He’s a writer, photographer and explorer. He’s walked the Nile and the Himalayas. Along the way he even lost members of his team. On top of being an all-round good guy, Levison Wood has a tremendous story to tell about how he and his watch cheated death and survived a 150-meter cliff fall. It was my extreme pleasure, to have had the chance to sit with the gentleman and hear his tale, first hand.

So Lev, you’ve walked the Nile and the Himalayas, which did you enjoy more and why?

I enjoyed the Himalayas more simply because the Nile was an unknown, I’d never done anything that big before so there was a huge amount of trepidation. I just didn’t know how long it was going to take so all my energy was just focused on getting it done, because I didn’t want to fall at the final hurdle. Whereas the Himalayas was different because I had done something big before I knew how many miles I could walk in a day; knew what equipment was needed, I roughly knew how long it would take so my mind was in a better state all through the Himalaya trip.

Looking back, what was the most memorable moment while walking the Nile?

Apart from finishing? [Laughs] It would have to be reaching the Mediterranean. Although, there were a number of tourists on the beach who were kind of shocked to see me so emotional, and understandably so. I was this disheveled weary man, just overcome by my own reality in the same space where happy families were just out enjoying the sun.

 And during the Himalayas?

Either going to Calapatan and seeing Everest up close and personal or meeting the Dalai Lama. That was a pretty special moment. It’s not every day that you meet a  human being who has been as globally impactful as the Dalai Lama.

Was there a moment, on either trip when you thought you were in too deep?

Oh for sure. On the Nile, when Matt Power died of heat stroke, that’s when it all hit home – just how real the danger was; just what we had gotten ourselves into. Matt was a good guy – a journalist from America – he’d just joined us for a few days.

Likewise, in the Himalayas when I was in a car crash and we fell off a 150-meter cliff.

150 meters? You are joking. How are you still alive?

It was pretty horrific, I won’t lie. To cut a very long story short: In Nepal, I was forced to get into a taxi for, of all things, political reasons.

At the village I arrived, there was a lot of communist rebel activity stirring about and I was told I had to make my way to the next village, which was about five miles away, for my own good.

I got into a taxi and just as I was going over the mountain pass, the brakes gave way and  the car went hurtling off the cliff. I was certain – that was it for me.

We dropped 450 feet into a jungle ravine, rolled ten times and somehow survived. I have no idea how. I thought my arm was severed, because I couldn’t feel it at that very second. But – to my relief AND horror – my arm had just snapped the wrong way.

It was the middle of the night, but luckily the locals had heard the crash and came from the nearby village to help. They then took me to the hospital but couldn’t do anything as a result of lack of resources. There wasn’t much they could do to treat me.

So, I spent three days in absolute agony while waiting for the clouds to lift, so that they could have a helicopter come get me out. Ultimately, when I was able to have the operation, the surgeon had to chop off 4cm of bone off my right arm.

I survived – sans 4cm worth of bone in my right arm, but here’s what’s so amazing – my watch? This one on my wrist? It made it through the entire ordeal, completely unscathed – just tick-tocking away.

So how did the relationship with IWC come about?

I’ve always admired the brand. The IWC branding is very much aligned with what I’m about. Just the style of the Big Pilot is brilliant: It’s simple, practical, and robust which is basically the sort of thing I needed to take away with me on an expedition that could survive any environment.

I just didn’t want a watch that was going to break on me. They are an international brand, and given my expeditions are in different environments around the world – it just works. I had the pleasure of meeting George Kern the CEO at SIHH who was a thoroughly charming chap.

Other than the Big Pilot, are there any other model that you have your eye on?

I love the Portugieser Collection. They are beautiful watches. Probably not practical for expeditions, but I’d love to wear one on when I’m back and doing the round of publicity and talks.

In life, when are you at your happiest?

I’m at my happiest when I’m free, when I can manage my own time. When I leave the notepad and camera at home and go backpacking for two weeks on my own – or get on a motorbike and drive around India or whatever. Or equally when I’m with my mates. It all about sharing memories, even better when it’s with people you value.

Finally, how do you define success?

To me, success is when you are able to look back and see that you have made more decisions based on love, than out of fear.