Max Phoo and Mavis Chuah were colleagues at Groupon when they found themselves at a crossroads. “We had a similar interest in watches and we were both feeling too complacent about where we were in our careers. We wanted to challenge the status quo,” says Chuah. They decided to start their own watch company, called Madroc Hood. The word “hood” was used to evoke a sense of belonging, while Madroc is an acronym for their company’s core values — M for minimalist, A for artistry, D for design, R for reminisce, O for Origin and C for customisation.
Phoo has a background in finance but says he has always had a passion for art. Working full-time at Madroc Hood, he handles the design, sales and marketing. Chuah is there part-time and also works in a technology company. Her background in business information technology has helped her with Madroc Hood, as she handles operations, logistics and finance. “There is a saying that you absorb 10% from the classroom and the rest is on the job. So, while working in this business, I have learnt a lot,” she says.
Although Madroc Hood was launched with the help of Kickstarter two years ago, Phoo and Chuah began conceptualising their brand and contacting suppliers in 2014. It took them a while to find trusted people they could rely on for the premium quality they were striving for. “We had to get the right suppliers so we travelled around to get the right people and parts,” says Phoo. They took their time to get everything just right. “We hit a few roadblocks. For example, some of the products that were described in email and chats were not what we finally got, so it was really a headache. Still, we had strong faith and belief that we would find what we wanted,” adds Chuah.
Their first watch, called Singularity, came with a brown or black leather strap and had a timeless design. “We went with colours that look clean on everyone and a really classic style. Our design concept was to create a universal watch,” says Phoo. Since its launch, Madroc Hood has released a few models including the sold out Memento, which allows customers to pick a personal image for the dial, and Luminos, with a black dial and the choice of pink or blue hands. It has a range of leather strap colours that can have the wearer’s name embossed for free. “We order our watches in batches and once a batch is finished, we take two to three months to relax and look for inspiration for new designs,” says Phoo.
He motivates himself by always wearing the company’s timepieces, including the prototypes. “Even if it is a rough sample, I wear it. Every day, when I look at the time, it reminds me that I need to get this business on the right track,” he says. The partners both remember their first watches — Chuah received a Baby-G when she was seven years old and Max had a metal watch featuring a basketball on the dial from a pasar malam. They both agree that watches are an extension of your personality and, with their product, they wanted to take it a step further. “The idea is more towards how you should spend time rather than why you should buy this watch. We are more focused on the essence of time,” Phoo says.
Madroc Hood timepieces use a Ronda 762 Swiss Movement encased in stainless steel covered by scratch-proof sapphire crystal glass. Presented in a stylish black box, Madroc Hood watches can be customised as premium corporate gifts with the addition of thank you cards and the option to engrave a logo or message on the caseback. The watch company will soon add a new line of watches with gold and rose gold coloured cases.
“It is not just a watch that we are looking at — it is the whole message around it,” Chuah remarks. The partners also run a blog on their website with topics that range from branding to holiday advice. They find this a great way to inject their personality into the brand and to engage with their customers. “People don’t just buy what you sell. People buy because they relate to you,” Chuah says.
This article first appeared on Oct 1, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.