This Atenista makes affordable and avant-garde watches


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The Atenista ended up with a very Filipino brand, not only in name, but also in design and sensibility.

RHIA GRANA | February 02, 2022

Gio de Guzman remembers his immense fascination with large pilot’s watches, even as a child. He loved Breitlings so much that he pestered his parents to buy him one. At that time, of course, he knew nothing about luxury watches. He had no idea that the model he wanted had a high price tag. His parents bought him a Swatch watch instead. You’d think he’d be very disappointed, but it was something young Gio was more than happy to get.

As you get older, the fascination for watches grows. He began to dive into the world of watchmaking, devouring watch magazines and online tutorials like boys his age dove into the latest video games. “I started learning about the different watch brands. Like, for starters, how to pronounce brand names correctly,” recalls Bulakeño, 27, laughing.

De Guzman & Co. watches have adapted the Baybayin as digital scripts.

It was at university that he began to seriously collect watches. Its gateway brand was the Japanese Seiko. It was affordable and of good quality. “Great next,” he says. The first one he bought was a Seiko SKX007, and nothing stopped him after that. “Whenever I travel, I deal with it na bibili ako ng look,” recalls Gio. “And whatever brand I buy, I make sure na sulit siya for the price.”

There was a time when he had over 40 watches in his stash, a mix of luxury names and under-the-radar names – his “hidden gems,” as he calls them. The collection includes an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak he got from a garage sale and a vintage Rolex, but the majority were still Seiko.

Guzman & Co Watch
Gio says his goal is to move the entire manufacture of De Guzman & Co. watches here to the Philippines.

In 2017, however, the young collector realizes that his favorite watch brand has driven up his prices. Whereas before he could already nab a beauty priced between 13,000 and 30,000 pesos, the new rates proved a bit too prohibitive for his willingness to spend. “Naging masyado na siyang mahaI for me ngayon—parang hindi na sulit,” he says.

So he thought, why can’t he just have something high-end tailored for him? Once he had the idea, he wasted no time in making it happen. He flew to Hong Kong to do his research and look for a possible supplier and manufacturer. And then he realized that it would be expensive to build just one custom timepiece. Manufacturers would require minimum orders. It was then that he began to consider creating his own brand of watches to fill the void left by Seiko in the market.

De Guzman & Co.
Gio says he wants to showcase Filipino ingenuity through his watches.

With the help of some investors, Gio, then a third-year medical student at Ateneo, built DeGuzman & Co., a kind of homage to his family of jewelers from Bulacan. He ended up with a very Filipino brand, not only in name, but also in design and sensibility – value for money being a major consideration in its creation.

At first, his project was to create tribute watches. The first model created by his brand in 2020 is inspired by the Tudor Submariner, the DG005. “The comments we received were, maganda ang quality, Pero Walang originality,” recalls Gio. “That’s when we realized the market was actually looking for a unique Filipino brand.”

De Guzman & Co.
The reinterpreted version of the DG005 in forest green.

Responding to this new market demand, he decided to manufacture the company’s own iconic watches from 2021. The initial version was the DG008, which adapted Baybayin, the ancient Filipino writing system, as the script. watch digital. The first syllables of numbers are used as markers.

The watch is made of solid milled 316L stainless steel, extremely resistant to corrosion, and domed sapphire crystal. Gio says he has a Seiko NH35 automatic movement, which is quite comparable to Swiss quality in terms of accuracy and precision.

De Guzman & Co.
De Guzman & Co. promises to continue to offer watches with added value and avant-garde design.

In February, the watch brand released a reinterpreted version of its very first model, the DG005, but this time in “sunburst forest green”. They also replaced Arabic markers with Baybayin script.

Last December, they released 21 pieces of the limited edition DG008 watch in pink, but it is already sold out. (Sorry, interested Kakampinks.)

But the brand promises to continue to offer watches with added value and avant-garde design. They also keep their watches at affordable prices, between 12,000 and 13,000 pesos. “Value proposition ang habol namin“, proposes Gio. “hindi naman talaga watchmaking country English Philippines. But we want to prove na kaya din natin mag-to create ng high quality watches.

[Photos courtesy of Gio de Guzman]

About Robert L. Thomas

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