The very personal story about a Swiss pilot’s first Big Pilot’s Watch
Swiss Pilot Heinz Vercelloni wears his Big Pilot’s Watch whenever he is on flight duty.
The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch (Ref. IW500401).
Michael Friedberg: Heinz, thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed. By way of background, are you from Schaffhausen?
Heinz Vercelloni: Actually, I was born in Winterthur, a city between to Zürich and Schaffhausen. I was raised there and went to school there too. My wife is from the western part of Switzerland, near Lausanne. After moving around, we finally settled in Illnau, a small village near the airport.
Did you grow up wanting to be a pilot?
For me it wasn’t a typical boy’s dream to become a pilot. Rather, the dream has grown with and in me. Since my dad worked for Swissair for almost his whole life I became in contact with aviation quite early. He worked as a technical engineer and was responsible for training ground engineers. My dad took me to the hangars where the big birds were parked and overhauled, and he showed me all the inside details of an aircraft. It’s probably when I caught this aviation virus.
And now you’re a pilot; what are your responsibilities?
I’ve worked for Swiss and formerly Swissair as a pilot now for 30 years. Currently, I am a commander on long-haul flights, flying an Airbus A330 and A340. I also serve as a simulator instructor and examiner, as well as a flight checker.
I told my dad the wonderful news that I’ll get my command and for that occasion I would buy this wonderful watch. […] But my dad just sat there with his face not showing any emotion and told me ‘no’.
THE ONE AND ONLY WATCH BRAND IN THE HOUSE
I Know you always wear an IWC Big Pilot’s Watch when you are on duty. Can you share that special story here?
When I attained my command, my dad gave me my Big Pilot’s Watch. But the story here is a long one. Please allow me to extend that a little bit, as, first of all, it’s worth it, and second you will understand why I always wear that watch when I am on flight duty.
Please do! I know it involves more than one IWC watch, so please tell us from the beginning.
My IWC story started literally decades ago with my grandfather. He worked as a technical illustrator and engineer for the largest industrial company in Winterthur. For his 30th Jubilee with the company, he was given an IWC watch. My grandfather treasured it his whole life and of course, from that day on, IWC was the watch brand in our house. My dad kind of followed in his father’s footsteps and, after saving for a long time, he bought himself an IWC Ingenieur (866). I think my dad treasured his one IWC watch even more than my grandfather did his.
When did you start with your first IWC?
For my 30th birthday, I received an IWC Weltzeituhr (Porsche Design) from my parents. They thought that a world-time watch would fit very well for a pilot. Right they were! I was so proud to finally own my IWC.
Heinz revisiting the airfield where the then-pilot-in-training had taken his father as passenger on one of his first flights.
Vercelloni on the airfield near Zurich.
And when did you transition to the Big Pilot’s Watch?
In 2002, when the Big Pilot’s watch came out, I knew at that very moment that the day when I would get my command that I would buy myself that watch. When that day arrived, I told my dad the wonderful news that I’ll get my command and for that occasion I would buy this wonderful watch. I was expecting from him a thumbs-up, a “good idea; go ahead boy”. But my dad just sat there with his face not showing any emotion and told me “no”. I retorted “yes, of course I will do that! This is what I have dreamed about for a long time and I can spend my money as I wish!” I started getting a bit mad when my dad replied again to me “no”. Then he raised from his chair and added “No, because I will buy you that watch”.
I was completely speechless and didn’t expect this at all. So when I got my command I received this beautiful watch from my dad. But unfortunately my dad passed away one week later. And that’s why this IWC Big Pilot’s Watch will always accompany me on all my flights.
THE 21st CENTURY RENAISSANCE MAN
Even with that one watch with you, as a world-traveler do you sometimes go watch shopping in all these places?
I love to go window shopping abroad. I must admit I did also buy some IWCs in other countries, but basically I am a traditional Swiss buyer in Switzerland. But what I do on a regular basis is visit IWC boutiques and flagship stores around the world. As a Swiss guy I’m always warmly welcomed, and it’s always good fun to have a little chat about watches.
In addition to IWC-virus, you have many other interests – many of which we share. You’re interested, I know, in wine, in cars, bicycling, and many other things. Much of it involves speed and outstanding engineering. I look at you as kind of a 21st century Renaissance Man.
I totally love your expression “21st century renaissance” guy! I couldn’t have said it better. Yes, I do have a passion for speed but even more for great engineering. So it is always a desire to have, let’s say, the best mechanically perfect gadget available. And, yes, the IWC perpetual calendar does qualify here as much as my TREK Madone limited racing bike. And there’s my TESLA and on the other side of the scale an Alfa Romeo sportscar.
Your many interests are not only fascinating, they are also great fun. Thanks for sharing with us!
BROWSE OUR TIMEPIECES
SELECTED FOR YOU
My Poetic Side
The Big Pilot's Watch Monopusher Le Petit Prince introduces herself. Find out why her creators integrated the chronograph function in the form of a Monopusher.
The Beauty in Conversation
An interview about "The Three Things" with thought leader and IWC brand ambassador, Abraxas Higgins.
Size Does Matter
IWC unveiled the Big Pilot’s Watch Ref. 5002 in 2002. Learn from former product manager Pius Brida about the birth and challenges of the Big Pilot’s Watch.