Can you see that? The smile on my face? Ear to ear baby! Such is the excitement I felt after having spent a little over a week of quality time with the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition ‘Antoine De Saint Exupery’ watch on my wrist. The pictures do not quite capture the intricacies of this piece, but wearing it was an absolute blast, and in this watch review, I will tell you why.
First, a little bit of background on the limited edition Big Pilot from IWC. As stated in the title, the piece is a tribute to the poet, writer, humanitarian, and pioneering aviator Antoine De Saint Exupery. He is best known for his literary works, including writing the famed Le Petite Prince, as well as for the reconnaissance missions he flew during World War II. The watch’s brown dial and color palette draws its inspiration from the aviation gear Antoine wore during his flights.
When the watch first arrived to my office and i put it on, a number of thoughts came to mind on how to accurately describe the look and feel of the watch as it sat on my wrist. The best analogy I could come up with was that the dial has an intense flavor profile. There are top notes when first glancing at the time on piece. The hour hands and numerals are easily legible and quickly taken in by the eye. Then, the middle note hits. You take in the month, day of the week, date indicators, as well as the small seconds hand and the power reserve. As you pay closer attention and interpret the complications, the finishing notes play out: the mirrored moon phase indicator — as you take in the reflection of the moon in the moon phase you see a face staring back at you and it is you. You are the face in the moon.
Throughout the entire time I wore this watch, I found myself repeatedly doing this, where I first glance at the watch, and then look back at the different complications and see how the watch reveals itself. The eye adjusts to take in all of the data and the image of myself in the moon — and it is awesome.
It should be noted that this gorgeous perpetual calendar is a real work horse. It has been designed by IWC with the perpetual calendar to be accurate in the Gregorian calendar through 2100. Thereafter it will need a single adjustment by the manufacturer to account for the skipped leap year that occurs every hundred years, 2100, then 2200, etc. As for the moon phase, it will require an adjustment every 577.5 years of only one day. That means it’s up to your sixth or seventh generation descendants to have this done.
The color of the dial boasts much of the same flavor complexity as the read outs do. While the online photos show a deep chocolate finish, the color of the dial is a lot more dynamic. In some lighting situations, the deep chocolate is readily apparent, while in other lighting, the dial appears an anthracite grey and sometimes black. (Funny side note, a colleague who saw the watch questioned if pairing a brown strap with a black dial made sense? The comment helps to illustrate how intense and varied the color of the dial can come be.) This is a detail sure to be fawned over, as lovers of horology also tend to be appreciative of nuanced and subtle details.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to watch sizes is that they come in small, medium, large and pilot watch dimensions. This piece is more measured than many pilot watches, but still comes in at a robust 46 mm. I should also caveat this by saying, I’m a large guy and typically have no problem wearing larger watches, but my personal preference leans towards pieces in the 40mm range. That being said, I actually found that the Exupery wears a lot smaller than I thought it would. This is probably due to the smaller size of the lugs. Regardless, while it won’t quite slide delicately under a dress shirt, the size is not an impediment to a well tailored suit and cuff.
Through the display back of the watch you can see some of the innovations on the manufacturer. The blued screws, the twin barrels that provide the 7 day power reserve, the Pellaton winding wheel, and the 18k gold winding rotor are all clearly visible and perhaps provide the only reason to take the watch off.
One of the downfalls of the watch, though, regards the amount of luminescent material used on the hands and hour numerals. I would like to see greater luminosity in low-light environments. In total darkness, the watch simply didn’t have what I would consider strong lighting. That being said, the complexity of the design and movement of the watch, along with the accuracy of the perpetual calendar, make the 750-piece limited edition watch a worthy contender for watch lovers. While it costs about as much as a sedan, at $25,900, it will give you a lot more mileage for your money.
Below are the tech-specs on this piece:
IWC-manufactured calibre 52610
28,800 A/h | 4 Hz 54
7 days (168 h) Automatic
Mechanical movement – Pellaton automatic winding – Power reserve display – Perpetual calendar with displays for the date, day, month, year in four digits and perpetual moon phase – Small hacking seconds – Glucydur®* beryllium alloy indexless balance with high-precision adjustment screws on balance rim – Breguet spring – 18-carat red gold rotor – Screw-in crown – Glass secured against displacement by drops in air pressure – See-through sapphire-glass back
46mm Stainless-steel case, brown dial, brown calfskin strap by Santoni, stainless-steel folding clasp
Sapphire, convex, antireflective coating on both sides
Water resistant to 6 bar