Erwin is an enthusiastic IWC Collector from Hong Kong. Since his first IWC watch in 2006, he has become an active participant on the IWC Collectors’ Forum and the Hong Kong watch scene.
MF = Michael Friedberg, IWC Collectors’ Forum editor
EC = Erwin Chu
MF: Thanks, Erwin, for participating in this interview. I remember when we first met in Geneva in 2007. You traveled all the way from Hong Kong to be at SIHH; I think you were the first IWC collector from Hong Kong to join a Collectors' Meeting.
EC: Thanks, Michael. I made my first post on the Forum on March 19, 2006 --it was amazing then to meet all my IWC Forum friends face to face at SIHH.
MF: I remember your enthusiasm --when did you get your first IWC?
EC: In 2006. I bought an Ingenieur 322701. I was just amazed by the solid build of this watch; it feels substantial on wrist. It was love at first sight.
MF: Do you still have it?
EC: Of course. It has served me well and still in my collection. Indeed none of my IWC's has ever left my collection.
MF: And you found the IWC Collectors' Forum right after you bought the Ingenieur?
EC: Yes. But I missed that CF1 --damn it!
MF: I understand, but still you've been a terrific forum contributor and collector for a long time now.
EC: Thanks. I really like IWC watches. Through the forum I learnt a lot about the IWC watches as well as the stories behind them. I’d love to share with new forum friends on things happening for IWC in Hong Kong so everyone can share the thrills we are experiencing.
MF: Were you always interested in watches?
EC: Since I was around 6, my Grandpa bought me two watches to wear as there was a watch shop right next to the breakfast place he used to go with me. When he traveled back to China to visit relatives, Grandpa sometimes would take my watch off and give it to our relatives as a present! After those trips I would get a new one when we returned to Hong Kong.
MF: Speaking of that, you are from Hong Kong, and how does your family feel about watches?
EC: Yes, I was born in Hong Kong and raised there until age 18. My family is kind of supportive of my hobby, too.
MF: How so?
EC: IWC is my daughters' favorite! There's Elvina, age 8, and Cheryl who is 5. Would you believe they pull me into a boutique if we're near one? They ask if there an IWC boutique when we are shopping in malls, but I think they actually are eyeing the chocolates.
MF: Nice! How about your wife?
EC: My wife, Winnie, practices what I call "positive non-interventionsism". I never get questioned when coming home with a big IWC box, but I did buy her one Hermes Birkin bag and also a Hermes Lindy during my 2015 SIHH trip. (Laughs).
MF: What was your first fine watch, by the way?
EC: My first fine watch was Rolex GMT Master II (16710). I got it when I was 17.
MF: Was there a story behind it?
EC: I just finished a big public exam in Hong Kong. In celebration, my family wanted to buy me a trip overseas. I told them I'd rather stay in Hong Kong for a summer internship, so they used the money to buy me a watch instead. I still have it, too.
MF: But you did finally end up overseas?
EC: Yes. I spent five years in the U.S. starting when I was 18.
MF: As a student?
EC: Exactly. I went to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and received a degree in electrical engineering. I then received a master’s degree from Stanford, in management science and engineering.
MF: You're a great watch guy, a family man, an engineer and an executive. Do you have time for any other interests?
EC: Cycling. Hopefully I can gather other IWC collectors in Hong Kong together to form a cycling group!
MF: I think you might need to join some of those cycling guys in Switzerland! More seriously, I know you are friends with some Hong Kong collectors, like SC Fong. You seem to enjoy the kinship of collectors.
EC: I know SC from both the IWC Forum and also some local watch forums. I think we first met at an IWC corporate event.
MF: SC is a great guy, and has become a very good friend of yours.
EC: It's terrific to have a big bro to hang out with on the road of watch collecting. His insight and experience of things, not just watches, have enlightened my mind a lot
MF: So much so that you've collected now a lot of fabulous IWCs! You need to tell us about your favorites.
EC: I'm glad you asked!
First, the 500201 Steel BP, It was mid-2006 and I was not too acquainted with watches back then. I was going around asking for a Big Pilot and most shops in Hong Kong were sold out. I didn’t know the 5004 was coming --back then, I didn't even know what SIHH was! But, finally a shop had a just arrived with a 5002, and I grabbed it right away. Only years later I found out that it has the movement of 5004 and is one of the rarer 5002 Transitional as people have named them.
Next, a favorite of mine is the CF3. It's certainly a piece that symbolizes the bonding between collectors on the IWC Forum. Great tool watch look, too.
MF: I know also purchased a special watch this year too.
EC: Yes. The Big Pilot’s Heritage Watch 55 this year is, to my thinking, the ultimate collector piece, 55mm to match the size of original B-uhr ref431, titanium for wrist comfort. I also am glad to have the #3 out of 100 pieces to match my CF3.
The Big Pilot's Heritage watch 55 this year is, to my thinking, the ultimate collectors piece. 55mm to match the size of the original B-Uhr ref431, titatium for wrist comfort.
MF: Any other favorites?
EC: My Portuguese Regulateur Titanium for Sincere. It's the only classic Portuguese watch with a titanium case; there are titanium case Yacht Club chronos but those are sportier.
I once had breakfast with Herr Kurt Klaus when he was in Hong Kong, and he kept peeking (to see what) was on my wrist when I was wearing this one. He ended up asking if I can take it off and let him play with it for a while. That was an epic moment!
MF: To have Kurt Klaus admire your watch is special! But I also see that you have had a lot of opportunities to have your photo taken with some terrific friends of the brand.
EC: Any event that leads me to an "Erwin shot" has to be a good experience!
MF: I’m jealous! You must have had many other good experiences, too.
EC: The IWC Pilot Watches Exhibition in Hong Kong this year should make it to be one of the best experiences I have had. It’s not about how we are being indulged but rather how we get to share our passion to people outside of our circle. A group of Hong Kong collectors display their timepieces in a corner of the exhibition.
It happened that the collector Big Pilot corner became VERY popular; those watches are so rare that most people don’t know their existence. It was also very cool to be able to bring my family and friends to the exhibition and show them our watches being displayed as collector items.
This exhibition also inspired IWC Hong Kong to shoot a video of a few collectors from Hong Kong, providing me an opportunity of being filmed (laugh).
MF: That experience has to be special. And I understand that now one of your watches, and other collectors' watches, are being displayed in a special exhibit at the IWC Museum in Schaffhausen.
EC: Yes, there are five collectors’ watches being displayed in the Museum now. For those who are not able to visit the Museum, they can visit the Museum Facebook page to have a look.
MF: Erwin, permit me to thank you --for your passion as a collector, for being a good friend and for this interview.
EC: Thank you. It's been great.
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