Watch Makers are OnDeck’s Small Business of the Month

Vortic Watch Company of Fort Collins, Colorado is the OnDeck Small Business of the Month for May 2018. The OnDeck monthly series spotlights the achievements of successful small businesses and how they are thriving as a result of receiving capital quickly and responsibly online.

Founded in 2013 by R.T. Custer and Tyler Wolfe, Vortic Watch Company is a small batch wristwatch manufacturing and engineering company intent on revitalizing watch manufacturing in the U.S.  Vortic is the maker of The American Artisan Series, a customized wristwatch dedicated to the historical preservation of American pocket watch movements. The company was recently described as “The Craft Brewery of American Watchmaking,” by WatchTime, a popular wristwatch industry magazine.

Friends since college, Custer and Wolfe began their business journey by researching custom watch options. Almost immediately, they learned that not a single watch company manufactures the internal timekeeping components of a watch, known as movements, in the United States.  Sensing an opportunity, the duo continued their research and soon stumbled upon the movement craftsmanship of the antique American pocket watch.

“The movements are precious remnants of American watchmaking manufacturing history,” says R.T. Custer, CEO of Vortic Watch Company. “Tyler and I decided to bring them back to life and that’s how Vortic Watch Company and The American Artisan Series was born.”

To get started, Custer and Wolfe put their concept and approach on Kickstarter and raised $40,000 to buy a 3-D printer and initial inventory. Then, the partners set forth on the manufacturing process.  

“Manufacturing in the United States and purchasing equipment is extremely expensive.  At first, we raised capital through traditional equity investments, but that only got us through product development. You can have the best product and a great website, but if no one knows you exist, it’s all for nothing,” says Custer. “That’s when we turned to OnDeck for the financing we needed for marketing and advertising. We obtained enough capital to ignite widespread interest and awareness about Vortic. Thanks to OnDeck and our marketing partners, we doubled our business in a year.”

Vortic Watch Company first received capital from On Deck in 2016. The company has renewed several times and recently paid off their balance in full as of March 2018. 

“R.T. and Tyler are great examples of small business owners who not only think big, but also think smart,” says Andrea Gellert, Chief Revenue Officer, OnDeck. “Vortic Watch Company has become one of the most innovative watchmakers in the country by utilizing capital from OnDeck to meet specific business needs at critical stages in their growth. We are proud to play a small role in the success of this remarkable company.”

The custom-designed American Artisan Series watch from Vortic is completely made in the United States. The glass on the front and back is Corning Gorilla Glass similar to what is used on iPhone screens. The other metal parts are machined in Colorado at Vortic’s facility or at a domestic manufacturing partner’s site. The leather straps are hand stitched in Florida, and even the buckles are cast specifically for the company.

“We’re quite proud of the case engineering system we created, but the true value in our watches is the antique pocket watch movement,” says Custer.  “Our experts search the country for old pocket watches and many of the movements we find are orphans, tossed away when their original precious metal pocket watch case was scrapped. We like to think we’re saving that historical mechanism from being forgotten and in the process, celebrating the great American watchmaking tradition.”

After locating the original pocket watch movements, Vortic’s professional, Rolex-certified watchmakers go to work on restoring the mechanical workings. It takes 3 to 5 movements on average to create one wristwatch due to the inability to use some for reasons of age, quality, and parts availability. Vortic has a steady supply of antique movements, but estimates it can only produce up to 1,000 of these one of a kind watches per year.

“It’s a very difficult and expensive process to locate and restore one of these movements,” says Tyler Wolfe, Chief Manufacturing Officer for Vortic. “Each watch has a story, not just from the historical movement, but also from how it’s made. The watchmakers that work for us are artisans and there aren’t many watchmakers left in the United States that have the ability, and the patience, to touch these vintage movements. Thankfully the watchmakers we employ love what they do and share our passion to save as many of these movements as possible.”

The American Artisan Series by Vortic Watch Company is available online and in select retail stores. Watches are priced between $1,000 and $5,000 depending on the rarity and quality of the piece as well as the case system options chosen. Vortic has a Watch Builder on www.vorticwatches.com which allows customers to choose a specific, antique pocket watch movement from a small selection, and design the rest of the wristwatch around it, all online. When an order is placed, Vortic builds that unique piece, one at a time, just for that specific customer. For more information, visit VorticWatches.com

 

 


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