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Time on their hands

Father and son pass the hours in perfect partnership

They could easily pass for brothers – both are slim and dapper in perfectly tailored suits – but Ray and Rainier Jacinto are, in reality, father and son.

They also share a passion for watches, especially the brands Rado, Tissot and Frederique Constant. Which is not surprising since one is a second-generation watch entrepreneur and the other, a third-generation heir to the business.

Time well spent

This interesting legacy, they owe to Ernesto Jacinto, Ray’s father, who founded the company Ercinto (a portmanteau of his two names) in 1963, operating from an office along Echague Street, now Carlos Palanca Street, in Quiapo. That was a golden time for local startups in an area that bustled and crackled with activity, in much the same way Makati or BGC is doing these days.

How did the elder Jacinto get interested in timepieces?

“Nagkayayaan lang [he and his Chinese business counterparts got together],” his grandson recounts.

“They saw an opportunity. My grandfather landed the rights to the exclusive wholesale distribution of Rado and later, Citizen in the Philippines. We didn’t have a shop because the dealers just came to him for watches they would display in their stores.”

Other families partnered with Seiko and Casio for similar lucrative arrangements.

It was all hands-on deck for the Jacinto family members, recruited to help build Ernesto’s empire. “Nagbubuhat ako ng kahon sa bodega [I carried boxes from the warehouse],” chuckles Ray over those years of struggle. Rainier was not exempt. At seven years old, he was already “assisting” in the operations, tearing the wrapping off the newly arrived watches and laying them out for someone to tag.

“I guess that’s when my appreciation for the aesthetics of watches was nurtured. You couldn’t help it – something would catch your eye, and you’d think: ‘That’s nice.’ You develop your preferences.”

Older and wizer

As was the tradition in Chinese clans, Ernesto’s oldest son Ray was inevitably drafted to take over the reins of Ercinto. He decided that retail was the way forward and established Wizer Industries in the 1990s.

The senior Jacinto explains: “We had to go into retailing because the others (the dealers) didn’t want to take on the higher-priced brands. Imagine, if you were a small retailer on Avenida Rizal, where they all once were, and you had watches in your inventory that cost between P50,000 and P100,000 on your shelf. What if they didn’t sell?”

Wizer Industries decided to gamble on a future where the Filipino consumer would have increased spending power and hanker for a more cosmopolitan lifestyle. On December 21, 2001, it launched Montre, its first watch boutique in SM’s The Podium along ADB Avenue, Ortigas – the first of three outlets to debut in a mall that set trends at the time. The shop carried Rado, Tissot, Doxa, Mido and Perrelet watches.

Recalls Ray: “Due to feng shui (geomancy) reasons, SM begged us to open even if the building was not yet completed. Can you imagine the dust? So, it was just us, The Cheesecake Factory and La Lumier de Paris. It was just Rainier and me na nagbabantay [who were manning the shop].”

The evolution

Flash forward 17 years later, and the partnership between Wizer Industries and The Podium has come full circle. Under the Tempus corporate anchor name, two mono-brand stores, displaying Rado and Frederique Constant timepieces, are located on the ground floor. The aim of such a presence, says Ray, “is to show how brands that are perceived as ‘old,’ such as Rado, have been evolving.”

He adds: “It also serves to create an environment to highlight the brands’ unique identities.”

Tissot is another timekeeping icon distributed by Wizer Industries. Says Ray: “The beauty of having three brands is that if a market may not be ready (budgetwise) for a Rado or a Frederique Constant, it may be ready for a Tissot. This gives us the ability to cater to different market segments.”

Rainier, whose task is to bring the family heritage into the new millennium, stresses the importance of “telling each brand’s story.”

“The middle class is increasing and their buying power is higher than it was before. Millennials will part with their money if they know what they are buying or investing in is worth it.”

Tempus staff are key to consumer education, and the Jacintos make sure to step up training by providing monthly workshops and conduct store visits in Tempus stores in Metro Manila, Cebu, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Davao and Zamboanga. Says Ray: “If I’m in the store and I see customers, I engage them with my spiel. The staff listens and gets to pick up what I say.

“Don’t rush the sale, I tell our salespeople. They should ask the customer: what are they looking for? It’s not about just selling or making a sale, and that’s it. They have to learn to build relationships like the alajeras (favorite jewelers) of the past, whom people would go back to because they could trust them when they wanted to buy jewelry.

“It’s good to share the story of the brand with the customer because when somebody recognizes the brand of their watch, they are knowledgeable about its history and how it works. People like to converse about such things nowadays.”

Family ties

Ray and Rainier have worked to maintain an amiable relationship that enhances both their professional and personal spheres. Ray never pressured his eldest child Rainier, nor his two other sons and daughter to join the firm. “I’ve seen enough incidents where this has happened, and it never works out. It creates disharmony in the company and causes the business, as well as family relationships, to suffer.” His only daughter is pursuing her dreams in the hospitality industry in the US. Rainer’s younger brothers are still in school.

After graduating from De La Salle with a BA degree, majoring in Communication Arts and a BS degree in Commerce, majoring in Marketing Management, Rainer was sent to Beijing to hone his Mandarin language skills. This was thought to help in future business transactions with Chinese entrepreneurs. Rainer also spent some two years working with Chinese companies, one a pharma and the other dealing with cartridges for printing. He describes the experience as tough, reminiscing: “They really work long hours, and even if there are long holidays, one has to make up for it by working on Saturdays. So, there are really no holidays!”

His improved Mandarin, however, proves useful when the family vacations on the Mainland as they did recently. Says his father: “Numbers and language is power. When we went around Shanghai, his knowledge of Mandarin helped a lot, but when he left us for Beijing, nahirapan kami [It became difficult for us]. When we wanted to buy tea, it took us one hour to negotiate!”

Rainier is grateful that his father allows him tremendous leeway to perform his responsibilities as marketing services manager. “It’s a family business, and I was hired to address a certain aspect. But he gives me a free hand and a lot of trust, so there is no overlapping.”

Ray enjoys talking with his boy “about the joyful times,” and seeks him out when a problem crops up to hear his opinion and options for a solution. “I get much more out of discussing with him than hiring a consultant.” Besides obvious fatherly love, there is definitely professional pride in this offspring.

Unlike traditional bosses, Ray hired younger employees upon assuming leadership of his father’s company. “I prefer working with young people. Instead of spending time in school to get higher education, I thought why not hire professionals with new ideas. And I would learn from them.”

The first watch, Rainier ever received from his father, was a Citizen. The first watch bought with his own paycheck was a Tissot. The day BoardRoom Watch interviewed him, he wore his wedding watch, a Frederique Constant Runabout GMT, and his father wore his favorite limited edition Rado Hyperchrome Ultralight, a scratchproof beauty.

For these gentlemen, time and timepieces tell a story – their story.


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