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chaffhausen, 16 April 2012 – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
was already a legend in his own lifetime. People are
fascinated as much by his books, which have been
translated into more than 50 languages, as by his adventurous
life as a pilot. In 2012, the year of the Pilot’s Watches, IWC
Schaffhausen dedicates to this passionate humanist a
chronograph that unites the aspirations of those pioneering
days of aviation with modern watch technology.
100 years ago, a young boy stood on the airfield of Ambérieu-
en-Bugey in south-eastern France, looking on in wonder as the
aircraft took off and landed. In those early days of modern
aviation, the contraptions that took to the sky were as
fascinating as the magnificent men who flew them. Eventually,
the boy plucked up his courage and asked the pilot Gabriel
Salvez to take him for a spin in the cockpit of a Berthaud-
Wroblewski. He spun the somewhat sceptical pilot a yarn,
claiming that his mother would have no objections. Salvez took
him at his word and so, one sunny day in July 1912, 12-year-
old Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had his first taste of flying: an
experience that was to leave its mark on the future world-
renowned poet and pilot for the rest of his life.
Pilot’s Watch Chronograph from IWC as a
sixth tribute
Famed for its 70-year tradition in the manufacture of Pilot’s
Watches, IWC Schaffhausen is using the anniversary of Antoine
de Saint-Exupéry’s memorable first flight as an occasion to
dedicate its sixth special edition to his memory:
the Pilot’s
Watch Chronograph Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry
in 18-carat red gold (Ref. 387805) in a limited edition of 500
watches. For connoisseurs, the tobacco-coloured dial and
calfskin strap with its cream-coloured quilted stitching
immediately identify the chronograph as a typical “Saint Ex”.
The elaborate surface finish featuring polished, silky-matte and
structured elements enhances the overall quality of the watch’s
appearance. This impression is underscored by the sun-pattern
finish on the dial. The sapphire glass has antireflective coating
on both sides and is secured against drops in air pressure.
Developed and manufactured exclusively by IWC, the 89361-
calibre movement is a technical masterpiece. It displays long
periods of times on a single subdial. A special engraving
embellishes the back of the watch. It depicts the last aircraft
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ever flew, a Lightning P-38. It was
on 31 July 1944 that “Saint-Ex” took off in a machine like this
to carry out a reconnaissance mission over occupied France and
never returned. In 2003, wreckage from his Lightning was
salvaged from the Mediterranean Sea near Marseille.
Successful cooperation
In 2006, fragments of the aircraft, together with other exhibits,
were displayed for the first time as part of a project organized
jointly by IWC Schaffhausen and the Succession Antoine de
Saint-Exupéry – d’Agay at the musée de l’Air et de l’Espace in
Le Bourget, near Paris. The acclaimed exhibition marked the
beginning of a relationship, which was based on mutual trust,
between Saint-Exupéry’s heirs and the Swiss watch
manufacturer that has lasted to this day. “With our long
tradition of manufacturing Pilot’s Watches, we feel that there
are strong bonds that bind us to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,”
explains Georges Kern, CEO of IWC. “We were inspired by a
man who was also a passionate designer and who obtained his
first aeronautical patent in 1936, the very year that IWC, with
the same obsession for engineering, built its first Special Pilot’s
Watch and unveiled it to the public. We have enormous
admiration for a pilot who was prepared to risk his life in the
name of technological progress. And we are honouring Saint-
Exupéry, the great writer and humanist, with whose works
many of us grew up. Mankind and its pursuit of happiness are
themes that are prevalent throughout his work.” IWC
Schaffhausen is a partner of the Succession Antoine de Saint-
Exupéry – d’Agay society. The descendants of the passionate
pilot ensure that the adventurer’s spiritual legacy lives on.
IWC’s commitment also extends to the society’s charitable arm
in the form of support for the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth
Foundation. True to his credo, “For human beings, there is only
one truth: the truth that turns them into human beings” (from
his novel “Wind, Sand and Stars”), the Foundation has
dedicated itself to the famous Frenchman’s humanitarian
legacy. Working with its partners, it helps young people
worldwide who are growing up in difficult and often hostile
circumstances. These young people are encouraged to build
their own futures and to play an active role in society.
A tribute to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Since it started working with the Succession Antoine de Saint-
Exupéry – d’Agay, IWC has used special editions of its Pilot’s
Watches to commemorate the French author’s works that are
closely linked to the pioneering days of aviation. The Pilot’s
Watch Chronograph launched in 2006 was a tribute to the
novel “Night Flight”. This was followed in 2007 by the Pilot’s
Watch Automatic, which paid homage to his gripping work
“Southern Mail”, and in 2008 by the Pilot’s Watch UTC, to
mark his poetic novel “Wind, Sand and Stars”. In 2009 and
2010, the Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry
honoured his outstanding life’s work. The special edition
selected for 2011 was the rarely made Big Pilot’s Watch
Perpetual Calendar, and in 2012 the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph
Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry is a reminder of how the
aviator, poet and humanist discovered his great passion.
The adventurous life of a flying pioneer
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s biography reads like a chronicle of
modern aviation. Born in Lyon in 1900, he was taking flying
lessons by the age of 21 and by 1922 already had his licence. In
1927, he flew on the Toulouse–Casablanca– Dakar route. That
same year, he was appointed manager of a remote airfield in
Morocco. This was the period that inspired his first novel,
“Southern Mail”. In 1929, Saint-Exupéry was appointed
director of an airline in Buenos Aires. Although the
introduction of regular night flights expedited postal deliveries,
night-time flying, with the technology that existed at that time,
was fraught with risk. His novel “Night Flight” is a tale of the
challenges facing pilots and their heroism in surmounting
them. In 1931, Saint- Exupéry was back in Northern Africa,
working as an airmail pilot. After flying seaplanes for a brief
period and piloting mail flights across Africa, his memorable
time as an airmail pilot came to an end in 1932. During his
attempt to break the long-distance record from Paris to Saigon
in 1935, he crash-landed in the Egyptian desert and was saved
virtually at the last minute from dying of thirst. A second
attempt to break a flying record was likewise doomed to failure:
in 1938, Saint-Exupéry left New York in the direction of Tierra
del Fuego. After a brief stopover, the aircraft made a crash
landing and, once again, Saint-Exupéry survived, as if by a
miracle. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, and
by now a celebrated author and pilot, he was attached to a
reconnaissance squadron. Demobilized after the
ceasefire of 1940, he obtained permission
to return to active military service in
1943. On 31 July 1944, “Saint-
Ex”, as his admirers fondly
referred to him, climbed into
the cockpit of his Lightning P-
38 to carry out a
over occupied France. He
never returned.
With a clear focus on
development, the Swiss
watch manufacturer
IWC Schaffhausen has
been producing watches
of lasting value since
1868. The company has
gained an international
reputation based on a passion for
innovative solutions and technical
ingenuity. One of the world’s leading
brands in the luxury watch segment,
IWC crafts masterpieces of Haute
Horlogerie at its finest, combining supreme
precision with exclusive design. Discover the
world of IWC and the fascinating life story of
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry at