In the four years since it was established, homegrown brand Ibarra Watches has been working on rekindling the forgotten heritage of Philippine watchmaking, which flourished from the 1870s until the turn of the 20th century. Founded by physicist Nico Moreno, the brand’s conscious goal is to inspire nationalistic pride with its pieces, not just through their classic designs but also the craftsmanship that went into them and the historical references behind each collection. Most of its current selections, for example, carry names that anyone familiar with pre-20th century Philippine history would immediately recognize: the “presidential” Plaridel; the Mariano, featuring the Miyota 8215 automatic movement; the World Timer Salvador that was named after an 1882 steam vessel; and the his-and-her pairings of Rizal & Rivera.
More timepieces of interest:
But Moreno says that the company has always had broader visions beyond launching annual collections. Ibarra recently introduced its luxury line Ibarra Heritage and gave a preview of its first piece, the Sucesos Mechanical Hand Wind. The date of the announcement, June 19, was no coincidence; Given that the brand name was inspired by the Noli Me Tangere protagonist Crisostomo Ibarra, announcing its entry into the premium watch market on national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s 158th birth anniversary was fitting. “He was the first global Filipino,” Moreno says. “In today’s rapidly globalizing society, we Filipinos could learn from his life and works.”
Plus, the Sucesos was inspired by Rizal’s wristwatch—an artifact that has never been seen in public and is kept by the national hero’s brother Paciano’s descendants. Named after the hero’s annotation of Antonio de Morga’s “Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas,” the piece features elements that reflect the popular timepiece aesthetic during the 19th century: a low-domed sapphire glass, an enamel dial instead of the usual porcelain, and a hinged double case back with wire lugs. Its mechanism is very contemporary, however, featuring a Swiss 2801 ETA manual wind movement and also a water-resistant capacity for up to 50 m. underwater. “It is a modern recreation, not a replica of Rizal’s wristwatch,” Moreno describes. “Because if the watch had been remade exactly the same, it will not be fit for today’s times.”
Link to the past
Ibarra’s access to the inspiration behind Sucesos can be credited to Moreno’s involvement with the cultural organization Order of the Knights of Rizal (KOR), of which he has been a member since 2017. “As part of KOR, I learned more about our national hero, including the watch he had owned,” he shares. Discovery of this little-known fact made him reach out to an elementary schoolmate who was a descendant of Paciano Rizal, and he was then invited to their home where he got to read old letters between the two men and hear anecdotes about them from the family.
“We envision Sucesos to be a link to the past,” the physicist explains. “We thought it would be great to have a modern recreation of Rizal’s watch since it can be a good talking piece that can also promote the story and history of the Filipino.”
The production of Sucesos is also part of Ibarra’s initiative to support KOR’s 30-year-old project: the Jose Rizal Model Students of the Philippines Awards Program. This initiative recognizes young Filipinos with excellent academic and leadership qualities, in reflection of Rizal’s ideals and principles.
The Sucesos Mechanical Hand Wind is a limited edition design, with only 158 pieces. It is available for pre-selling until August 31 at the price of P64,999.75, and pre-ordered pieces will be shipped between November and December of 2019, subject to Swiss product schedule and shipment. The watch will then be officially available in January of 2020 for P84,999.75.
Despite being a young company, Ibarra’s position as a uniquely Filipino watch brand has garnered attention. It is even invited to watch and watchmaking events and conventions here and abroad. Moreno takes the positive reception from the industry as the greenlight for this newest expansion. “When we started in 2015, the creation of the Heritage line for the brand had always been in our plans. It is our vision to be every Filipino’s watch and help uplift the Filipino brand, and so we wanted to base the first watch of the line on a timepiece that can be celebrated globally.”
More watches for daily timekeeping will also be released in the future, in the service of different economic segments of local consumers. “It’s hard to win the Filipino market,” Moreno admitts. “People would say that we are becoming too global, but we continually strive to balance creating designs that also appeal internationally while remaining local.”
For more information on the Ibarra Heritage Sucesos Mechanical Hand Wind, visit IbarraWatches.com.