By Jim Benemann
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4)– The only 100 percent Made In America wrist watches begin their new life in a small space on the east side of Fort Collins. It’s home to Vortic Watches.
The crew there loves turning old into new and durable, and it’s just plain fun.
Vortic Watches co-founder R.T. Custer says every watch is truly one-of-a-kind.
“You buy it because it looks cool, of course, and it does tell time. But our watches also tell a story. That’s what our watches are all about. It’s a conversation piece.”
That conversation typically begins here, with the movements of old pocket watches that are repurposed by Vortic. In the early 1900s, U.S. companies were turning out millions of pocket watches. By the end of World War II, the pocket watch had given way to wristwatches. Many of the old ones were stripped of their precious metal cases, often gold or silver. All that was left was the old movements. No value in those, everyone thought. But not the founders of Vortic.
“It’s like an engine. It will keep running forever. Back then, American-made was synonymous with quality. We were doing it better than the Swiss,” said Custer.
Vortic scours estate auctions and pawn shops to come up with bucketfuls of old movements. Those that make the cut are cleaned, repaired and restored. And then the process turns old into new, trash into treasure. It’s the milling process that takes titanium and crafts into a space age, durable case for those lovingly restored, century-old movements.
Vortic Watches co-founder Tyler Wolfe handle the technical side. He’s hands-on with all the machinery.
“For our normal watches, we 3-D print the titanium case and then we use the milling machine to mill out the inside of the case so it fits a perfectly protects the watch we put inside it.”
Custer and Wolfe were engineering and math majors at Penn State U. Both had a fondness for classic watch styles. R.T. moved to northern Colorado first and was working for a big company. But then his old pal Tyler called with what was clearly a brilliant idea.
R.T. recalls, “He said do you think you can 3-D print a titanium case for this pocket watch because it would look kind of cool. And he was right!”
Tyler loves the challenge of machining the watch parts and making sure the fit and finish are perfect. The Vortic website lets customers personalize their watch… from the movement they’ll be able to see at the back of the watch, to the finish on the titanium and the color of the leather strap.
Vortic watches start at about $1,000 and go up from there. Business is good. The company was born in 2014, and hopes to sell one thousand watches this year.