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Building a Watch Company - Colorado Manufacturing and Adapting Amperage for our Swiss Turning Center


Most people never stop to think about what goes into the actual nuts and bolts of the products they know and enjoy. It’s more blood, sweat, and tears than they can imagine — but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The creative, dynamic, yet volatile world of small-business ownership and entrepreneurship is what we love, and we’re proud to show you exactly what goes into it. We can’t say it’s gone smoothly, but we can say it’s been worth it.

Knowing exactly what you’re getting is a far cry from the world of fast fashion and hyper-consumption in which you barely give a second thought to what you’re buying, let alone consider the craftsmanship behind its creation. 

But being mindful of where your dollars are going and what you’re supporting is a conscious act that has more impact than you think. 

We hope that our content has been giving you an idea of what our vision is like and what we stand for at Vortic Watch Co. We feel strongly not just about our product, but our process as well. And since this journey has honed our skills and challenged us in positive ways we could never have imagined, we feel even prouder to bring it to you. 

Ready to see what we’ve been up to? Let’s get into it!

Adapting Amperage for our Swiss Turning Center

The new space is really coming together, and some new machinery arrived as well, including two DMG machines and our Swiss Turning machine, which is just incredible. 

DMU Machine at Vortic's Machine Shop

For those of you who don’t know what a Swiss Turning machine is, it’s known as a workhorse in precision manufacturing that can machine incredibly accurate replacement parts for our antique watch movements, and as we've said before, it takes a great deal of specialized skill to operate it.

“This machine is tailor-made for the smallest round parts like screws, band, bars, stems, crowns, and case tubes. Swiss turning machines are basically the best machines that you can buy for those tiny little parts.” -Tyler Wolfe

We were happy to welcome new machines, but they came with a few hitches. But at Vortic, we’ve come to count on the unexpected — if you’re in our position and you want certainty and predictability, owning a small watchmaking company definitely isn’t for you.

So, unfortunately, the energy capacity for the machines was different from what we thought it would be. We bought the new equipment used, so we didn’t have all the specs beforehand. It turned out that each of them needed 150 amps of power and even more for some of the coolant equipment we use to maintain temperature. So we’d upgraded this building from 200 amps to 1000 amps, thinking that would be enough, and it’s not. It’s requiring a big change in our energy plan. 

Electric Panel at Vortic's American Machine Shop

When you consider that we also had planned for this project to take six months, and it’s now been a year, you can easily see how unpredictable things can be. 

“We're now moving in on day one and using almost all of our power. So a lot of what I've been doing this week has been calling different manufacturers and revising our machine buying plan for smaller machines, so we can do more with the space and power that we have. It’s a good example of how things change and adjust as we keep moving forward.” - Tyler Wolfe

It’s been stressful, and making those calls took up time we’d planned to use in other ways, but that’s just how it goes. Refining our process can be frustrating, but without challenges, we wouldn’t feel a sense of accomplishment. 

Getting a Grant and Supporting the Local Economy

In other news, we pitched the State of Colorado for an advanced manufacturing grant of a quarter of a million dollars. 

R.T. prepped for weeks and made the trip to Denver to give them his five-minute spiel of our story and answer their questions. If all goes well, we’ll be able to put that into machines and expanding our team. We’ll need to match those funds, which would likely involve purchasing more machines, so that will significantly ramp up our operations. 

“With half a million dollars worth of machines and equipment in the matching funds, we'll be maxed out in this room financially, space wise, and electric wise. There's gonna be — at least in terms of value, not necessarily how much we paid — probably two million dollars worth of equipment in this room.” - R.T. Custer

Getting a grant like this is no small feat, and we’re pumped at the possibility of all we can do with it. It’s not easy to sway decision-makers on a grant like this, but we’re definitely excited about how that pitch went.

“You're convincing a group of people [who] can control the allocations of these funds from the state of Colorado that what we're doing is important enough in the advanced manufacturing space [for them to] help us out. And we believe that's true. What we're doing is some really cool stuff.” - Tyler Wolfe

Not only are we creating this incredibly unique product, but we’re going to be powering the local economy by doing so. We’ll be creating a significant number of jobs for folks around here, especially when it comes to manufacturing.

“We're gonna need people to manage the machines. We're gonna need people to make the parts. We’re gonna need people to assemble the watches. … We have three job openings now, so we're literally investing in the Colorado economy. That’s what it's all about.” - R.T. Custer

And whether it's a Colorado native or someone further afield, we’re proud to say that this is an American-made project. We met our latest hire — a watchmaker from Flagstaff, Arizona — fortuitously in a bar. That just goes to show the kinds of synchronicities that show up on this crazy (but beautiful) quest to expand our reach at Vortic.

We’re also loving the process of building stronger bonds on our team through team-building events. We figured out a while ago that it might be a good idea to do things with our team besides just lock them in a room and order them to make watches. It just might be a good idea to switch it up a bit — so we did.

“We took most of the team down to Grand Junction and saw Burt Chrysler live telling some jokes. That was a lot of fun to spend some time with the team and hang out in the Western slopes. I'm gonna start doing a few more things like that, cause that was a lot of fun.”  - Tyler Wolfe

So between bonding with the team and getting potential new funds coming in, we’ve got a lot to feel positive about right now.

Vending in San Francisco

R.T. had a lot of fun at Windup Watch Fair in San Francisco, where he got to meet a bunch of our amazing fans who came out to see us. 

If you don’t know about this fair, it’s super cool. It’s a fun, free three-day-long shopping event featuring over 30 watch brands, held throughout the year in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. We love the food trucks and casual atmosphere, it makes it easy and natural for our fans to connect with us and get to know more about the brand. 

R.T. really enjoyed getting the chance to see fans face-to-face and really dive into everything that goes into our pieces. Our American Artisan Series is always a huge hit, and he was able to elaborate more on our process, including how we select which historical pieces to use, how we restore them, and what our intention is behind it. 

Plus, it’s always a pleasure to connect to the people who want to or already wear our incredible watches. We love seeing our fans and learning what their story is. At the end of the day, we’re not just making watches. We’re trying to preserve history with our restored pieces, and we’re trying to support our community by going all-American made. 

So while we’re watchmakers, we also consider ourselves to be in the business of people — their history, their style, and their values. 

Military Edition Watch at Windup Watch Fair

Last thing about the fair, R.T. found that people are really excited about our next military edition. If you’re a military buff, know that these pieces are supporting a good cause. $500 of every purchase goes to The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative, which provides training for U.S. Military Veterans who wish to become professional watchmakers.  

Check Out the Latest Video On More Custer & Wolfe

We’re so grateful you’re joining us as we navigate being business owners and visionaries as we continue to grow Vortic Watch Co. We hope it satisfies your curiosity and maybe even gives you a little inspiration to overcome whatever’s going on in your life. 

If you want to see more behind-the-scenes content showcasing this leg of the journey, watch our latest video Building a Watch Company: Colorado Manufacturing and Adapting Amperage for our Swiss Turning Center now!

Working With our Machines at Vortic Watch Co

And if you’d like your own little slice of history, take a peek at the latest pieces in our American Artisan Series and get on the waitlist for the newest Military Edition. We also custom-convert watches, so if you are wanting to create a family heirloom that will last a lifetime, get in touch with us today.

To stay up-to-date with all things Vortic, subscribe to the Custer & Wolfe YouTube Channel. There, we’ll keep you informed on everything going on with us, including our Swiss turning center and how we’re helping power the Colorado economy.

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