IWC Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry


Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry

A watch for the aviation hero “Saint-Ex”
La Cote des Montres - April 19th, 2006

Pilot’s Watch Chrono-Automatic - Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry - Ref.: IW3717
He was called “Saint-Ex” by the Americans because they were unable to pronounce his name.

On 31 July 1944, Major Antoine de Saint-Exupéry took off in a Lockheed P38 Lightning from a US airbase on Corsica on a reconnaissance flight over his occupied homeland of France.

He would never return. Legends have since become woven around the author and aviation pioneer, the father of the “Little Prince”, who is revered as a national hero in France. Many years before, Saint-Exupéry had been involved in building up the Aéroposta Argentina airmail company operating from Buenos Aires, which was the first functional airmail network in that part of the world.

Its speciality was domestic and transatlantic overnight airmail services, which gave it the upper hand over ships and trains in the race against time. It was hard work and a constant struggle against bad weather and heavy thunderstorms in aircraft that were initially scarcely suitable for the purpose. The ensuing drama, as one of these mail planes lost its struggle against the limited time and the forces of nature, is described in the novel “Night Flight”, which Saint-Exupéry brought back to Europe in 1931.

The Swiss watch manufacture IWC Schaffhausen, which has been constructing professional pilot’s watches since the mid-1930s, has chosen the anniversary of the publication of the novel as the occasion for a special edition of its new mechanical Pilot’s Chronograph. The Special Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry will be limited to exactly 1,931watches – with a tobacco-coloured dial, special protection against magnetic fields, an automatic winding system, aggregate time recording up to 12 hours, and a case-back engraving that portrays the flying hero.

The 1,931 examples of this distinctive watch will comprise 1,630 examples in stainless steel, 250 in rose gold, 50 in white gold and a single example – not for sale – in a platinum case. The platinum watch will be auctioned together with a first edition of “Vol de nuit” in French for the benefit of the “Vol de Nuit/Vuelo Nocturno” association. This association takes care of neglected children in Argentina, a country which was very important for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. <3w:nb5607>

A watch for the aviation hero “Saint-Ex”

Pilot’s Watch Chrono-Automatic Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry 

Saint-Exupéry, pilot
This special edition of a pilot’s watch from IWC builds a bridge to one of the pioneers of aviation. More precisely, to the pioneer who, as both author and pilot, described the great human adventure of flying 75 years ago.

His name: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,


who later became famous throughout the world for his “Little Prince”. But, in 1931, he created a literary memorial to the difficult early days of the airmail service in South America and to all his fellow aviators of the time. A more perceptive story about the struggle of mechanized man against the forces of nature and the relentless passage of time has not been put down on paper since his novel “Night Flight”, which describes the loss of an aircraft from Patagonia en route for Buenos Aires.

IWC Schaffhausen, a specialist in the construction of professional pilot’s watches since the mid-1930s, has taken this occasion to create a limited edition of its new Pilot’s Watch Chronograph with an automatic winding system: The Pilot’s Watch Chrono-Automatic Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry. This professional timepiece with stop function and aggregate time recording up to 12 hours, a new 42 mm diameter case, classic protection of the movement against the effects of magnetic fields up to 24,000 A/m provided by an inner case made of soft iron, water-resistance to 60 m, a coated anti reflective and convex sapphire glass, screw-in crown and tobacco-coloured dial, which has not been offered previously by IWC in a pilot’s watch.

The two inner dials for the minutes counter and the hours counter have a silver finish and are clearly larger than the small seconds hand. The circle of the hours counter is decorated with the initial “A” taken from the signature of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The case back is engraved with the likeness of the author and pilot and shows “Saint-Ex” in his flying gear on the airfield at the Borgo airbase on Corsica. This famous photograph was taken by LIFE photographer John Phillips just a few days before Saint-Exupéry’s last, fatal mission on 31 July 1944.

Edition limited by history


The horological tribute by IWC to “Night Flight” takes the year of publication, 1931, as the basis for a limited edition comprised of 1,630 examples in stainless steel, 250 in rose gold and 50 in white gold. This makes 1,930 watches in total. The missing digit from the publication date of 1931 will be a single Special Edition watch in platinum. This is not for sale, however, and it will be auctioned for charity together with a copy of the first edition of “Vol de nuit”in French and a handwritten page from the original manuscript plus a drawing by the author.

Every one of the 1,931 watches will be accompanied by a copy of the novel “Night Flight”.

This marks the start of a three-year trilogy in honour of Saint-Exupéry’s literary tributes to aviation. “Southern Mail” and “The Aviator” were also strongly inspired by his life as a professional pilot and will accompany the corresponding watches in the following years.

A further joint activity between IWC Schaffhausen and the Société Civile pour l’Œuvre et la Mémoire d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is an exhibition with the theme of time, aviation and pilot’s watches. The exhibition will open on 29 June 2006 and cover an area of 1,000 m2 at the Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget near Paris. Its historic content is a valuable addition to what is already regarded throughout the world as one of the oldest and best-endowed museums of aeronautics.
1931 examples - 1630 in stainless steel, 250 in rose gold and 50 in white gold

Technical data

Pilot’s Watch Chrono-Automatic Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry Ref. IW3717



Mechanical chronograph movement, day and date display, small seconds with stop function


Vibrations:28,800/h / 4 Hz
Power reserve:44 h


Material:18ct white gold, 18ct. rose gold, stainless steel
Glass:sapphire, convex, antireflective coating, secure against drop in air pressure
Water-resistant:60 m
Diameter:42 mm



Watch in 18 ct. white gold
with buffalo leather strap
:130 g
Watch in 18 ct. rose gold
with buffalo leather strap
:125 g
Watch in stainless steel
with buffalo leather strap
:108 g

“I shall look as if I were dead; and that will not be true ...,”


says the little prince to his friend, the pilot, before he leaves planet earth once again. This sentence from the best-known book by the great French author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, can be read in retrospect as a premonition: “Saint-Ex” climbed into the cockpit of his Lockheed P38 Lightning on the military airfield at Borgo in Corsica for a reconnaissance flight over occupied France on 31July 1944. He failed to return. It was a flight into immortality.

A life devoted to aviation


Saint-Exupéry, weiter
“You must first learn to see and then write,” he had declared many years before. He himself learned to see during the period of his life spent in the pilot’s seat. The life history of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who was born in Lyon in 1900, runs practically parallel to the birth and rise of modern aviation. At the age of 21, he enlisted in the 2nd Fighter Wing at Strasbourg and took additional flying lessons at his own expense.

He later became a reserve lieutenant in the 33rd Fighter Wing at Le Bourget near Paris, and he put his aeronautical thoughts down on paper for the first time in 1926 in his short story “The Aviator”, which forms the core of his novel “Southern Mail”. In the same year, he found employment with the Latécoère Aviation Company, where he organised the Toulouse–Dakar–Casablanca airmail service. In 1929, he was appointed director of the Aéroposta Argentina, an airmail company in Buenos Aires.

Saint-Exupéry was involved in building up the airmail service there until 1931, and he brought the novel “Night Flight” (Vol de nuit) with him on his return. The increasing speed of the steamships and railways, which were attempting to make up for aircraft’s time advantage by adding night routes, forced the aviation companies into this previously unimaginable adventure, in which the forces of nature, technical problems and inadequate communication links frequently gained the upper hand over what was feasible according to plan. “Night Flight” describes the desperate struggle of a mail plane against an insurmountable thunderstorm – and against the flight time that was limited by a shortage of fuel.

The novel ends in a bitter defeat, yet it could not stop the ambitious project for the inception of night flights and its associated progress. The work, which deals with Saint-Exupéry’s own experiences, creates a literary memorial to the pioneers of aviation. However, above all, it put the central theme of flying under limited time constraints into focus in a unique fashion.

Tribute to a great man


The fitting idea of IWC is to mark the 75th anniversary of the novel with a Pilot’s Watch Special Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry. A copy of the book will also accompany every example of the watch, which is limited to 1,931pieces. The limited edition IWC Pilot’s Chronograph bears the famous image of “Saint-Ex” in flying gear as an engraving on the back of the case. This was taken by his friend and photographer, John Phillips, just a few days before the 44-year-old author and pilot, who had longsince exceeded the age for such operations, took off on his last flight. Parts of the wreckage have since been found, after a search that lasted for many years.

But, “Saint-Ex” lives on.


Montres d’Aviateur IWC "Vintage"