Tue09022014

Mountain View on the Move

Veteran watchmaker keeps time, good relationships with customers: Business expands to new location


Photo By: Charles So/Special to the Town Crier
Photo Charles So/Special To The Town Crier

Mohammed Saatchi, left, owner of M&S Watch Gallery, consults with associate Masoud Danandeh, a senior technician at the new gallery in the Grant Road Shopping Center.
Town Crier Staff Report

For more than three decades, Mohammed Saatchi has offered watch repair services out of a small outlet at the entrance to what is now Rite Aid at the Grant Road Shopping Center in Mountain View.

Specializing in watch repair, battery replacement and sales of watches and watchbands, Saatchi’s new store is clear indication that business is good – and expanding.

“This is my dream,” he said as he entered his spacious new site, M&S Watch Gallery, in the same shopping center.

Clocks new and old adorn the walls, and glass display cases feature shiny new Rolexes and Omegas. A large backroom houses space for repair work, most of it done while the customer waits.

After being connected with the larger stores for so many years, the new store, which opened in March, is Saatchi’s first independent location.

A third-generation watchmaker, Saatchi (which means “watchmaker” in Iraqi Arabic, Persian and Turkish) started at the Grant Road location in 1984 when it was Gemco. He proceeded to open additional locations in Menlo Park and San Jose.

Successful at attracting customers, Saatchi’s businesses survived even as the buildings transitioned from one corporate owner to another. His Menlo Park shop is now located in a Safeway, while a CVS in San Jose houses his other store. His original site on Grant, which he plans to continue operating, has transitioned from Gemco to Target to Payless and now Rite Aid.

Time is of the essence

Saatchi came to California from the Middle East in 1971 to attend college. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Pomona College and a master’s degree in telecommunications from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He worked at Rolm Corp. as an engineering project manager from 1980 to 2000, all the while working at and expanding his watch business.

Saatchi attributed his success to two factors: “Honesty is No. 1 and lowest price. These are the two things I have going.”

Another priority is efficiency. No matter the magnitude or type of repair, Saatchi guarantees work completed within 10 business days. Other service centers, he said, offer the same repair over several weeks at hundreds of dollars more than what he charges.

“Look at this,” he said, removing a watch from a small envelope. “This same watch repair would cost $600 and could take six weeks (at a service center),” he said. “My price is $200 – and it’s ready within 10 days.”

Also key is Saatchi’s personality. Gregarious and beaming with positive energy, he makes friends quickly.

He described his approach: “I want you (as a long-term customer) – I don’t want your money. You give me $60, I go out to dinner, that money is gone.”

Building a business, he believes, lies in nurturing relationships that go far beyond one visit. His philosophy has worked, big time.

He recalled an adult man showing up with his children.

“He said, ‘I would come here with my dad when I was 9,’” Saatchi said.

Customer loyalty not only spans generations, it also bridges distances. Saatchi pointed to returning customers who now live in other states and even other countries.

Watching the trends

Saatchi has seen watch trends come and go, then resurface. Spring watches, he said, are making a comeback at the high end of the price range.

“In the watch industry, the trends change every 15 years,” he observed, adding that the role of the watch also has changed.

“The purpose of the watch is not telling time anymore,” Saatchi said. “It’s a piece of jewelry that you wear.”

New watches adjust time automatically, he said, and solar watches have emerged as a new technology.

But few are entering the field of watchmaking, regarded as passé to some modern minds. With a shortage of watchmakers, he said, those few who enter the business could make a comfortable living.

Saatchi has – his business has serviced more than 1 million watches, he estimates, and exchanges approximately 150 watch batteries daily. And there’s no sending the watch to parts unknown for repair.

“We do everything locally, here,” Saatchi said proudly. “I’m excited about doing that.”

M&S Watch Gallery is located at 1040 Grant Road, Suite 315, Mountain View. For more information, call 969-5601.

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