Welcome back to Custer & Wolfe: Building a Watch Company! We’ve been hard at work getting our Military Edition watches ready to be shipped, and things are going as smoothly as ever.
In the midst of what is, to many, the busiest time of the year, we wanted to do a quick episode answering some questions from listeners and providing an update as to what we’ve got in store in the months ahead.
However, before we get started on updates and Military watch discussions, we want to answer a question sent in by one of our guests: Do we make our own tombstones?
Do We Make Our Own Tombstones?
Last week, we released an episode where Tyler was talking all about tombstones and how they’re used in the machine room — an insightful and information-packed episode you should check out if you missed it! In response to the information provided by Tyler in that episode, Robert asked us if we make our own tombstones to fit in the machines or if we customize something else.
That’s a great question, Robert! We love getting feedback from our audience, especially when it allows us to give everyone a better understanding of how we do things at Vortic. If you ever have a question about anything on the show, just ask away in the comments! We love to hear from you!
“Yes, we have made our own tombstones. There's kind of two different types of tombstones that we make. The buckles, for example. That's very specific, just for that part. That'll only work for that part, it won't work for anything else. Then we have other tombstones that just, say, accept two-inch round material, and you can put like 12 pieces of two-inch round material in there.” - Tyler Wolfe
The difference that having these new tools in our facility, such as our five-axis machine, is incredible. Not only does this machine greatly increase our efficiency and speed when we’re manufacturing watches, but it saves us money too.
Tombstones are essential to the machining process, but they aren’t cheap to make. Their primary use is as a fixture to hold the parts we are working on, so we’re totally open to going pre-made if we can save some expense, and they’re high enough quality for our watches.
“Making a tombstone is expensive, for the record. A tombstone in the world of machining is a fixture. It's kind of shaped like a long rectangle, so it kind of looks like a headstone or a tombstone. That's why it has its name, but we're just talking about a metal fixture to hold parts while we're machining them. Even on the tombstones we make, we're buying a lot of pre-made hardware to put on there and to actually do a lot of this stuff. We just machine the core of it.” - Tyler Wolfe
We can’t say it enough — the five-axis machine is a total game-changer with all the efficiency it brings to the machine room. To say it concisely, it multiplies the space we have to work by a lot. It takes a 2D working space and brings it into 3D, where we can access what we’re working on from several different angles.
Military Watch Updates
As a segue from talking about feedback, we also wanted to mention some feedback we received from a customer who recently got his Military Edition watch in the mail. This kind of feedback is what makes all of this worth it.
“The Military watches are starting to be delivered now, and one response particularly stood out. This gentleman said he watched every single marketing video we did. He looked in detail at all the pictures, and I think he said that this was not an insignificant purchase for him, or an insignificant amount of money, basically. He said, you guys did an excellent job, but there's nothing that you can do to explain what this looks like in person. Holding this watch is insane..” - R.T. Custer
This kind of feedback isn’t isolated to this gentleman — we’re getting a lot of this kind of feedback. And to us, hearing the feedback that we’ve made something people never want to take off is what it’s all about.
When satisfied customers sing praises of our watches, and we see the joy that it brings them, it lights us up inside. We even had a customer tell us he was so glad he received his before Thanksgiving so he could show it off to his whole family!
“It's great to get feedback like that because so much effort goes into each watch. I was thinking recently because people ask so, so often how much time goes into building each watch. I think my answer now is going to be it takes multiple people multiple days over the course of months to build each watch. And I think that's what our customers appreciate. That each one of these watches was a lot of effort and hands-on time was put into each watch.” - Tyler Wolfe
All that being said, as we’re gearing up for next year, we want to hear about any and all trade shows, watch shows, art fairs, car shows, or anything of that sort that you’d like to see us at! We want to go to as many events and shows as we can to give people an opportunity to see these watches that we work so hard on for themselves.
Where Do We Source Our Pocket Watches?
We’ve discussed this in previous episodes, but if you haven’t been able to catch those, one of the most frequent questions we get asked is: Where do we find our pocket watches? Sourcing antique movements is perhaps one of the most important parts of this whole process because, after all, we can’t make our watches unless we have the right parts.
“There are these people, and they are like American Pickers on the History Channel. They're going out and finding estate sales, pawn shops, and they buy the whole thing — like a watchmaker estate, and then there's typically a whole bunch of pocket watches or parts or things like that just kind of sitting at the back.” – R.T. Custer
Basically, these “pickers” buy a large lot from an estate or company and break it up into pieces to sell. Since we might be the only people to buy that level of volume of just American pocket watches, we randomly get these text messages with pictures of dozens of pocket watches from people who have batches of watches to sell us.
There’s always a risk when buying this way because you aren’t guaranteed you’ll be able to sell everything you bought. It’s also extremely time-consuming to sit and go through boxes upon boxes, looking for valuable parts we might need. Sometimes it takes days to go through everything.
However, the hard work is always worth the effort. When we get new parts, it’s a whole ordeal here. We lay all the parts out on a table and just take everything in — it’s like Christmas morning.
Updates on the Swiss Turning Center
The Swiss turning center is a new beast of a machine we are trying to tackle, but it is slow-going. One of our team members, Skye, is hard at work gathering information about this 11-year-old machine. However, it’s proving to be more difficult than we initially realized because not only is it 11 years old, but it’s also somewhat rare.
“So basically we have software called CAM. Just like CAD is computer-aided drawing, CAM is computer-aided machining where we kind of design the tool paths, and then the post-processor is the set of code that takes our tool paths and puts them in the language that that particular machine can understand. So we have a different post processor for each machine that we have in the building, even though we use the same software to write the tool paths.” - Tyler Wolfe
It’s important to remember that when dealing with these types of machines, they each speak their own language. This means that it takes time and effort to decipher how to communicate with these machines, and the difficulty is only magnified when the machine is rare and abnormal, like the Swiss turning center.
Due to the total “weirdness” of the Swiss machine, we are planning on giving Tyler an entire episode to explain this process in greater detail. If you want to know more about the Swiss machine and how it works, keep an eye out for that episode on our YouTube channel soon!
Thank You to All of Our Vortic Supporters!
Amidst the busy holiday season and everything we’ve got planned, we wanted to take a moment to extend a warm and humble thank you to every one of our supporters. We would not have the luxury of making these watches, bringing joy into people’s lives, and doing this show if it were not for our supporters and listeners.
Without you, there is no Vortic, and there is no Custer & Wolfe. Thank you, we are so grateful.
“We spend a lot of time trying to put everything we do on video since our customers are making significant purchases, site unseen. There's a lot of trust that goes into that. So thank you, and thanks for your patience while we iron out the hiccups.” - RT Custer
We hope everyone enjoys blessed and happy holidays and look forward to sharing more of our journey in the new year. If you want to keep up with our watches, be sure to follow us on Instagram and sign up for our email newsletter to get regular updates!Subscribing to Custer & Wolfe's YouTube channel will also keep you informed on all things Vortic. There, we'll keep you up-to-date on everything that's happening with us, including our warehouse growth, production process, and ideas for creating an impactful business!