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#LifeLokal: How Argos is fulfilling its mission to elevate the Philippine watchmaking industry

By Brooke Villanueva Published Dec 29, 2023 1:20 pm Updated Dec 29, 2023 3:34 pm

Watches are loved not just for their practicality and convenience, but also for their implication that the wearer respects the importance of time. They help one keep track of their days and value the time one has.

That’s exactly the driving force behind local brand Argos Watches, which has been on the market since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “At that time, I was at the height of my obsession with watches as I had lots of time on my hands,” co-founder Ivan Jeff Soberano told PhilSTAR L!fe. “I dedicated time to learning more about watches. There’s so much to learn—their history and heritage—and I eventually stumbled upon the idea of making my own.”

Ivan then tapped his good friend Greg Yu, with whom he shares his love for watches. They initially planned on buying and selling them, but eventually agreed to make their own brand with the help of more people on board.

“Today, Argos is not just a Filipino microbrand, but an elevated Filipino brand, he said.

Here, Ivan tells us more about Argos Watches and its continued mission to elevate the watchmaking industry in the Philippines.

Can you tell us about your brand name? Why is it called Argos?

The name was a challenge. There were several suggestions at first before we decided we would call it “Argos.”

“Argos” was a eureka moment. It came from one of our partners’ dogs who has the same name. It originated from Greek Mythology since at that time, her brother was into reading historic writings. Argos is the faithful and loyal dog of Odysseus in Homer's “The Odyssey.”

We thought it perfectly captured what we wanted our watches to embody—reliable companions that could stand the test of time throughout your life’s journey.

The Odyssey

When did you start Argos Watches and what inspired you to do so?

Argos started during the pandemic. At that time, I was at the height of my obsession with watches as I had lots of time on my hands. I dedicated time to learning more about watches. There’s so much to learn—their history and heritage—and I eventually stumbled upon the idea of making my own. I shared this idea with Greg, the first partner I had with Argos. Greg was the original enthusiast with whom I shared my love of watches. 

At first, we tried buying and selling watches, but very soon, we decided to get on with starting Argos. To make it work, we needed partners that would complete the fundamentals of a company, so we welcomed Nikki, Trish, and Stephen onboard. Later on, our technical designer, Nico, came in to join us. Today, Argos is not just a Filipino microbrand, but an elevated Filipino brand. We are on a mission to elevate the Philippine watchmaking industry.

How does Filipino culture play a role in your brand's identity?

We, Filipinos, are known for our passion, inclusivity, and ingenuity. Of course, we are proud to be a brand from the Philippines, but we also want Argos to be introduced and compete in a global market where we can help everyone appreciate what our country has to offer. We want people to see Argos for what it really is: built by a group of passionate individuals with no compromise on quality and reliability. 

Our current mantra is all about creating a watch for everyone. We do not need to scream a Filipino brand in order to be identified as Pinoy. We let our watch do the talking, backed with our Filipino values, and, of course, a brand of service excellence that is truly Filipino.

What makes Argos stand out from other watch brands in the country?

Argos is built on the idea of a watch that will last you forever, and the idea of a watch that will thrive in the wear and tear of every day. Although that may be said with other watch brands in the Philippines, what I believe makes Argos different from others is our commitment to continue improving our excellent watches—and along with this is our vision of professionalizing the craft in the country as well as putting the Philippines on the map of watchmaking. We are looking for ways and opportunities to train watchmakers, turn it into a sustainable livelihood as our company’s partners, and eventually develop the watch industry here further.

Some details of The Odyssey

What’s your bestselling item so far?

As of now, we are offering our debut model, The Odyssey. It retails for P17,999. In 2024, we will unveil a new model. We hope that everyone can watch out for this on our social media and website.

How do you want your customers to feel when they wear an Argos watch?

When wearing an Argos watch, we want the wearer to feel a sense of security that they are wearing something very durable, and there’s no need to worry about it breaking down when exposed to harsh environments. But more than that, we want them to feel that they are part of a brand committed to continuous improvement, dedicated to craftsmanship, and have nothing but the desire to make excellent watches.

Can you tell us about the watch designs? What’s the idea behind them?

Argos’ grammar of design is mainly on making versatile designs that can be matched with different fashion styles—with the durability of field watches. 

For the elements of the watch, the orange-tipped arrow-shaped seconds hand was inspired by a compass, a much-needed device when embarking on a journey. The dial texture was inspired by concrete roads, symbolizing the path someone will take in his/her own journey. The crystal is sapphire, one of the world’s hardest substances, which protects the dial and the mechanism of the watch, providing durability and many, many years of wear. The alternate brushed and polished stainless steel provides elegance to the watch, but as a true versatile watch as it can be changed to rubber or nato straps, making it an excellent go anywhere, do anything (GADA) type of watch. 

The dial has a pebble-like texture and is protected by sapphire crystal.

What are your next steps for Argos Watches?

Of course, our goal is to make Argos the country’s market leader in making watches that stand the test of time, both in quality and artistry. But our biggest dream is to change the perception of watchmaking here in the Philippines, turn it into a thriving industry: to bring the manufacturing capability here and eventually make the first Filipino watch mechanism. 

If you noticed, when people think about watchmakers, they think of countries, not the brand: the Swiss, the Japanese, the Germans. Our goal is to put us Filipinos on that map. 

But it’s no easy feat. It will be a road full of challenges. One might even question if this is worth the effort, but we believe that it is doable, and a worthwhile effort. First, we have to enable our Filipino watch technicians by equipping them with the skills, equipment, and right environment to gain expertise. Second, we have to earn the trust and respect of the Philippine market that these Filipino-made watches are well-made, with top-notch quality. Third, we have to achieve economies of scale, so that we can make the watches more accessible to the market. 

It will take a lot of time and resources. As a small company, that is a very big obstacle to hurdle. But you’ve got to start somewhere.