IWC's New Pilot's Watch Marks The 70th Anniversary Of Antoine De Saint-Exupéry's Last Flight

IWC's New Pilot's Watch Marks The 70th Anniversary Of Antoine De Saint-Exupéry's Last Flight Comment Now Follow Comments Following Comments Unfollow Comments

iwc Swiss watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen ’s latest timepiece – the ninth in the series since 2006 paying tribute to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry , the pilot and award-winning author of The Little Prince – commemorates the 70 th anniversary of his last flight. That final fateful day that led to the WWII hero’s mysterious disappearance began on the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea…

Preeminent Fake IWC Watch It proved to be one mission too many. Despite his age and battered body due to multiple injuries caused by plane crashes in the Libyan Desert, bay of Saint-Raphaël, Mekong and Guatemala City, miraculously escaping death each time, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wouldn’t take no for an answer. With his do or die attitude, he was adamant that he had to fly again, not for the sake of personal glory but in the service of France, to liberate his beloved homeland from the grip of Nazi Germany during WWII. Tormented by inaction after being grounded for overshooting the runway in 1943, he was prepared to sacrifice his life.

A picture of the legendary aviator and writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, taken in 1930 in Argentina (Photo courtesy of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – d’Agay Estate)

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IWC Replica Watches Through his celebrity and political connections, he was able to rejoin the active list of the French Air Force’s 2/33 reconnaissance unit. He was the only 44-year-old allowed to pilot a monoplane, especially the American Lockheed P-38 Lightning – the world’s fastest and most advanced at the time – as it was usually reserved for young, fit elite pilots instead of someone too old for active service. But his rejection of the rules would ultimately lead to his demise.

Preeminent Fake IWC Watch At 8.45am on 31 July 1944, Saint-Exupéry took off from a military air base in Corsica aboard the P-38 Lightning on a photographic mission to map the east of Lyon. At 12.30pm, there was no sign of him and, two hours later, his fuel would have run out. A message was emitted: “Pilot did not return and is presumed lost.”

The last remaining flying Lockheed P-38 Lightning in Europe flies above the bay of Agay in the south of France (Photo Alain Ernoult )

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Although his body has never been found, his chain bracelet bearing the words “Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Consuelo), c/o Reynal and Hitchcock Inc., 386 4 th Ave. N.Y. U.S.A.” was discovered in the Mediterranean off the coast of Marseille by fisherman Jean-Claude Bianco, as well as fragments of his Lightning that had exploded on impact, engraved with the serial number “2734 L”, indicating his plane.

In 2008, a former German Luftwaffe pilot, Horst Rippert, claimed he had downed a Lightning with French colors, presumably that of his idol, Saint-Exupéry. His account remains unverifiable as Luftwaffe records show no records of such an event. To date, it still isn’t known whether Saint-Exupéry’s plane crashed due to enemy fire, accident, pilot error, sudden illness or suicide.

The pilot’s great-nephew, Olivier d’Agay, notes, “Saint-Exupéry was the third way between the Gaullists and Vichy France. He took another position and was only interested in convincing the Americans to come and fight for democracy. For him, it was very important to be in the war and to support his own ideas. This third way during wartime is not good because you have to be on the right or the left; you cannot be in the centre. He left New York in April 1943 with the American army and went back to Algiers, then to his original unit to pilot the Lightning and did a lot of missions. It was a terrible time for him because he had no news from his family and the Gaullists were really hard on him – they tried to stop him flying, but he was supported by the American President. At the time, it was first come, first served with the available planes at the airfield in Corsica. He was not supposed to do his last mission, actually, but he went to the airfield, the pilot wasn’t there, a plane was available and he left.”

Fast-forward 70 years: IWC brought a select group of journalists back in time, to Agay (one of the Allied landing sites in Provence) in the French Côte d’Azur, where Saint-Exupéry used to fly over his sister’s house, write tirelessly and do a lot of soul-searching. It was here that he decided to go to the US after the fall of France in 1940. Exiled in New York in 1941, he implored the engagement of the US in the war, and as he wrote during a period full of doubt, he had an incredible urge to re-enter combat under the US flag, although fighting without a country.

We were treated to an aerial demonstration by the last flying P-38 Lightning in Europe , owned by Red Bull Red Bull , the remaining five being based in the US. Despite being able to reach speeds nearing those of modern jetliners, the twin-engined riveted aluminum beauty purred by as it performed loops and spectacular flybys, cruising at 5Gs for our viewing pleasure, the Austrian pilot, Raimund Riedmann, describing it as a “pilot’s plane” and comparing it to a Cadillac due to its spacious cockpit.

However, we could imagine the difficult wartime conditions in which Saint-Exupéry flew: he was kept alive by bottled oxygen and an electrically-heated flight suit in an unpressurized and non-insulated cockpit, where temperatures could reach -50˚C at high altitude, separated from the elements solely by a thin shell of metal and Plexiglas, and his Lightning was unarmed being equipped with cameras instead.

Conversely, we had a taste of what it must have been like as a German soldier with a flight experience aboard a vintage Junkers Ju 52, a German transport aircraft manufactured from 1932 to 1945, which saw both civilian and military service. In a military capacity, it flew with the Luftwaffe as a troop and cargo transport plane and briefly as a medium bomber. We were flown from Cannes past the bay of Agay and Sainte-Maxime to Port Grimaud on an exhilarating ride that saw the plane lunge on its side, wings fully vertical, above Saint-Tropez and circle round, giving us a dizzying feeling and an idea of the complex maneuvers the pilots would have had to perform during WWII.

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “The Last Flight” in a brown silicon nitride ceramic case with crown, pushers and caseback in platinum (Photo courtesy of IWC Schaffhausen)

 

Back at Cannes Mandelieu airport, IWC commemorated Saint-Exupéry’s last flight with the launch of the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “The Last Flight” in three special limited editions featuring a 46-mm brown silicon nitride ceramic case (in the same tobacco color as Saint-Exupéry’s flying suit), brown dial, brown calfskin strap and crown, pushers and caseback in titanium, red gold or platinum. The IWC-manufactured 89361 automatic chronograph caliber with 68-hour power reserve operates 12-hour and 60-minute stopwatch functions displayed on a counter at 12 o’clock, a central chronograph seconds hand and a date window. The caseback is engraved with a special 70 th -anniversary logo depicting the head of Saint-Exupéry; the same image is em­bossed on the timepiece’s leather case, which houses a rotor-shaped letter opener. The precious metal models come with a print on duraluminum by French artist Manolo Chrétien .

The caseback in 18-karat red gold is engraved with a special 70th-anniversary logo depicting the head of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Photo courtesy of IWC Schaffhausen)

In November 2014, IWC will offer a platinum version of the timepiece at a Sotheby’s Geneva auction, whose entire proceeds will be donated to the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation , the charitable arm of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – d’Agay Estate (Saint-Exupéry’s heirs).

Nicolas Delsalle, the Foundation’s Secretary-General, says, “The family realized there was a large existing network of NGOs worldwide and it would be interesting to bring them together under the aegis of a foundation to promote their activities and raise more funds to help them. We support local educational initiatives for disadvantaged youth globally based on Saint-Exupéry’s universal values of fraternity, friendship, duty, valor, selflessness and the invisible links that bind men together, revealed in his writings and actions, thereby providing guidelines for adolescents on their journey to becoming socially-responsible adults. For the past four years, we’ve been supporting 10 projects a year, which is a major undertaking for a family foundation.”

With an almost 80-year tradition in the manufacture of pilot’s watches, IWC had decided to pursue a partnership with Saint-Exupéry’s descendants due to their many shared principles: a passion for flying, technology and engineering, and a sense of social responsibility.

IWC CEO, Georges Kern, remarks, “When we invest money, we want clear projects, clear outcomes and tangible assets; we don’t just give money away. The interesting part of our storytelling is that we have stories like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Spitfire and Top Gun – from the historical aspect of piloting to the very modern aspect of piloting. This makes the associations powerful, versatile and wide-ranging, which attracts different people, from those who are more inspired by current technical achievements to those who are more inspired by the craziness of these stories.

“For us, it’s very important to tell stories and create dreams to add value to our products. We love our association with Saint-Exupéry for three reasons: the story of the man, which is unbelievable and which you cannot invent; his writings, the way he wrote and the fact that he wrote the most important novel of humankind; and the Foundation’s work, which gives us the opportunity to build something concrete, brick and mortar, as we did several months ago in Cambodia, where our money was used to build a school for hundreds of children.”

In keeping with Saint-Exupéry’s thinking, IWC will this year be financially supporting the Foundation’s commitment to the Hospital Pequeno Príncipe in Curitiba – Brazil’s largest children’s hospital specializing in highly-complex heart operations, organ and bone transplants and cancer treatment – which will lead to the creation of a library for its young patients in the hospital’s recreational area to encourage literacy and reading as a constructive way of spending their free time.

The IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “The Last Flight” comes in three limited editions featuring different materials for the crown, pushers and caseback: 17 pieces in platinum, 170 pieces in 18-karat red gold and 1,700 pieces in titanium. Part of the proceeds will go to the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation .

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