Just over seventy years ago, on July 31, 1944 writer, author and pioneering airman Major Antoine de Saint Exupéry taxied his Lockheed P-38 Lightning down a Corsican airstrip and took off into clear blue skies on a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean Sea and the coastline of his beloved France. Although slightly portly and a little past the regulation age for air force service, the patriotic Frenchman still pushed to serve in the Allies final drive to victory over Hitler’s armies. As his plane vanished to a speck in the sky, it would be the last that was seen of him, as during that flight his aircraft became locked in the crosshairs of a Luftwaffe hunter and cannon fire sent him to his untimely demise into the sea off Marseilles.
This noble weaver of many’s a childhood memory was gone, but his legacy Le Petit Prince, the very embodiment of childhood innocence whom he created would remain, becoming a national hero himself in France, and continue to delight to this very day.
Saint Exupéry was a remarkable man in the true meaning of the word – a born aviator, he devoted much of his life to flight, and was even a key player in the establishment of reliable air mail services in North Africa and his second home Argentina. All along, he would write of his exploits, with his journals becoming novels, and even at this he enjoyed great popularity and success. Before Le Petit Prince.
In 2006, to mark the 75th anniversary of his 1931 novel Night Flight (Vol de Nuit), IWC first paid tribute to the man and his extraordinary legend with a limited edition collection based upon their Pilot Chronograph, which featured a distinctive tobacco coloured dial and commemorative caseback. Of 1931 pieces produced, only one was made in platinum, and this lone example went to auction to raise funds for children’s charities.
The initial IWC Edition Saint Exupéry was a resounding success and with a follow-on the next year, it became an annual event, and each year since, an IWC Pilots watch with its tobacco dial and which bears his likeness on the back has become a regular date on the IWC calendar.
For 2014, the IWC Saint Exupéry is offered in three limited ‘The Last Flight’ editions, remembering that fateful journey on the last day of July in 1944. All three feature the same 12 hour chronograph with flyback and single shared subdial at the 12 o’clock position for chrono minutes and hours, using IWC’s automatic self winding manufacture Calibre 89361.
They also share the same tobacco brown ceramic case and the now familiar dial, with 1700 pieces of the 1887 total featuring titanium crown, pushers and commemorative inscribed and etched caseback. Another 170 pieces have 18kt red gold for these details as well as gold plated subdials, and finally the remaining 17 are finished with platinum crown, pushers and caseback.
Of these last 17 exclusive pieces in platinum, one will go under the hammer at Sothebys later this year, with the entire proceeds going to provide a library in Brazil’s Hospital Pequeno Príncipe in Curitiba, the country’s largest children’s hospital, so on top of the love and care they already have, those little ones will have access to the kind of literature which Saint Exupéry himself created.
IWC Antoine de Saint Exupéry – Price
Limited Edition (1700 Units) in Titanium : 13,100 €
Limited Edition (170 Units) in Red Gold : 21,700 €
Limited Edition (17 Units) in Platinium : 28,900 €