One of the many quiet passions that most people share is collecting whatever it is that they enjoy. Some collect pens, like my co-columnist in this paper, distinguished literary writer Mr. Butch Dalisay who has an enviable collections of ancient and current valuable ones (I enjoy reading his column); others like my good friend Danny "Sir John" Isla who collects old posters and memorabilia of his all-time favourite band, the Beatles (he has a den full of these in mint condition); and my wife who has an étagère full of an assortment of bells. Me, I am a modest collector of watches, and when I say modest, I mean that. Collecting watches is an expensive hobby which I cannot sustain in the long run, so I say modest. Perhaps it is more appropriate to say that I am a watch enthusiast, and I have a few that I take turns in wearing, lest they deteriorate over time.
It was with a great amount of respect and admiration that I learned that we now have an all-Filipino watch brand-Ibarra Watch . All these years, we've never had a brand that we can proudly call Filipino and we've always had the very pricey Swiss or French or Italian brands or the more affordable Japanese or Taiwanese brands that we grew up with here at home. B&L met up with Nico Moreno, the young man behind Ibarra Watch.
Nico graduated from De La Salle University in 2013 with a degree in BS Physics with specialization in Mathematical Science, a degree I know I wouldn't have ventured into, not now and not when I was his age. He worked for two years in a multinational food company right after graduation until he realized that employment was not for him. Nico shared that his family had their share of financial difficulties early on which helped push him to the limits. Leaving a stable high-paying job in a large company to try his hand at entrepreneurship was really a leap of faith. He did take that leap anyway, and that was how Ibarra Watch came to be.
With Nico's choice of BS Physics for his college degree, we can easily see that this young man is steeped into the precision, the strict discipline of science. "When you're in the pure science field, it pushes you to know the things that are new to you, things you do not know and I find fulfilment in that" , he said. He chose to produce watches that he can proudly call a Filipino brand. He chose the name Ibarra because, like many millenials now, thinking Filipino in whatever way has come of age. There is a new and palpable sense of nationalistic pride in being a Filipino now, no matter what big problems in the country we are having. How much more nationalistic than the name Ibarra which calls to mind national hero Dr. Jose Rizal and his classic novel Noli Me Tangere?
Nico says that Ibarra as a brand name, besides being relevant to the Filipino, also showcases everything positive about the Filipino. It means sophistication and style but it also means substance at its very heart.
Nico has been a watch enthusiast for three years now which isn't really enough time to get to know everything you want to know about watches. But in this short time, Nico fell in love with watch making and the precision that goes into creating movement. He traces this to his studies in Physics when the seeds got planted within him without his knowing it then. Since there is no Filipino brand of watches yet that can compete in the global arena, he thought it was time that the Philippines got into it, and he was going to be a trail blazer in this area. He knew he was dreaming big, and that was exactly what he wanted to do.
With friends and other investors who believed in his vision, Ibarra Watch came to be. Watch-making is not cheap, Nico said, and they needed several millions to start manufacturing on a commercially-viable scale, so he needed investors for this venture. They imported all the watch parts from Switzerland, Hong Kong and Japan and, with a select team of well-trained Filipino technicians, the first batch of Ibarra watches was rolled out. Over a short period of time, styles were improved and new models were turned out.
Now, Ibarra has stand-alone stores selling the brand exclusively in different parts of the metro. It is also available online. Initially, they are targeting the Filipino middle class, middle management employees who may not be able to afford the high-end Swiss or French brands and who may settle for the more affordable Japanese or Hong Kong brand. These Pinoy middle management employees would hopefully recognize that a Filipino brand like Ibarra is worth patronizing if it is within the right price range and the technical workmanship and style are competitive enough with our Asian neighbors. The company is also targeting our Filipino compatriots working overseas who can afford good watches on a budget. With so many of them based everywhere in the globe, Nico believes this is already a big enough market for the company.
Nico has a never-ending thirst for learning, and this is what he wants to impart to other would-be entrepreneurs. The start of Ibarra watches was not easy, but they persevered and improved their craft in just a little over two years. Nico believes that it is time that we show the world what we Filipinos can do, and the time is now. Although there are styles ready for the picking at any time in their stores, they are now open to customizing and personalizing their watches. Recently, they started work on a collaboration with a designer from Cebu for new watch styles. They are prototyping this now and the first batch will be ready for release by June or July this year.
Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.
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