Danilo Villanueva and the art of building a Filipino watch brand

DANILO Villanueva Jr. is an adman for advertising giant McCann Worldgroup New York and CEO of Filipino brand, Makina Watches.

Villanueva’s watch designs have received international awards and featured in watch-expert, design and style magazines from Switzerland, USA, England, Australia, Japan and other countries.

The Manila Times delves into a conversation with the Filipino adman-entrepreneur to uncover the depths of his motivation and ambition.

What compelled you to build your own watch brand?

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As a creative director for many years, I build brands for large companies. It is what I do. It is who I am. It was only matter of time that I built my own brand. It had to be about timepieces because it’s an obsession of mine. And I knew it had to be something beyond just another business. This is not possible without passion and obsession.

Despite living in cities like New York, Dubai and Melbourne, why choose to build it in Quezon City?

My vision is to create products of international caliber branded with a name that is unmistakably Filipino. Beyond putting the Philippines on the horological map, I have ambitions of redefining what it means to be a Filipino brand on the global stage and be competitive in terms of aesthetics and craftsmanship. Secondly, being born in the Philippines myself, Makina had to be born in the Philippines, too.

It sounds like Makina’s market is both local and international. How are Makina’s prices determined for both?

I want Makina to be priced fairly and competitively. This doesn’t mean cheaper. Some believe that Filipino goods should be made cheaper, but if we, as a nation, undervalue our own goods, how can we expect others to view us differently? Our timepieces offer the same, if not higher, quality compared to our international competitors in terms of design and materials, and therefore are priced similarly, or even at a premium, despite their Filipino origin.

How do you decide when a watch design is ready for market?

Designers are like chefs. Only a few are able to put time and heart in the dishes they make. And when that dish arrives at the table, it shows. Only when we’ve poured a substantial amount of time and heart do we then put it out there for everyone to see. And we want it to show.

What makes Makina as a brand different from its competitors?

Although Makina has evolved into a business, we have not lost our passion project mindset. We do not conform to market trends or chase mass appeal. Makina is not designed for the masses. We introduce timepieces simply based on what we like. This mindset is important to me because it ensures that we never lose the art in the things we make.

Villanueva’s journey, from advertising to watchmaking, is a testament to passion and pursuit of excellence. Makina is not just about watches, it is a profound tribute to artistry and an uplifting force for the Filipino identity.