mobile teaching hospital, leading to the launch of Project Orbis in 1973. The name "Orbis" is derived from Latin, meaning "of the eye," and Greek, translating to "around the world" - encapsulating the organization's global vision. This groundbreaking concept sparked a unique and lasting alliance between aviation and medicine.

The growth of Orbis International in India

With support from influential figures like Betsy Trippe DeVecchi, Niles Bond, George Gould, Thomas Knight, Charles Lord, J. Wright Rumbough, and A.L. Ueltschi, as well as a donated plane from United Airlines and a grant from USAID, Project Orbis transformed a DC-8 aircraft into the world's first fully functional Flying Eye Hospital. The pioneering facility was officially christened in Houston, Texas, at the Ellington Air Force Base and embarked on its maiden project to Panama in May 1982.

The first Flying Eye Hospital was officially christened in Houston

As Orbis grew over the years, it expanded its portfolio to include hospital-based training programs and fellowships, providing additional skills-building opportunities for eye care professionals. In 1999, to further build the capacity of local partners, Orbis established long-term country programs in Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, and Vietnam. Similar initiatives were later launched in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. With permanent local offices staffed by regional teams, these programs develop and implement multi-year projects to improve the quality and accessibility of eye care, particularly in rural areas and impoverished urban communities. Many of these efforts focus on treating and preventing childhood blindness, cataracts, trachoma, and corneal diseases.

In 2011, brand ambassador Daniel Craig and OMEGA joined Orbis in Mongolia

Omega & Orbis International
Since 2011, Omega has been a steadfast partner to Orbis International, lending its support to the organization's mission of building sustainable eye care systems and providing world-class ophthalmic training in underserved regions globally. The sobering reality is that 90% of vision loss is treatable or preventable, yet 1 billion people worldwide suffer from avoidable blindness. The burden is disproportionately borne by low- and middle-income countries, where 9 out of 10 visually impaired individuals reside, with women and girls accounting for a staggering 55%.

2.5 million screenings and examinations conducted

This concerning disparity perpetuates vicious cycles of poverty and depression. Orbis tackles this challenge through a comprehensive approach, spanning eye health education, community-based screening, treatment provision, and follow-up care. At the heart of their operations is the Flying Eye Hospital, a one-of-a-kind aircraft that serves as both a state-of-the-art ophthalmic surgical and training facility.


Omega's multifaceted support includes funding for the Flying Eye Hospital and donating a portion of profits from five top-selling timepieces. Additionally, the brand supplies cuddly teddy bears to young patients undergoing treatment, offering comfort and facilitating communication between surgeons and children during procedures. The plush companions receive matching eye patches following the surgeries.


The Flying Eye Hospital exemplifies Orbis' innovative spirit, but the organization's impact extends beyond the aircraft. Cybersight, an online telemedicine platform, has become an invaluable resource, enabling continuous training, case discussions, and knowledge sharing among Orbis-affiliated medical professionals worldwide.


Omega brand ambassadors have played an active role in raising awareness for Orbis' mission. Cindy Crawford and her daughter visited Orbis' team in Peru, witnessing first-hand the life-changing treatments that restored vision for patients and their families. In 2011, Daniel Craig accompanied Omega to Mongolia, an experience captured in the documentary "Through Their Eyes."


Prominent figures like Nicole Kidman, Sergio Garcia, Michael Phelps, and Chad le Clos have also lent their voices to the cause, engaging in photo opportunities with Seymour, a cuddly mascot that symbolizes Orbis' fight against preventable blindness.

Nicole Kidman and Orbis International

Through this enduring partnership, Omega and Orbis International demonstrate their shared commitment to empowering individuals and communities by addressing a fundamental barrier to health and prosperity – impaired vision. As Orbis continues to expand its global reach, Omega's steadfast support contributes to a world where everyone can access the eye care needed to thrive.