Lest you think that this is some tenuous tie-in to the most recent future monarch born in the UK, just note that the two watches IWC has released to commemorate “The Little Prince” are actually a tie-in to literature. While I don’t myself recall ever having read “The Little Prince,” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, it is one of the best-selling books of all time. I mean, how many children’s books from 1943 do you know of that have their own website?
Given that de Saint-Exupéry was an adventurer and a pilot, it only makes sense that the watches being introduced are of the aviator style. Of the two models introduced, the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVII Edition “Le Petit Prince” (ref. IW326506) is the less complex. Driven by the 30110 calibre, it features a 41mm case (only 11mm thick – which is quite nice for an automatic) in stainless steel.
Under the front crystal, we have a striking midnight blue dial with a subtle sunburst pattern, which is complemented quite well by the use of the white lume on the numerals, indices, and handset. And, while I’m still not a fan of the over-sized date window cutouts (as we have on this watch), it fits well into the color palette, and is a less egregious implementation.
For the literary ties, you have a rather subtle one right on the seconds hand. If you look closely at the end, you’ll notice that it’s a stylized star. This is in reference to the fact that, in the book, the titular prince is actually from a star, and came exploring Earth. Flip the watch over, and you’ll find an engraving of the prince on an asteroid, along with the model name, and which serial number it is (out of the 1,000 produced).
Moving on to the more complex of the two brings us to the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince” (Ref. IW502802). While this starts off from the same pilot watch aesthetic as the Mark XVII, it goes in a drastically different direction pretty quickly.
This is evidenced by a quick look at the dial – the perpetual calendar readouts make up three of the four sub dials, as well as an additional year register between 7 and 8 o’clock. The remaining sub dial houses a rather elaborate (in looks, at least) moon phase complication. Of course, those other sub dials aren’t just simple readouts either – they’re hiding some other information.
With the sub dial at 9 o’clock, you have it indicating both the day of the week, and the small seconds. Over at the 3 o’clock register, you have the day of the month indicated, as well as where you are in the 7-day power reserve that the calibre 51613 automatic movement affords. By comparison, the month indication down at 6 o’clock looks almost plain!
Interestingly, for as complex as the various readouts are, IWC asserts that these can all be easily adjusted via the large crown – and the perpetual calendar itself should require no intervention by a watchmaker until 2100, when the typical 4-year cycle of leap years is broken.
This model also contains references to the book. For the first one, take a closer look at that moonphase complication – you’ll notice a small figure standing on the moon. Flip the watch over, and you’ll see a medallion featuring the little prince mounted on the automatic rotor. You may also want to keep your eyes on the lookout for the other niceties in this movement, such as the Glucydur balance and Breguet spring.
Given the number of complications in the movement, and the fact that the watch is called the Big Pilot, it should be no surprise that the red gold case comes in at 46mm, and is 16mm thick. It does carry forth the same midnight blue dial color that we saw in the Mark XVII, but here the numerals, indices, and hands are gold plated (instead of rhodium), which gives an outlined shadow effect once the lume has been applied.
One other major difference between the two models (well, there have been plenty, I’ll give you that) is in the number that are being created. If you recall, there will be 1,000 of the Mark XVII made. Here with the Big Pilot, there will only be 270 pieces made – making it quite a rare beauty out in the wild, that’s for sure. Pricing, accordingly, is different as well – the Mark XVII comes in at $5,400 (on leather), while the Big Pilot carries a price tag of $51,200.
Whichever the model, I think these pieces will have appeal to those who have a fond remembrance of the book from their youth, and (or perhaps just) have a love of adventure, and what the books represent. While I find both watches attractive in their own right (that blue dial is amazing), the Big Pilot has the most ingenious references included in it (especially that moonphase dial), and that really sells the package for me. iwc.com