January 5, 2017
IWC has no shortage of aviation-related partnerships and associations, and the blue Le Petit Prince models are some of their more recognizable special editions. However, also in collaboration with the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation, IWC released the tobacco brown-dialed IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” watch to honor the author of The Little Prince. Instantly recognizable as an IWC Pilot’s watch but with a subdued twist, it’s also the only rattrapante, aka double chronograph, in the pilot’s watch line, which gives it a lot of watchnerd points. Thankfully, this watch also abandons the triple date window that was discarded last year, opting for a day/date indicator.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” borrows from IWC’s refreshed foundational pilot chronograph design. The traditional sub-dial layout used here is similar to that of the standard Pilot’s Watch chronograph pieces, though with hands and numerals done in the more formal font used for these limited edition pieces. This watch is slightly bigger as well, at 44mm wide. On the case back you’ll see the Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft that Saint-Exupéry flew on his last mission in 1944. Also, forgive us for the lack of a photo of the case back but the image above should give a good idea of it.
The Caliber 79420 beating within is built upon the ETA/Valjoux 7750. With the added regulator with a triovis micro-adjustment, custom winding rotor, and (obviously) the proprietary IWC rattrapante chronograph system packed in with high levels of unique finishing, it’s exactly what you’d expect from IWC. Personally, modified movements never bothered me, and it doesn’t take much to realize that a split-second chronograph conversion such as this isn’t exactly a simple “plug in and play” undertaking. Additionally, it gives you everything you’d expect out of a precision instrument like 44 hours of power reserve, a running seconds display, and sub-dials that serve as 30-minute and 12-hour chronograph indicators.
By the way, for anyone who doesn’t know exactly how a split seconds chronograph works, the watch features two chronograph hands as opposed to one. Both hands start simultaneously when the chronograph is activated, but the pusher at 10 o’clock stops just the second chronograph hand. Pushing this again moves the second chronograph hand to immediately synch up with the first one. Functionally, the split seconds chronograph allows you to measure two events.
The big, bold numerals, broadsword-styled hands, and generous application of Super-LumiNova are just some of the elements that make for the kind of quick reference legibility you’d want out of a contemporary pilot’s watch. The seconds hands for the chronograph feature are sleek and unobtrusive when not in use. A nice touch to note is the fact that one of the rattrapante seconds hands is finished with a red tip to help the user differentiate the hands while using the split-second functions. The only feature I might have left out is the day/date indicator, but I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to no-date dials, I must admit, and fully realize that this is a feature many consumers demand.
I was glad to find that the case diameter for this watch was a calming 44mm, the same as its Le Petit Prince model sibling (which still is saddled with the triple date window). While I comfortably hover between 38mm – 42mm for most of my daily watches, I feel that 44mm wide cases can generally offer a pleasant experience for most individuals. Another stunning feature is the way the double-AR-coated sapphire crystal appears almost invisible over the pilot chronograph’s high-contrast slate dial. This is a trait IWC is known for and something that’s playfully accentuated by that blueish hue resulting from the AR coating that we know all too well.
Compared to the ornate elements you’d find on IWC’s Le Petit Prince models, the tribute to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on this watch is quite subtle. Inside of the sub-dial at 6 o’clock, you’ll find a single letter A. that is also a recurring theme in other Antoine de Saint-Exupéry watches within the IWC line. It’s unobtrusive, tasteful, and is typically out of sight unless you really pay attention to it. Aside from the features outlined above, IWC also includes a soft iron cage under the hood, which serves to provide shock resistance and anti-magnetic shielding. There’s also just one strap option, and that’s the brown calfskin Santoni strap that looks beautiful.
Overall, from a design standpoint, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition “Antoine De Saint Exupéry” is a success, in my opinion. It’s far from exciting or revolutionary in any way, but it’s a collector’s piece and a prestige item for IWC, who certainly payed attention to the details. Just for some context, another 2016 release like the Sinn 910 Anniversary Limited Edition Split Second Chronograph serves up some pretty steep competition for IWC in terms of value but that’s not what the buyer of this watch cares about. This model is limited to 1000 pieces, comes on a beautiful Santoni leather strap, and carries a price of $11,900. iwc.com