A reconnaissance flight over the South of France on 31 July 1944 brought an abrupt end to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s career and passion for flying. After taking off from a military base in Corsica, his Lockheed P-38 Lightning vanished without trace. Saint-Exupéry had already been discharged from the air force because of his age. He was also slightly overweight, and too big for the aircraft’s narrow cockpit.
Despite all that, he was a patriot and an author constantly in search of adventure and decided to embark on the reconnaissance flight. Somewhere close to Toulon he was spotted by the German Luftwaffe. Speculation as to where he came down only ended in 1998, when a fisherman found a bracelet belonging to the French national hero in his net while fishing off the shore of Marseille.
Pieces of wreckage were later recovered from the sea and identified as parts of Saint-Exupéry’s aircraft. The German pilot who all those years ago had unwittingly shot down one of his favourite authors recently met the French aviator’s family for the first time.
This year, the Schaffhausen based watch manufacturer marks the 70th anniversary of Saint-Exupéry’s last flight with three special editions featuring silicon nitride ceramic cases: the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “The Last Flight” is available with a crown and push-buttons in titanium, red gold or platinum, each in a limited series.
In November, Sotheby’s Geneva will auction one of the platinum models. As on many occasions in the past, IWC will donate the entire proceeds to the Antoine de Saint Exupéry Youth Foundation, which champions the great Frenchman’s humanitarian philosophy and is involved in projects aimed at improving literacy among children and young people across the world. On this occasion, the money is destined for the Hospital Pequeno Príncipe in Curitiba. Brazil’s largest children’s hospital is a respected centre specializing in highly complex heart operations, organ and bone transplants and cancer treatment, and is able to count on the help of over 500 volunteers. Thanks to IWC’s contribution, the hospital’s recreational area will soon have a library to offer its young patients. Access to good literature should encourage them to take pleasure in reading and culture, and to find a constructive way of spending their free time.
As recently as November 2013, a unique timepiece from the Swiss luxury watch manufacturer came under the hammer at Sotheby’s Geneva. The proceeds of CHF 173,000 were used to open two school buildings including a library in Cambodia, which offer an education to 1,200 children. IWC Schaffhausen, well known for its almost 80 years’ experience in the manufacture of Pilot’s Watches, decided to pursue a partnership with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s descendants due to their many shared values. They both share a passion for flying, technology and engineering, and have a pronounced sense of social responsibility.
|Ref. IW388004: black counters, push-buttons, crown and
case back in titanium, hands and appliqués rhodium-plated with
Super-LumiNova®coating, limited to 1,700 watches
Since the very first one, all IWC special editions in honour of the legendary Antoine de Saint-Exupéry have featured the same tobacco colour as the flying suit he used to wear. While this elegant colour was restricted to the dial in earlier models, the new Pilot’s Watches in “The Last Flight” Chrono graph Edition are much more consistent, with a brown ceramic case made from silicon nitride, a brown dial and a calfskin strap in the same colour.
The titanium pushbuttons, crown and case back provide a pleasing contrast on the 1,700 pieces in the limited edition (Ref. IW388004), a further 170 watches (Ref. IW388006) have eye-catching red gold highlights and 17 timepieces (Ref. IW388005) feature a crown, buttons and case back in platinum.
|Ref. IW388005: rhodium-plated counters, push-buttons,
crown and case back in platinum, hands and appliqués rhodium-plated with
Super-LumiNova®coating, limited to 17 watches
The rugged case, made of high-performance ceramic silicon nitride, has several outstanding properties such as enormous heat resistance, unusual hardness, corrosion resistance and very low wear and tear.
The sense of quality emanated by this model is underscored by the elaborate sun-pattern finish on the dial. The sapphire glass has an antireflective coating on both sides and is secured against drops in air pressure, while the case is water-resistant to 6 bar.
|Ref. IW388006: red-gold-plated counters, push-buttons,
crown and case back in 18-carat red gold, hands and appliqués
gold-plated with Super-LumiNova®coating, limited to 170 watches
Developed and manufactured by IWC entirely in Schaffhausen, the 89361 calibre is a technical masterpiece. Stop times up to 12 hours are clearly displayed on an analogue hour and minute counter on a subdial. The back of the watch is engraved with a special image which commemorates the 70th anniversary of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s last flight.
The timepiece itself is packaged in a leather case embossed with the same motif as the exquisite engraving on the case back, and is accompanied by a rotor-shaped letter opener in stainless steel. The two models, with crown and push-buttons in precious metals, also come with a print by French artist Manolo Chrétien on duralumin in a brown leather frame.
IWC-manufactured Calibre 89361
Mechanical chronograph movement – Self-winding
Frequency: 28,800 A/h (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 68 h
Stopwatch function with hours, minutes and seconds
Hour and minute counters, combined in a totalizer at 12 o’clock
Small hacking seconds
Case, dial and strap
Brown silicon nitride ceramic case, brown dial, brown calfskin strap with quilted stitching, pin buckle
Glass: sapphire, convex, antireflective coating on both sides, withstands drops in air pressure
Water-resistant: 6 bar
Diameter: 46 mm
Case height: 16.5 mm
Special engraving on case back in memory of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s last flight
- Ref. IW388004: black counters, push-buttons, crown and case back in titanium, hands and appliqués rhodium-plated with Super-LumiNova®coating, limited to 1,700 watches
- Ref. IW388006: red-gold-plated counters, push-buttons, crown and case back in 18-carat red gold, hands and appliqués gold-plated with Super-LumiNova®coating, limited to 170 watches
- Ref. IW388005: rhodium-plated counters, push-buttons, crown and case back in platinum, hands and appliqués rhodium-plated with Super-LumiNova®coating, limited to 17 watches