Today is finally the day. We can officially say that we are moving into the new Vortic Watch Co. Headquarters!
For what seems like forever, we’ve been dealing with supply chain issues, jumping through permit hoops, and working with our contractor at Projects Limited to get our new facility up and running. Now, we are proud to say that we’ve moved all of our machines in and are getting things ready to go.
But just because the dust is settling on our renovation and our machines are in place doesn’t mean it feels like home yet. We’ve still got some work to do before our operations are up and running, and we also need to button up some electrical work before the city of Fort Collins gives us the green light to start manufacturing.
Join us in this article as we recap the season finale of Custer & Wolfe: Building a Watch Company and take you on a tour of our (almost) completed American machine shop.
A lot happened between this episode and the last one, so even if you’ve been keeping up with our construction progress, we’ve got a lot to update you on.
Let’s get started!
First Stop: Our New Cleanroom
In previous episodes, we talked about how our cleanroom is the biggest construction project we’ve ever taken on and how it will be a significant improvement over our assembly room in the old Link Lane location.
Until now, we only had a standard HVAC unit to help keep the air moving properly throughout the room. Now, we have a state-of-the-art Liebert air scrubbing system that will create the best possible environment for our watchmakers to assemble our watches.
We are putting the final touches on the room right now and have moved all our movement testing machines and cleaning unit into the room. In fact, the movement cleaning machine actually got the VIP treatment as R.T. brought it over from our old location.
“We had to strap [our movement cleaning machine] into my passenger seat on the way over here. I don’t know how much this cost [when we bought it], but it maxed out a credit card.” – R.T. Custer
On top of the machines we use to clean and test movements, we’ve installed our watchmakers’ workstations and are starting to unpack the movements. As we set up the workbenches, it was amazing to see how much natural light comes into the room from the windows and skylights.
All of the light, plus our new ventilation system and upgraded work area, are really going to turn the cleanroom into an excellent place for the watchmakers to do their thing.
Quick Detour: Let’s Answer the Question, “What is a Cleanroom?”
For those of you who haven’t been with us on the Custer & Wolfe journey from the beginning — or episode three, at least — let’s take a second to talk about what a cleanroom actually is.
A cleanroom is a specially-designed room that keeps dust and other particles from settling on areas that need to be dust-free. Many highly-specialized facilities that produce electronics, medical equipment, and pharmaceuticals utilize cleanrooms to prevent contamination.
In our case at Vortic, we need a cleanroom to prevent dust and debris from entering our watches and causing the movements to fail. When building our watches, we’re working with tiny parts that need to be precise down to fractions of a millimeter. If even the slightest contamination makes its way into a watch movement, there’s a possibility that the watch will not keep time properly.
Now that we’ve given you a quick rundown of what a cleanroom is and why we built one into our new facility, let’s keep going with the tour.
Stop Number Two: Our Shipping & Photography Rooms
The next stop on our tour is the new shipping room. In the old facility, we had a multipurpose space where we did our final packaging and product photography, which worked well for the time we used it.
However, the new shipping and photography areas are a major step up from what we had in the past. We now have plenty of space to move in the massive pallet table that we built in the old shop, and we also have a dedicated photography room to let our marketing team work their magic.
In addition to having a great spot to package products and showcase new watches, we also have plenty of space for our laser engraver.
Our engraver comes in handy for putting on the final touches to the backs of our watch cases. It precisely carves the watch details into the cases and adds the finishing touches that set our American-made watches apart from others.
Third Stop: Our American Machine Shop
It’s incredible to think that at the beginning of our YouTube series, we were filming in what is now our machining room. The space seemed huge when we only had a camera, table, and a couple of chairs in it. Now, it’s pretty much full.
Honestly, it still feels a bit surreal to have everything in the new shop. We have both our DMG machines and our HAAS milling machines set up in the room, but there are still a few more steps before everything is up and running.
“Today was actually the first day we came to work at the new building. It almost doesn’t feel like it because there’s still so much to do to get moved in, but we have all four HAAS machines in the building [and] six total CNC machines in here. It’s kind of weird being [here with] everything done.” – Tyler Wolfe
Every day before today, we would take out our to-do list whenever we walked into the machine shop part of the building. There was always wiring that needed running, insulation that we were adding to the space, or construction happening on the firewall. But now, it’s all wrapped up.
All the machines have power and are placed where they will live in the shop. We divided the room into two halves to make the machining process as efficient as possible. On one half, we have all of our milling machines, and on the other half, we have our lathes and Swiss turning machine with a 12-foot bar feeder.
We can’t wait to start giving in-person tours and start showcasing our machining process:
“It’s gonna be so cool doing a tour, bringing customers up [to the machining room], and weaving in and out of the machines. [We’ll be able to] tell them what parts each machine makes for the watches and create an experience for the customer.” – R.T. Custer
Having our machines out in the open in this massive space instead of closed off in a small room like they were at our old facility will add to the experience of Vortic watches. Instead of just receiving a stunning watch, our customers will also be able to stop by and see precisely how we build our watch parts and the detail that goes into them.
Sneak Peek: The 2022 Military Edition
If you’ve followed Vortic for a while, you already know about our Military Edition. Each year on Veterans’ Day, we release a limited run of watches that pay homage to everyone who has served and is serving in our military.
These unique pieces feature the movements from salvaged pocket watches initially manufactured for the United States Air Army Corps. The original pocket watches were carried by navigators on bomber aircraft like B-17, B-24, and B-29 to ensure that their flights stayed on course. Ultimately, these watches were crucial instruments that ensured successful missions during the Second World War.
We get excited as fall rolls around at Vortic because that means it’s time to get started on these fantastic watches. Even though it’s still summertime, we are already prepping for the special event — and this year, it is going to be better than ever.
“For anyone that has been following along for a while, [we already have the] ammo cans [for] the military edition coming at you November 11th — don’t forget. We actually realized we need some more of those because we didn’t quite get enough. We’re excited to start that process this year, and they’ll all be packaged and shipped [from our new shipping room].” – R.T. Custer
Another reason we love making this special edition watch is that it allows us to give back. Five hundred dollars of every Military Edition watch goes to the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative — this extraordinary nonprofit provides training for veterans who wish to become professional watchmakers.
We’ve donated over $100k so far and can’t wait to add to that total this year. If you want to get your hands on a Military Edition watch this year or just help a great cause by donating to the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative, visit our Military Edition page for more information!
We Want to Give a Shoutout to Our Amazing Contractors at Projects Limited and Winslow Crane
Before we sign off today, we want to thank everyone who’s helped us reach this milestone at Vortic. We didn’t realize it as we began, but we chose one of the most challenging times to renovate a building and move our entire company.
Thankfully, Josh at Projects Limited came in clutch for us. This process was a roller coaster ride with one setback after another, but Josh has been with us every step of the way and turned our dreams for this building into reality. We wouldn’t be moving into our building right now without him, and we’re grateful for all the support he provided on this journey.
We also want to thank the guys over at Winslow Crane in Denver. Without them, our machines wouldn’t be in this building. They helped us get our new DMG machines, Swiss lathe, and HAAS milling machines in place, and our machining room wouldn’t even be close to finished without them.As always, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us, @custerandwolfe, on Instagram for more behind-the-scenes content here at Vortic. And to stay up to date with new watch releases and the latest Vortic news, subscribe to our weekly email newsletter and follow Vortic Watch Co. on Instagram, @vorticwatches.