IWC shares a close relationship with the heirs of Antoine de Saint Exupéry that stretches back to 2006 with the launch of the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph “Night Flight.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry was an acclaimed French poet, journalist, and writer who is best known for writing the novel The Little Prince. He was also a heck of a pilot. In honor of this impressive character, IWC has a collection of limited edition Pilot’s watches that pays tribute to both Antoine de Saint Exupéry as well as his most famous work. The latest one to do so is the new IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” watch.
The new Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” is based closely on last year’s Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince” but with a few changes. The Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” comes in a hefty 46.2mm 18k red gold case and retains the large conical screw-in crown that has become a signature of IWC’s Big Pilot’s watches. Water resistance is a handy 60m, which means it should be good enough for the occasional swim.
The big change is on the dial. While watches in IWC’s “Le Petit Prince” collection have a deep and rich blue dial, the “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” watches distinguish themselves by having a rich tobacco brown dial, as we saw in the IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph hands-on here. Judging from the press photos, the dial seems to match the red gold case nicely. Another notable feature of the dial is the stylized “A” under the annual calendar readouts that represents the author’s name.
Antimagnetic shielding was critical in pilot’s watches, as a result of the usage of magnetos (“mags”) to supply current for the fuel ignition system, which created quite powerful magnetic fields; also, steel parts in an aircraft could contribute to the overall magnetic field of this aircraft — so much so that navigator’s manuals of the age contained instructions on the best way to correct the aircraft’s compass relative to the unique magnetic field produced by each individual aircraft, which might vary considerably depending on such factors as the terms under which the aircraft had been manufactured. This implies, of course, that you can not observe the movement, but if you want a watch that’s functionally faithful to the original, it is the best way to go. There will obviously be folks who wish IWC had gone with a center seconds, and I will definitely understand that standpoint; that’s going to end up being a question of personal taste, obviously. It is always a difficult call and this is a challenge in watchmaking in general, I think — you do not want to just slavishly reproduce the original, likely, but how do you create an interpretation that’s faithful to the spirit of the first without performing a copy-paste? The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 is priced at $14,800, and there’ll be 100 pieces worldwide.
At 12 o’clock, you have three apertures that display the month, date, and day. Also, at 3 and 9 o’clock, you have the power reserve indicator and subsidiary seconds respectively. The thick hands and beefy Arabic numeral hour indices feature red gold accents and look to have been generously applied with luminescent material so legibility, whether in the day or night, shouldn’t be an issue. The Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” also comes with a matching brown calfskin strap with white stitching made by leather specialists Santoni.
Powering the Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” is the IWC Caliber 52850, which is visible through a sapphire display caseback. It beats at a standard 4Hz and features a 7-day long power reserve thanks to two mainspring barrels. It also features the latest version of IWC’s Pellaton winding system, which has recently been upgraded with ceramic components to provide years of wear-free operation. It has also been handsomely decorated with Côtes de Genève and blued screws. However, the standout feature of the display has got to be the large 18k red gold winding rotor, which has been partially skeletonized to create a Lightning P-38 plane. The decision to use a Lightning P-38 plane is a sentimental one as Saint Exupéry disappeared over the Mediterranean sea in one when flying on a reconnaissance mission.
Obviously, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” will appeal most to fans of The Little Prince and admirers of the author. However, there’s a lot to like about the watch even if you are not familiar with Saint Exupéry and his works. The tobacco brown dial and the red gold case look like a great match and I especially like the watch’s winding rotor that is shaped like a Lightning P-38 plane. The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” is limited to 250 pieces and is priced at $32,400. iwc.com