IWC Le Petit Prince: A Review of Elegance Personified
Every now and then, watch companies create innovative timepieces that are inspired by iconic fictional works of art. Globally known watch brands use these artistic timepieces to show off the sheer breadth and depth of their creative talent. Some popular examples include the amazing Naruto collection and Street Fighter V series from Seiko, as well as the collaboration between Citizen and the hit mega-franchise Star Wars.
Today, we are stepping away from the world of Japanese watch brands to take a look at the efforts of IWC, also known as one of the most renowned Swiss luxury watch brands worldwide. IWC’s gorgeous Le Petit Prince collection features a roster of watches that are inspired by the best-selling novella, “Le Petit Prince”, more commonly known by its English translation, “The Little Prince.” With its established reputation in the field of pilot watches, IWC has produced an exceptional lineup that intersects the art of watchmaking with the world of fantastical fiction.
IWC Le Petit Prince: The Pilot’s Guide
Le Petit Prince: A Brief Background
First things first: what is Le Petit Prince and why was IWC inspired to create timepieces based on this work of fiction?
Published in 1943, the novella Le Petit Prince was written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It tells a fictional story of a pilot stranded in the Sahara desert. Written from the point-of-view of the unnamed pilot narrator, it describes how he meets the little prince. As the eponymous protagonist of the novella, the little prince is the character to which the IWC Le Petit Prince watches pay homage. Despite the apparent young age and innocence of the little prince, he ponders upon philosophical questions and musings that are often reflected upon by adults.
Right from the outset, it is easy to see why IWC chose to honour this particular novella. IWC’s highly-regarded reputation was built on a foundation of top-notch aviation timepieces, and pilot watch collections like the IWC Big Pilot and IWC Top Gun are some of the brand’s most famous flagships. The parallels between Le Petit Prince and IWC are immediately clear, given the status of the novella’s narrator as a pilot. In addition, the author of the novella, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was also a licensed commercial pilot. In many ways, Le Petit Prince is an obvious fit for IWC and it is easy to see why the brand chose to pay tribute to this novella with its timepieces.
IWC Le Petit Prince: A History
Even before the conception of the IWC Le Petit Prince watches, the brand worked closely with the Fondation Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation). This foundation is run by the descendants of Saint-Exupéry, with the goal of helping youths in unfavourable situations worldwide.
Through the annual auctions of unique timepieces, IWC shares its generous monetary contributions with the foundation. With shared values and beliefs in helping children in unfortunate circumstances, IWC achieves its goal of always serving those in need through the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation. In 2006, IWC took this collaboration a step further, developing the IWC Le Petit Prince series.
IWC Ref. IW3717
In 2006, IWC released its first Le Petit Prince timepiece. Dedicated solely to the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the IWC Le Petit Prince Ref. IW3717 is a sleek chronograph pilot watch. It is presented in a 42mm stainless steel case and a supple calfskin leather strap in black.
The dial of this watch also comes in black and its layout mimics the design of the IWC Big Pilot watches. It is ornamented with three submerged chronograph sub-dials, Arabic numeral hour markers in a white typeface, luminous Alpha hands, and a day-date window at 3 o’clock. This IWC Le Petit Prince watch is also powered by the brand’s in-house Calibre 79320 movement. Based on the ETA 7750 automatic chronograph movement, it has a solid power supply of 44 hours.
Due to its age and rarity, it can be quite difficult to find a model of the IWC Le Petit Prince Ref. IW3717 today. If you are fortunate enough to pick this watch up on the second-hand market, it is typically priced at around $3,450 USD, although this can vary depending on the seller and the condition of the watch.
IWC Pilot Ref. IW326506
Although the first IWC Le Petit Prince watch was launched in 2006, it was only several years later, in 2013, that the brand officially included the Le Petit Prince timepieces in the IWC Pilot lineup.
The IWC Pilot Mark XVII Edition “Le Petit Prince” Ref. IW326506 was, notably, the first Le Petit Prince watch to be included in the IWC Pilot series. This is a limited-edition timepiece based on the original IWC Pilot Mark XVIII, with only 1,000 pieces released worldwide. It was released in celebration of the 70th anniversary of Le Petit Prince’s publishing.
This IWC Le Petit Prince piece boasts a stunning blue sunray dial and an unusual, vertically-elongated date aperture at 3 o’clock. Its 41mm stainless steel case was also paired with a handsome brown leather strap that bolstered this watch’s classy aesthetic. Driven by a 30110 Calibre, this watch has a standard 42-hour power reserve.
Today, you can purchase the IWC Pilot Mark XVII Edition “Le Petit Prince” Ref. IW326506 for approximately $4,690 USD.
IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714
Over the years, IWC has released a number of watches in the Le Petit Prince series. Much like the brand’s Spitfire models, the IWC Le Petit Prince timepieces are sophisticated pilot watches that possess a very refined aura. Perhaps the most popular piece from this lineup over the years is the IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714.
As part of IWC’s Le Petit Prince lineup, the IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714 was released in 2016. In the next section, we will be taking a closer look at the amazing specifications of this highly-regarded timepiece and everything it has to offer.
A Full Review of the IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714:
Case and Caseback
The IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714 is presented in a 43mm stainless steel case with a width of 15mm. Despite its slightly bulky build, this is a watch that fits well on wrists of any size. The case is embellished with a smooth, brushed finish that gives the watch a slightly rustic, aged look that is extremely distinguished. These brushed surfaces are contrasted against the smoothly polished bezel, creating an intriguing interplay of textures that adds to the allure of this timepiece.
Like the case itself, the caseback of this watch is made of solid stainless steel with a fine, brushed finish and a polished circular ring. Engraved upon this caseback is a delicate figure of the little prince with his iconic sword and coat. This is an endearing reminder that this watch is solely dedicated to the timeless, popular Le Petit Prince book.
A sizable screw-down crown is located on the right side of the watch. This crown has large, grooved edges that provide wearers with an easier grip with which to hold and turn the crown. Thanks to this, setting the correct time, day, and date with the crown is made a very hassle-free activity. In addition, you can also see two long, protruding pushers placed surrounding the crown, which can be used to operate the watch’s chronograph functions.
The pushers and crown of this IWC Le Petit Prince piece are all tightly screwed down, which keeps the watch’s inner mechanisms from being exposed to the external environment. As a result, this watch has a water resistance capacity of 60 metres. While it is not quite as good as the depth rating of a dedicated dive piece, this does protect the watch from any accidental showers and splashes.
The dial is one of the most striking aspects of the IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714. This dial comes in a majestic midnight blue hue with a rich sunray finish. It is decorated with silver-tone sword hands, large Arabic numeral markers, thick hour indices, and a minute track, all of which are generously coated in Super-Luminova. The oversized fonts of the Arabic numerals are also designed to optimise legibility, which is an important feature of pilot watches.
This IWC Le Petit Prince piece is also a chronograph watch. As such, its dial is efficiently composed of three submerged sub-dials that are carefully spaced out at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock. These sub-dials serve as the 30-minute, 60-second, and 12-hour counters respectively. A single, bright red seconds hand adds a pop of vibrancy to this dark watch face, enhancing the visual appeal of this watch. In addition, a day-date complication sits as 3 o’clock, helping you keep track of the current date.
Affixed to the top of the watch case is a durable sapphire crystal. This is a strong watch glass which is extremely resistant to any scratches or bumps, while also giving wearers a clear view of the dial.
The IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714 is coupled with a brown calfskin leather strap with prominent, cream-coloured stitching that adds to the elegant detail of this watch. Flipping the brown leather strap over, you will find that the underside of it comes in an unexpected, funky orange colour. It contrasts the overall serious look of this watch, giving the IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714 a totally different, more playful vibe. This strap is also equipped with a tang buckle which guarantees a snug and secure fit on your wrist.
This IWC Le Petit Prince timepiece runs on a reliable in-house Calibre 79320. Held together by 31 jewels, this is an automatic chronograph movement that beats at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour. It also possesses a power supply that can last for up to 44 hours, which is a slight improvement on the 2013 IWC Pilot Mark XVII Edition “Le Petit Prince” Ref. IW326506.
On the whole, the IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714 is a very versatile and well-built timepiece. Despite being designed primarily as a sturdy pilot watch, it can also easily double as a lovely luxury dress watch. With its stylish aesthetic and storied origins, it is no surprise that this handsome pilot watch retails at around $4,500 USD to $5,800 USD.
IWC Le Petit Prince: Best Models
In this section, we will be discussing some of the best models from the IWC Le Petit Prince series. Aside from the IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714, this collection also offers a number of timepieces with equally dapper looks and solid features.
1. IWC Pilot Ref. IW327010
Compared to the IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714, the IWC Pilot Ref. IW327010 takes a more minimalistic approach that will appeal to those who have more understated fashion styles. This watch is actually another Le Petit Prince version of the Mark XVIII timepiece, hence its classic design.
This IWC Pilot watch is housed in a 40mm stainless steel case, coupled with a brown calfskin leather strap. Measuring just 11mm thin, this is quite a slim timepiece, with a much smaller size compared to the chunkier IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714. As such, it is best suited for those with smaller-to-medium-sized wrists.
The dial of this watch comes in a soft, sky-blue colour that is very pleasing to look at. It follows a rather straightforward layout, comprising white Arabic numeral hour markers, lume-coated silver sword hands, a compact date display at 3 o’clock, and a simple minute track on the rim of the dial. All of these functions are driven by the brand’s in-house IWC Calibre 35111. Fitted with 25 jewels, this movement packs an average power reserve of 42 hours.
The IWC Pilot Ref. IW327010 is worth approximately $4,500 USD.
2. IWC Pilot Ref. IW501002
If you are looking for an oversized watch that will stand out cleanly on your wrist, then the IWC Pilot Ref. IW501002 is definitely a great pick. This timepiece is a great fit for those with medium-to-large-sized wrists. It has chunkier dimensions than the previous IWC Le Petit Prince watches mentioned, with its 46.2mm stainless steel case that measures 15.6mm thick. On the right side of the case, you can also find a massive diamond-shaped crown. Not only is it a distinguishing characteristic of all IWC Big Pilot watches, but this crown also adds to the bulky look of this timepiece.
Like most of the other IWC Le Petit Prince timepieces, this watch shows off a handsome blue dial. It contains Arabic numeral hour markers in a neat typeface, thick silver sword hands, and a trapezoidal date aperture at 6 o’clock. One of the most interesting elements of this watch is the sub-dial placed at 3 o’clock. With indicators ranging from one to seven, this counter actually serves as the watch’s unique power reserve indicator.
Inside this watch, you can find an IWC Calibre 52110. Equipped with 36 jewels, this is a near-perfect piece of machinery which is solely responsible for the watch’s impressive seven-day, or 168-hour, power supply. With this movement, you do not have to worry about having to constantly wind this watch, even if you only use it once or twice a week.
Packed with premium capabilities, the IWC Pilot Ref. IW501002 is one of the most outstanding and expensive timepieces in the whole IWC Le Petit Prince roster. You can get your hands on this watch for a costly price of $13,200 USD.
3. IWC Pilot Ref. IW377717
For an all-stainless steel version of the IWC Pilot Ref. IW377714, check out the IWC Pilot Ref. IW377717. This watch is almost identical to the Ref. IW377714, aside from its composition, which is made entirely of stainless steel.
The IWC Pilot Ref. IW377717 utilises a 43mm stainless steel case and a five-link bracelet made of the same material. Arranged on the rich blue dial are Arabic numeral hour markers in a thick white font, lume-covered sword hands, and a day-date complication at 3 o’clock. Since this is a chronograph timepiece, the dial also includes three sub-dials for the 60-second, 30-minute, and 12-hour counters. All three sub-dials show off darker blue sunray finishes, which help them stand out more clearly against the rest of the dial. An in-house Calibre 79320, with a 44-hour power supply, powers all of these functions.
The IWC Pilot Ref. IW377717 is slightly more expensive than its leather-strap counterpart. It sells at an estimated price of $6,899 USD.
There is no doubt that the IWC Le Petit Prince series consists of a magnificent collection of sleek and modern timepieces. Paying tribute to the novella Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the IWC Le Petit Prince watches hold a piece of sentimental value for fans of the book around the globe.
As we mentioned, many watch companies have utilised the inspiration of fictional works of art in creating their timepieces. Amongst all of these efforts, the creativity exhibited in the IWC Le Petit Prince collection shows us a glimpse of the kind of artistry the future of the watchmaking craft holds.
All images are courtesy of The Watch Company, unless otherwise stated.
Photo credits: IWC, CBC, and eBay.