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Experiences

IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN PAYS TRIBUTE TO SAINT-EXUPÉRY’S LAST FLIGHT

Text — IWC / Bernard Chabbert Date — 11 August, 2014

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Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “The Last Flight”

IW388005 / IW388006 / IW388004

FEATURES

  • Mechanical chronograph movement
  • Self-winding
  • Date display
  • Stopwatch function with hours, minutes and seconds
  • Hour and minute counters, combined in a totalizer at 12 o’clock
  • Flyback function
  • Small hacking seconds
  • Screw-in crown
  • Special engraving on case back in memory of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s last flight


MOVEMENT

  • IWC-manufactured calibre: 89361
  • Frequency: 28,800 A/h / 4 Hz
  • Jewels: 38
  • Power reserve: 68h
  • Winding: automatic

WATCH

  • Materials: brown silicon nitride ceramic case, brown dial, brown calfskin strap with quilted stitching, pin buckle
    • Ref. IW388005: rhodium-plated counters, push-buttons, crown and case back in platinum, hands and appliqués rhodium-plated with Super-LumiNova®* coating, limited to 17 watches
    • Ref. IW388006: red-gold-plated counters, push-buttons, crown and case back in 18-carat red gold, hands and appliqués gold-plated with Super-LumiNova®* coating, limited to 170 watches
    • Ref. IW388004: black counters, push-buttons, crown and case back in titanium, hands and appliqués rhodium-plated with Super-LumiNova®* coating, limited to 1,700 watches
  • Glass: Sapphire, convex, antireflective coating on both sides, withstands drops in air pressure
  • Water-resistant: 6 bar
  • Diameter: 46mm
  • Case height: 16.5mm

*IWC Schaffhausen is not the owner of the Super-LumiNova® trademark.

A prince in his citadel

It is a very strange story indeed…

It is the story of a man who remained true to his principles, turning his back on a life blessed by considerable success, fame, fortune and respect from his contemporaries to go to war, where he ultimately met a soldier’s death.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, born in 1900, had gone against the system in 1939 to be authorized to fly on combat missions as a reconnaissance pilot with the French air force Group II/33 during the first year of the Second World War. Nearing 40, he obviously was already too old for active service, and physically unfit to deal with the rigours of wartime flying. But his sense of honour did not allow him to accept being kept on the ground to be used as a propaganda puppet, which was the intention of the French military high command, who wanted to exploit his status as a revered writer. His last award had been the prestigious Grand Prix du Roman de l’Académie Française for “Terre des Hommes”, translated into English by his American publisher under the title “Wind, Sand and Stars”.

Thus, he was allowed to fly big, brutal, twin-engined Bloch 174 photo-reconnaissance monsters on hair-raising missions above the advancing German troops.

After the fall of France in June 1940, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry retreated to his family house on the Mediterranean coast, did a lot of soul-searching, and after a few months decided to go to America, where “Wind, Sand and Stars” had been declared the 1939 Book of the Year. He reasoned that helping to bring the United States into the war was the only way for him to have a hand in defeating Nazi Germany, and by the end of December 1940 had crossed the Atlantic aboard an ocean liner sailing from Lisbon, sharing a cabin with his friend and film director Jean Renoir.

In New York he discovered that he had become a major literary star in the wake of the Book of the Year Award, and by 1943 his status had skyrocketed with the publication of “Flight to Arras”, which became a wartime best-seller, and of course “The Little Prince”, which would go on to become one of the best-selling books of all time. This all happened while he was also writing articles, giving speeches, consulting with high-ranking US officials and helping America to better understand the necessity of fighting Hitler’s Germany.

Following Operation Torch – the invasion of North Africa by American and British forces – the great Frenchman decided to exploit his status to once more bend the rules and satisfy his desire for combat.

His justification was that a person only earns the right to tell others what is right and what is wrong by what they do, not what they say, so he returned to his unit, Group II/33, which was now under US command and equipped with the most feared aircraft of the time, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.

The “fork-tailed devil”, as it was known to the German Luftwaffe, was a beautiful, twin-engined, twin-tailed single-seater, capable of flying up to 7 miles above the ground and reaching speeds near to those of modern jetliners, but with an unpressurized cockpit in which the controls were devoid of any form of automation. Sitting in a Lightning was like sitting in an aluminium bathtub nestled between two big, fire-breathing Allison engines, separated from the fringes of the stratosphere by no more than a thin shell of metal and Plexiglas; pilots were kept alive by bottled oxygen and an electrically heated flight suit. The noise inside was incredible, the vibrations were bone rattling. The overcomplicated Lightning was a real hot rod of the skies, reserved for young, cool, competent and well-trained aviators – men cut from the same cloth as those who would later become the first astronauts.

Old Saint Ex, as he was known to his friends, fought to become a Lightning pilot, and at 43 became the oldest flying warrior in the Mediterranean, taking off from the Group’s dusty airstrips in Corsica and North Africa.

He could, or even should, have stayed in New York, where he was destined to become a writer revered for his deep philosophical insights. He should have gone on to win a well-deserved Nobel Prize in Literature, with “The Little Prince” becoming one of the world’s most beloved books, selling well over 100 million copies (and counting). His place was not among the young aviators, but that is where he was truly happy – with his comrades in the Group, flying the Lightnings. He flew over 100 hours on combat missions and had a number of close calls, losing engines, losing his oxygen supply, and on one occasion losing the aircraft after a bad landing. He was banned from flying after this incident, but again used his connections to get around this hurdle another time.

His squadron mates and his commanding officers were torn between wanting to protect him from himself and wanting to let him go on doing what he loved doing most – flying as if it were the elixir of youth. Finally, they found a convenient trick: the decision had been made to invade the southern coast of France, and the attack planned in detail. Pilots who had been informed of the upcoming operations were forbidden from flying above enemy territory. If Old Saint-Ex was told about the invasion, he would be grounded and no longer be able to put his own life in danger, so they decided to tell him about the invasion after a last reconnaissance mission planned for 31 July 1944.

He took off from the airfield near Bastia, Corsica, just after sunrise, radio call sign “Colgate”, and flew northwards.

He never returned.

The night before, he had written two letters.

One of them ended with the words:
“That anthill society in the future scares me to death, and I already hate their robotic virtues. Me, I was born to be a gardener.”

“That anthill society in the future scares me to death, and I already hate their robotic virtues. Me, I was born to be a gardener.”

—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“The Little Prince”

“The Little Prince” A book that took the world by storm

Petit_Prince_Book_Anniversary_grey_background_972x426

Seventy years ago, on 6 April 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince” was published in New York. There are various accounts as to how the work, which is illustrated with Saint-Exupéry’s own watercolours, came to be written. One of them tells how Saint-Exupéry was having lunch with his publisher and started scribbling on his napkin. Enchanted by the little boy coming to life stroke by stroke before his eyes, the publisher is said to have suggested that the author write a story about him.

It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.

—From "The Little Prince", Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Petit_prince_illustration_transparent2_280x279
—Part of the charm of “The Little Prince” is its original watercolour illustrations by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He was always very fond of illustrating, even if his images were just small doodles in the corner of a page.

Saint-Exupéry’s philosophical parable “The Little Prince” tells the story of a small boy with a mop of blonde, curly hair, who is piqued by a flower and leaves his own tiny planet to discover the world. It was to become one of the books of the century and to date has sold over 150 million copies in 270 different languages. Back in 1943, the book found little resonance and sales were sluggish. The critics had no idea what to make of a fairy tale that they panned for being too childish for adults, but too adult for a children’s book. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry did not live to see his little prince speak to millions of people, because its real breakthrough came a year later following his tragically early death at the age of 44. For it was then that it suddenly assumed enormous importance both as his last completed work and as his legacy.

Since then, this modern fairy tale, which addresses themes such as friendship and humanity, has enchanted generations of readers, both young and old, from the most diverse cultures, religions and parts of the world.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry A life out of an adventure story

—Best friends: The airmail pilots Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (left) and Henri Guillaumet (right) in Argentina in 1930 in front of the Latécoère 28. Saint-Exupéry immortalized aviation pioneer Guillaumet in his novel “Wind, Sand and Stars”.

During his time as a military and airmail pilot and as a man in search of new flying records, he experienced adventures that were the stuff of movies, and turned his passion into literary material. The man whose books were to make him the most widely read French author of the 20th century was born in Lyon on 29 June 1900 and named Antoine Jean-Baptiste Marie Roger Graf von Saint-Exupéry. After qualifying for university and embarking on a degree course in architecture, he joined the French air force, where he trained and qualified as a pilot in 1923. He followed this with a civilian flying licence and subsequently earned his living as an airmail pilot on the Toulouse–Casablanca–Dakar route. Dressed in a fur-lined overall, he flew in the open cockpit of a biplane to the western tip of Africa. That same year, his short story “The Aviator” was published in the French literary magazine “Le Navire d’argent” (The Silver Ship).

the most widely read French author of the 20th century

From that moment on, writing would be central to his life. In 1929, when Saint-Exupéry was appointed head of the Aeroposta Argentina airmail service in Buenos Aires and set up the world’s first functional airmail network, he also published his novel “Southern Mail”. In its ongoing battle against time, the company used overnight airmail flights to give it a competitive edge over ships and the railways. It was during this period that Saint-Exupéry wrote “Night Flight”, which described the doomed struggle of an airmail plane against a storm and a flying time limited by the amount of fuel it carried. It was during his time in South America that he met Consuelo Suncín Sandoval de Gómez and proposed to her in the middle of a typically daredevil flight.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry narrowly avoided death on several occasions. Once, while working as an aquaplane test pilot, he had an accident that almost cost him his life. In 1935, during an attempt to break the Paris–Saigon speed record and despite his experience, he was forced into an emergency landing. At the very last moment, a Bedouin saved Saint-Exupéry and his flight mechanic from dying of thirst in the Egyptian Desert. Once, on a long-haul flight from New York to Patagonia, he had an accident that left him gravely injured. His last mission on 31 July 1944, a reconnaissance flight from Corsica with a P-38 Lightning, was one from which he never returned. On 7 April 2004, the French Department of Underwater and Undersea Archaeological Research (DRASSM) announced that a piece of wreckage had been unequivocally identified as part of Saint-Exupéry’s machine. The remains of the aircraft are stored at the musée de l’Air et de l’Espace in Bourget near Paris.

—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry dedicated almost his entire life to flying but secured his place in the hearts of a worldwide readership as the author of “The Little Prince”, “Southern Mail” and “Night Flight”.

IWC and the Fondation Antoine de Saint-Exupéry pour la Jeunesse

A staunch commitment to our future IWC and the Fondation Antoine de Saint-Exupéry pour la Jeunesse

The Fondation Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for Youth was founded, under the aegis of the Fondation de France, by the writer’s heirs and his admirers from the aviation and literary worlds. The nature of its activities makes it dependent on partnerships with companies and organizations that share its values. IWC Schaffhausen is one of the foundation’s partners because far too many young people in this world grow up in difficult and often-hostile environments, and are confronted daily with conflicts whose effects often accompany them into adulthood. Together, we want to help them create their own future and encourage them to take an active role in society. The foundation’s work is firmly based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s humanist values and depends heavily on the support of an international charitable network that has already instigated many local projects in support of these values. In Cambodia, for example, the foundation works closely with Sipar, a non-governmental organization that equips both school and mobile libraries, and supplies reading material to remote areas. Thanks to this cooperation and with the support of IWC Schaffhausen, a new school is currently under construction in the village of Roluos in Siem Reap province. In addition, part of the proceeds from sales of the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince” and the Pilot’s Watch Mark XVII Edition “Le Petit Prince” will go directly to the foundation to support its worldwide struggle against illiteracy. Quite in keeping with the thinking of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who once wrote: “Your task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it”, “The Wisdom of the Sands” (1948).

www.fasej.org

A TRIBUTE TO ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY

Since the start of its cooperation with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s heirs, IWC has used its Pilot’s Watch special editions to remind people of the immortal French author and pilot. In the initial years of the partnership, limited-edition Pilot’s Watches with unusual engravings were dedicated to those of his literary works with strong ties to the pioneering age of aviation. The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph launched in 2006, for example, was a tribute to the novel “Night Flight”. This was followed in 2007 by the Pilot’s Watch Automatic, which paid homage to his exciting “Southern Mail”, and in 2008 by the Pilot’s Watch UTC, to mark his poetic novel “Wind, Sand and Stars”.

Since the start of its cooperation with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's heirs, IWC has used its Pilot's Watch special editions to remind people of the immortal French author and pilot.

In 2009 and 2010, IWC launched the Big Pilot’s Watch Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry in honour of his outstanding life’s work. The special edition selected for 2011 was the rarely manufactured Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar. In 2012, the year of IWC’s Pilot’s Watches, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry was a reminder of how the flying pioneer / poet and humanist discovered his great passion. In 2013, we turn our attention to perhaps the best-known little blonde boy on the planet. Even now, 70 years after he first appeared, the little prince continues to find an enthusiastic readership prepared to embark with him on an unforgettable journey.

FURTHER INFORMATION

IWC Schaffhausen
Uwe Liebminger
Department Manager Public Relations
Mobile +41 (0)79 957 72 52
E-mail uwe.liebminger@iwc.com

The Antoine de Saint Exupéry Youth Foundation
Nicolas Delsalle-Mun
Secretary General
Tel. +33 (0)1 53 90 22 12
E-mail ndelsalle@fasej.org

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