A watch to watch-Pinoy made

Mar 11, 2017

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.

For comments & inquiries (email) sunshine.television@yahoo.com

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About the Author

Ray Butch Gamboa graduated from the College of Arts and Letters of the University of Sto. Tomas. It was a course that should have been preparatory to a law degree, but the call of broadcasting aborted his plans.

At the age of 16, while still a student, Butch tried his hand at disc jockeying, landing a job at Mareco Broadcasting Network's AM stations DZBM and DZLM. From there, Butch moved on with his illustrious career as a popular disc jockey, riding the airwaves of Bob Stewart's middle-of-the-road music at DZXX, and ending his disc jockeying career at ABS-CBN's DZYL and DZQL.

From there, he stayed on with ABS-CBN, covering live the proceedings at the Manila Stock Exchange and eventually entered into the world of television sales as an account manager for the premier channel of ABS-CBN Channel 2.

In the early 70's, at the outbreak of Martial Law, Butch was one of the thousands of professionals who woke up jobless when then President Marcos declared the new status of the nation. With the closure of ABS-CBN, Butch ventured into different fields outside of broadcast. He tried his hand and with ease and success at export (Costume jewelry), real estate (brokerage), and restaurants (fast food).

In 1987, after the revolution, with the broadcast industry back to its free state, and with its irresistible call ringing in his ears, Butch made his inevitable comeback and pioneered in a local motoring show, producing Motoring Today on Channel 4 and co-hosting with local motor sports' living legend Pocholo Ramirez.

After 4 years, he ventured into another pioneering format by producing and hosting Business & Leisure, which was originally aired on ABS-CBN's Channel 2. The format eventually espoused similar ones in other different channels. But the clones in due course faded away leaving the original staying on airing on Channel 4 and eventually on Shop TV on Sky Cable's Channel 13.

The following year, the pioneering spirit in Butch spurred him to produce another TV show, Race Weekend, also on Channel 4, covering circuit racing at the Subic International Raceway after the motor sport's hiatus of 17 years. But when similar shows with duplicated formats sprouted, he decided to give way and ended the program after a year, although still enjoying unparalleled viewership.

In 1998, when the local automotive industry was in a slump, Butch contributed his share to help the ailing industry by producing another popular motoring-related show, this time exclusive to the automobile and its industry—Auto Focus, which became a vehicle for local automotive assemblers and importers to showcase their products and dwell on the industry's latest technological developments.

In 2003, Butch teamed up with his brother, Rey Gamboa who was a former Shell executive and presently one Philippine Star's business columnist to co-produce and co-host the TV show Breaking Barriers on Channel 13. It is a talk show that features guests who are in the news and in the middle of controversies. The program ventures to draw deeper insights into current issues to learn how they impact to our daily lives.

Today, Motoring Today on its 28th year of service to the general motoring public still enjoys its unprecedented loyal vierwership nationwide while Auto Focus, after 16 years has firmly established its niche viewership among automobile enthusiasts and on the other hand Business & Leisure is on its 24th year dishing out current business issues and lifestyle features.

Today, aside from writing weekly columns for the Philippine Star (Motoring Today on Wednesdays and Business & Leisure on Saturdays) and executive producer / host of weekly TV shows (Motoring Today, airs Sundays on Solar Sports Channel 70, Business & Leisure, airs Tuesdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13 and Auto Focus airs Thursdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13, Ray Butch Gamboa is currently the Chairman and CEO of Sunshine Television Production and Marketing Services Corp., President of Gamcor Management and Development Corp., Chairman of Asia-Pacific Realty Corporation, President and Chairman of Socio-Communication Foundation for Asia and Founding Chairman of the Society of Phil. Motoring Journalists (SPMJ)