Danilo Villanueva, the CEO of Makina, has always been fond of watches since a very young age.
Since his teenage years, he has been actively collecting different types of watch, from mechanical to hand-made ones.
Later on, he finally made a move to pursue his dream of starting his own luxury watch business. He quit his job as an advertising professional, and became a full-time entrepreneur.
“I couldn’t even begin to start dreaming of my desired business because of the limited time I had due to working for other people’s companies. Hence, a good one year off without income must arrive,” he said.
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When interviewed about how much it costed to start his own company, Villanueva declined to reveal a figure. Instead, he told us that he had a few Panerais and Jaeger LeCoultres (JLC) in the collections that he has sold away.
This may not come across as a big deal, but to watch enthusiasts, their watch collection is very precious to them.
A single standard model of either Panerais and Jaeger LeCoultres costs about Php250,000 on a regular day. However, prices can increase depending on the condition, the buyer, and the season.
Villanueva initially wanted to sell all of his collection, but he managed to keep at least two of them for safekeeping.
From Mind to Matter
He first started the design of his products by mapping it out in his mind. After he had a solid idea of what he wanted to build, he started drawing and designing different types and designs of his dream watches.
Villanueva then started seeking assistance from his friend, a watch engineer who works for a big-time Swiss watch company in Hong Kong, to help mould his ideas into reality. And together, they were able to materialise their concept in AutoCAD in both two and three-dimensional formats.
“We handed the production work to a friend of mine who owns a small manufacturing factory in Hong Kong,” he said. “It took me years to build contacts like these because over the years, I knew that I’ll start up my own watch brand someday.”
People Is The Core Of The Company
In the early days, Makina was a very small startup.
Besides him as the founder, his wife took up the role as an operations manager and co-founder.
His parents helped handle imports and exports in the Philippines, and he also had a Filipino engineer and Chinese assembler in Hong Kong, as well as a Filipino assembler in the Philippines.
Villanueva also said that he was very accommodating to freelancers who wanted to help him create new concepts and designs, and occasionally hires them to produce actual watches for his company.
During this stage, he was working with a Hong Kong partner who owns a factory with computer numerical control (CNC) machines that could mass produce watches at a given time.
These CNC machines are electro-mechanical devices that manipulate shop tools using input from computer programming.
A Local Flavour
Two of the very first mechanical watches that Villanueva produced are ‘Mephisto’ and ‘Uriel’. Both are equipped with start-of-the-art Miyota mechanism straight from Japan, and has a beautifully-crafted exterior with a touch of vintage look.
The Uriel I and II models are priced at PHP29,950 each, and the retail price for Mephisto is still unknown.
“We only produce [the watches] in batches of 100 every time for cost management and, more importantly, for quality control.”
Although, the concept and design of the watches follow the Japanese aesthetic, it’s actually manufactured in Hong Kong.
Despite this, Villanueva promises that Makina is without a doubt unique to Philippines.
“Of course I would love to manufacture in the Philippines, but it is close to impossible in doing so. You have to buy an ‘x’ number of precision machineries and hire expert watchmakers to teach a sizeable crew on how to operate these machineries and make handcrafted parts.”
“What is Filipino about Makina are the brains behind the brand – from the founder, designer, engineer, assembler, and right down to the branding experts,” he said.
“As for the rest, we have to rely on our Asian neighbours who we can trust to deliver high quality in their area of expertise.”
“As far as I am concerned, Makina is as Filipino as it gets. Swiss’ Sevenfriday, Dutch’s TW Steel, and Sweden’s Danieel Wellington are all big brands manufactured in Guangzhou or Shenzhen. The only watch brand I know that used to manufacture in the Philippines is Timex, and I don’t think one can consider this a Filipino brand just because it is made there.”
You can order your Makina watches at this site.
Featured Image Credit: Philippine News