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Modify Builds Custom Watches Right Here in San Francisco

The SoMa startup is betting that there's more to wristwear than smart watches.

Modify Watches
Modify Watches

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While tech companies explore ways to make watches smarter, Modify Watches is content to make traditional timepieces more personal. "The way we think about, it's another way to tell your story. It's like a t-shirt. You can put anything on a t-shirt. It's cool and it's custom. Now you can do that on a different canvas," CEO Aaron Schwartz explains.

When Modify launched in 2010, the team would post a selection of designs online and let the community vote on a favorite to go into production, similar to the Threadless model. In those days, the company produced watches overseas, ordering between 100 and 1000 units of each design. Watches were less expensive, but it wasn't quite the get-what-you-want audience experience that Modify wanted to offer. "You could get what you wanted, as long as it was one of 30 designs," Schwartz recalls.

Eventually, the business evolved to let customers submit their own designs, and moved production to San Francisco. Now, Modify staffers assemble watches at their Fifth Street headquarters and enclose a handwritten note with each order. "We've actually slowed down our delivery time because we have to produce the product; assemble it, test it," Schwartz tells Racked. "It's all on demand. What it means is we can have a thousand different designs. We can do anything and everything."

Price points on Modify Watches vary. Pre-designed options start at $40 for a face and strap combo. Custom work costs more. If you have a design in mind, simply submit it to the company. If you need help with the artwork, there's a $150 design fee for orders of fewer than 10 watches. A custom watch starts at $59.99 for a single face.

For an existing Modify customer, the face might be enough. If you need a watch band, you'll have to fork over an extra $15. If you want to mix and match your watch band and watch face, you can purchase a set of two straps and a face for $89.99.  Prices scale down when you order more pieces. Corporate clients —past big name customers include Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn— can email customer service for pricing information.

Modify Watches won't appeal to everyone, but for a club, a team, or a hyper-punctual bachelorette party, this San Francisco company is creating a functional alternative to the custom t-shirt.