Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Le Petit Prince
“Make your life a dream, and a dream a reality.” These words, from Antoine de Saint-Exupery are the embodiment of his famous novella, Le Petit Prince. Saint-Exupery wrote the novella in 1942. Since then, its sold more than 140 million copies and is now available in more than 300 languages and dialects.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery was a french poet, writer, aristocrat and aviation pioneer. Prior to WWII he was a successful commercial pilot and during the War, he joined the French Air Force where he flew reconnaissance missions. During a wartime hiatus in the United States he wrote Le Petit Prince. He returned to war shortly thereafter and his plane disappeared on his ninth reconnaissance mission in 1944. Le Petit Prince helped solidify his status as a French hero afterwards.
Le Petit Prince: The Novella
It’s the story of a young pilot who crashes his plane into the Sahara. Then, after the crash “the little prince,” a young boy who also crashed in the desert greets him. The pilot’s crash is parallel to the author’s own experience of crashing his plane in 1935. The prince, however, has fallen to earth from a tiny asteroid.
The pilot narrator describes this prince as “having golden hair” and a “loveable laugh,” as he listens to the boy tell stories of his life and the strangers he has met on his journey. His journey encompasses seven planets, and their inhabitants. So, while the pilot fixes his plane, he and the prince spend eight incredible and imaginative days together. Their relationship is undoubtedly emotive, and an embodiment of the human condition, showcasing how the smallest of bonds tie us to each other.
The novella is cleverly doused in philosophical commentary on the human condition, and filled with dreams and wonder. Its main theme leaves the reader to reflect on the quote “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”
For many, it is the same with watches. There is an appreciation in these masterful creations for what can’t be seen. Precise machinery in the form of fine movements are hidden inside well-designed cases. Though there is aesthetic beauty to timepieces, it’s the heart that keeps them going.
The IWC and Le Petit Prince Partnership
In 2005, IWC and Saint-Exupery’s estate embarked on a collaboration to bring the imaginative story of Le Petit Prince to the wrists of aviation enthusiasts and dreamers. What resulted is a beautiful collection of watches that embody the spirit of the Prince, with the technicality of aviation.
A beautiful example of this limited-edition collection is a 2017 IWC Big Pilot’s watch with an annual calendar. This particular example is one of two hundred and fifty in production. From a technical standpoint, an IWC caliber 52850 self-winding movement powers the watch. It boasts an impressive 168-hour/7-day power reserve and is in impeccable condition.
Aesthetically, the watch is undeniably a gorgeous homage to the beloved novella. It has a striking, deep-blue dial, and features luminous hands and numerals. There is an annual calendar at the top of the dial that shows the month, date, and year in three separate windows. The advanced mechanism accounts for the individual month’s lengths and only requires a manual correction at the end of February. A 46mm white gold case with a sapphire crystal encases the movement. It also features IWC’s signature large crown.
The watch case sits on a black leather strap with contrasting blue stitching. It is an elegant look that can be dressed up or down.
The Exhibition Caseback
However, as beautiful as the front of this watch is, the back is even more stunning. It has a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback, which showcases the movement and its 36 jewels. The best surprise, however, is the Prince himself. Normally the automatic oscillating weight of a watch is a half circle with little to no decorations. In this case, it is the Prince sitting on his asteroid. The color of the weight is striking against the blue movement and jewels.
This watch has a characteristically retro feel, giving an added nostalgia to the early 20th century novella and the explorative days of aviation. It is part of a stunning collection that evokes not only technical mastery and precision, but also dreams and storytelling. The timepiece brings the wearer closer to the past, while aiming for the future resulting in a watch that is a perfect union of poetry and precision.