Watchmaker Ali Asgar repairs a watch at a shop in Souq Watiya in Kuwait City.

By Ben Garcia

In today’s age of technology and smartphones, wristwatches are no longer a necessity. Many shops selling wristwatches closed down, discontinued their sale or changed their businesses to something else. However, even if wristwatches are unnecessary nowadays, many still use them as accessories.

“Wristwatches are of no use nowadays, since mobile phones display the time accurately and automatically switch between time zones. Besides, you can probably forget your wife and kids, but never your mobile,” quipped Ali Asgar, a watch repairer at Souq Watiya in Kuwait City. Asgar recalled the peak era of wristwatches when the shop opened in the complex in 1997. “At that time, we had many customers daily because wristwatches were a necessity – but not anymore,” he said.

Asgar’s shop was formerly known as Barat Shop, referring to a unique Filipino word of endearment when haggling for an unimaginable discount. “At that time, we also had a repairman on the side of our shop,” he told Kuwait Times. “Many of our customers were Indians, Egyptians and Filipinos,” he added.

Towards the end of the 1990s, mobile companies penetrated the global market and sales of wristwatches started to decline. “Till the late ’90s, everyone had to have a wristwatch. But today you can live without it. So we shifted from being an exclusive watch shop to selling novelties, and changed our shop’s name from Barat Shop to Time World,” Asgar said.

Nonetheless, according to Asgar, the wristwatch industry is still alive, and so is the repair business. “If there are wristwatches being sold every day, repairs must be available too. So our company offers repair services too,” he said. Hailing from Rajasthan in India, Asgar said he studied watch repair when he was in college.

“Since I started as a repairman, there hasn’t been a day without a client, except of course when we were forced to close down last year due to the lockdowns and curfews,” he said. “Most of the repair services we provide deal with adjusting the size of the strap. We sell batteries too and repair the pendulum or mechanism of the watches. Repairing is easy, but we need time to make a watch work again,” he told Kuwait Times.

“Our customers are not affluent people, so repair is vital. Many locals and others do not bother repairing their watches, but those availing our services are low-income people, and it is important for them,” Asgar said. The shop sells and repairs high-end to low-end brands of watches. “Brands from the US, Switzerland and Japan are mostly expensive, and we normally provide a one-year warranty for them.

For every 100 watches we sell, usually only one comes back with a problem or damage,” Asgar said. “Most of the repair jobs we get are from random customers for minor issues like dead batteries, strap replacement and changing the clasp or glass. These are all easily done by us,” he said.