My encounter with the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” Ref. IW590302 happened during the days of SIHH 2019. I knew about this watch from the pre-SIHH press release but having it in hands changed my perception of it. With the occasion of GPHG Nomination of the Ref. IW590303 (the red gold version) in the “Chronometry” category, I recognised the perfect chance to present you the platinum Ref. IW590302.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” – Ref. IW590302
I have personally met with the Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” on the evening of my third SIHH day during a special press event organised by IWC. The entire “Le Petit Prince” Collection is magnificent, but this high complication Big Pilot stole my hearth. Maybe a big influence was exercised by the moonphase complication with the hand-engraved little prince.
Let’s have a look at the wrist roll clip that includes the low light view:
The end of the article will host the images in larger resolution for a better study. Unfortunately, the pictures are partial light-blown due to improper lighting condition and the watch bears my fingerprints. In my defence, the watch was photographed shortly before 10 pm, after a full day at SIHH.
The Big Pilot’s Watch deserves its name. At 46.2mm, the watch is large by any standard. As the wearer of 39mm-41mm pieces, I have to admit that the watch was surprisingly ok on my wrist. The proof is the video above.
The watch’s case is relatively simple decorated. An overall polish restrains the natural shine of the platinum. Nevertheless, some details make the watch more interesting: the rounded and inward bent lugs come with a subtle polished chamfering, the raised bezel also received a polished chamfering. The lugs design gives the impression of smaller wear.
The crown is specific to the Big Pilot’s Watch Collection with an excellent grip. The crown is beautifully decorated with the brand’s logo. Personally, I find the crown a bit too large and a bit disturbing to several wrist’s movements. But on the other hand, I have a small wrist and large watches impose some physical difficulties. Surprisingly, the watch was not as heavy as I first expected.
The strap is gorgeous. It is ended with a nice clasp bearing the same markings as the crown: IWC Probus Scafusia.
A blue dial
On paper, the dial is relatively simple: time display, moonphase, power reserve and small seconds with the tourbillon visible. But an actual look changes completely the perception. The dial is prodigious. There are so many elements to view, to comprehend, to cherish.
First, the time display uses classic hours and minutes hands that are skeletonised and filled with luminescent. Check the video for the low light view. As hour markers are used massive Arabic numeral filled with SuperLuminova. On a normal watch, the applied indexes will occupy the entire dial, but here, the dial is quite aired and balanced.
The moonphase is ravishing. First, I love the unusual position in the first ten minutes of the dial. The little prince standing and watching the stars, depicting the original drawings of Le Petit Prince, is a delightful detail. I have met the little prince some 25 years ago, on my grandfather’s library. I remember it well since it was actually my grandfather’s watch that drowns me to that place of his bibliotheque. He used to leave his watch near to the French Literature corner. I was allowed to the books, not to the watch. And I was always on that corner, reading Alexandre Dumas or Victor Hugo. So I have met the little prince in original. I didn’t understand much of the book (I was a novice in French back then, now it’s worse…), but the drawings remained well printed in my memory. Rediscovering the prince on the moon of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” was an emotional process.
The power reserve indication occupies another big part of the dial, this time between 4 and 5 o’clock. The 96 hours of power reserve is an impressive technical detail, but even more, displayed in plain sight. The red-tipped hand is a nice touch.
The most spectacular dial detail remains still the large 9 o’clock aperture. The large tourbillon cage with a constant-force system is impressive visually but especially technically. One needs some horological technical knowledge the understand what exactly is visible under the small second indication.
In the picture above can be easily observed the constant force spring on the right side, deep inside the mechanism. In the foreground, the balance wheel bears one of the most interesting sets of regulating counter-weights.
The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” is powered by the calibre 94805, part of the brand’s 94000 family. This two-barrel movement is largely used by IWC to power energy-hungry complications. In our case the constant-force tourbillon and additionally, powers the moon phase and the power reserve displays.
The movement is visible through the caseback. Unfortunately for the “watch finishes junkies”, the calibre 94805 is an enclosed system, revealing close to little details. Yet, the visible elements are gorgeously finished. The Côtes de Genève visible on the back are splendid. Some of the most beautiful Geneva waves pattern seen.
There are a few details that must be mentioned. One is about the moonphase: the precision is calculated for one-day correction at every 577.5 years. Another detail is the 96 hours of power reserve coming from the two barrels design.
The constant-force tourbillon uses an interesting system:
The patented constant-force mechanism disconnects the escapement from the direct flow of energy transmitted through the wheel train and, second by second, increases the tension in a balance spring. The latter stores the energy temporarily before dispensing it in absolutely even impulses to the escape wheel. In combination with the tourbillon, which offsets the influence of gravity on the watch’s balance and spring, it serves to deliver extraordinarily high precision. – from the official IWC Website
IWC integrated a patented constant-force mechanism into a tourbillon, which ensures that the amplitude of the balance – and thus the watch’s accuracy – remain absolutely constant, initially by disconnecting the escapement from the direct flow of energy generated by the gear train. The energy is stored temporarily in a balance spring and dispensed to the escape wheel. In the process, the tension in the spring is increased once a second and the seconds hand in the tourbillon advances in one-second steps. This ensures an extremely regular and precise rate over a period of at least 48 hours. After approximately 2 days, the mechanism switches from constant-force mode to normal mode, as indicated by the one-fifth-of-a-second movements in the seconds hand.– from the official IWC Website
My view of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince”
It was an incredible experience having this extreme piece on my wrist. Partly due to the extraordinary technic representation, partly for its asymmetrical dial, partly to the triggered emotional state. I was, by all means, impressed.
I was not expecting that such a large watch will sit so good on my wrist. As a blue dials fan, I was particularly fascinated by the blue engraved moonphase disk.
Thinking at the red gold version, the Ref. IW590303, I can surely say that my favourite is this platinum version (even if the gold case with blue dial makes a perfect pair). The platinum appearance makes the watch more worthy of the spirit of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “Le Petit Prince” Specifications
- Platinum case
- Diameter 46.2 mm
- Height 13.5 mm
- Screw in crown
- See-through sapphire glass back
- Water resistance 6 bar
- 94805 Calibre
- IWC-manufactured movement
- 96 hours Power Reserve
- Frequency 18000.0 vph (2.5 Hz)
- 341 Components
- 41 Jewels
- Côtes de Genève
- Tourbillon with an integrated constant-force mechanism
- Moon phase display
- Power reserve display
- Glass secured against displacement by drop in air pressure
- Sapphire glass, convex, antireflective coating on both sides
- Blue dial with luminescence
- Brown calfskin strap
- Strap width 22 mm