Maker Moment: Modify Watches

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Meet Aaron Schwartz of Modify Watches, modular timepieces where you can design your own face and mix-and-match the straps to change looks on a daily basis.

Tell us about you and your company? Where are you located? How many people in the company?

Modify Watches is based in San Francisco. We started in Berkeley in 2010, but now we work out of the SoMA district of SF where we hand-assemble all of our timepieces … we call ourselves the “lowest-tech startup in the Bay Area”.

There are 10 of us who work here: 3 designers, 5 assemblers and customer service, plus a few others in tech and business.

There are three defining features of our products. First, they’re all custom built in San Francisco, which means that you can literally get what you want on a watch. I wear a photo of my 3-month old flicking off my wife (it’s adorable and hilarious).

Second, all of our watches are lightweight and durable, yet still at an accessible price point. We wanted to make sure that these were ‘giftable.’

And finally, all of our watches are “interchangeable”. The watch face and watch straps are separate pieces, so you can mix-and-match styles to change your look on a daily basis. It’s a fun fashion statement that’s extremely flexible.

Picture of Aaron Schwartz & Ashil Parag

Founder Aaron Schwartz & Creative Director Ashil Parag

What gave you the idea of starting your company?

My buddy Gary and I started the company in 2010 trying to mesh characteristics of two of our favorite companies. Zazzle (of course), where you could literally create whatever you want. And Zappos where A++ customer service was the norm, not the exception.

When did you see a need for your product or products in the marketplace?

I think there’s always been a need for custom products, and moving towards watches was a natural extension. I think I felt the first real pull towards our product during our first Christmas, when our customer base extended beyond people in my immediate network! It stopped being a fun project and turned into something “real” at that point.

What’s changed since you started your company?

So much, from team members and interns, through strategy shifts. Two notable changes are to our operations and customer base.

When we first started all of our production was overseas, but we figured out how to move it here in 2014.

And while we have always had individuals as customers, we’ve started to see a ton of companies, groups (e.g. bachelor parties, etc.) and nonprofits use our custom watches as gifts or fundraisers!

What difference has your product/s made since you started?

I’m proud of a few impacts we’ve had:

*We’ve created a lot of jobs in the U.S. and overseas where we source some materials.

* We’ve directly contributed from 30-50% of revenue from a bunch of the products we’ve sold towards organizations like the American Cancer Society, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, high schools and religious organizations and the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

*From what I can tell, we’ve made a lot of people really happy, both with our product and our customer experience.

What got you interested in being a part of the Zazzle platform?

Zazzle is the premier destination if you want to buy a custom product. I knew that we had to be on Zazzle if we wanted people to find us.

I believe that we’re the premier custom watch brand and not being on Zazzle was not an option!

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