Shortly after embarking on this review, I quickly realized that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Anyone can review a product, write down a few words, and be done with it, but a watch made by Vortic Watch Co. isn’t just any watch. How do you adequately capture something so iconic like the pocket watch? Do you start with the history of the wristwatch itself or do you marry both, much like Vortic Watch Co. has done since their immensely successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014? The answer is more complicated than I had hoped but Vortic Watch Co. and its founders (RT Custer and Tyler Wolfe) have simplified the process via their beautiful website and easy-to-do ordering process. I don’t think this review will sway the reader either way, the truth is, I’m not looking to. My goal is to exemplify their dedication to finding orphaned pocket watch movements a new home and then let the chips fall where they may.
While Fort Collins, Colorado is Vortic Watch Co.’s homestead, it wasn’t always so (The brand started off as an engineering project at Penn State). After the brand’s founders fell in love with the historical value Fort Collins brought to their budding business, both decided to stay put. Their passion for horology, and technical design made the use of 3D printed cases a no brainer, or at least it was for them. To be honest, 3D printing was and continues to be something of science fiction to me. The ability to print something other than ink on a piece of paper is beyond comprehension for this humble police officer, but I’m glad that for RT and staff, they’ve been able to get the entire process down pat. In this review, I’ll focus on the ordering process, delivery and the watch itself, and leave the ‘making of’ portion to those more technically inclined. I’ll also mention a few key features, but I won’t spend too much time on dial layouts, hands used, or movements themselves, as there are too many customizable options available to focus on any specific one, by swapping out the dial, changing the strap, or choosing a different case finish, and suddenly you’ve got an entirely different watch.
Since receiving my Vortic ‘Springfield’ back in October of 2017, Vortic Watch Co.’s website has greatly evolved to keep up with their growing business. Vortic Watch Co.’s landing page is clean and inviting but most importantly it is easy to navigate.
Once you visit their page (www.VorticWatches.com) their “America wasn’t assembled. It was built.” slogan greets you.
After numerous conversations with RT Custer, his desire to express that his collection is American built stands out most to me. Not in an obnoxious, redundant kind of way, but instead it’s apparent that he wants for those who wear a Vortic watch to feel the American pride that courses through his own veins.
The top of their page offers six clickable links, some that intermingle with one another. The STORE option takes you straight to their general Vortic Watch overview sections, which will offer some of their special edition models, such as their “Chicago World Champions” edition or their immensely popular “Railroad Edition” line, which can be loosely compared to a COSC certification, as the timekeeping of yesteryear had to be standardized to ensure railroad safety.
At first glance, you’ll see a bunch of numbers next to each watch, and admittedly they can be a bit intimidating. Let me simplify the one number that I believe will matter most to you when selecting a Vortic Watch: The number that references size.
• The 0s: Vortic’s smallest size option coming in at 36mm.
• The 6s: Vortic’s ‘sweet-spot’ coming in at a universally loved 42mm.
• The 12s: The very size I ordered, comes in at 46mm (the one being photographed).
• The 16s: Vortic’s big-boy, coming in at 49.5mm.
For those still picking their jaw up off of the ground, know this. I’ve owned many watches over the years, and only two have exceeded a 45mm diameter (Omega PLOPROF, Vortic Springfield 12s).
Despite having a sasquatch-esque 7.5 inch wrist, +46mm watches have always looked disproportionate to me and a bit gaudy on the wrist. My Vortic Watch Co.’s Springfield couldn’t be farther from my plus-sized watch stereotype, as its angular downturned lugs make it a dream to wear.
Coupled with its textured titanium case its imposing diameter disappears when strapped to your wrist. One could argue that the high-quality shell cordovan strap I chose is a major player in keeping the larger cased Vortic securely strapped to the top part of the wrist itself, but I’ve tried it on many other straps and with each, the Vortic remains uber-comfortable.
While we’re on the subject of straps, changing them out often can be considered child’s play. Vortic uses screwed lug bars that are shaped to fit and rest within the lugs themselves.
The dial is larger than life and I believe it’s the piece de resistance of any of Vortic’s watches. Yes, the movement is important too, but due to its position on the wrist it lies hidden most of the time despite its exhibition case back.
With most collections, including that of power brands like Rolex, Panerai and Patek, dials are a dime a dozen, but not with Vortic Watch Co.. That’s the beauty of it. The dial on my Vortic is unlike any other in existence. The passage of time, pun intended, has literally aged it in its own unique way, giving it distinction among the masses, much like a fingerprint does for mankind.
My Vortic Watch Co.’s dial is an aged golden color giving way to bold, black non-lumed numerals. While this may come as a shock to some, remember that our love for lume is a recent event in horological history, and not something that was coveted in the 1920’s. Blued hands spin around the dial, including that of the Vortic Watch Co.’s sub dial, centered above the six o’clock position.
To say that the hand-set matches the vintage dial well is an understatement. It matches the dial perfectly! After all, the hand-set is original to the dial, as is the movement. You see, since it’s all original, every component of your hand built Vortic plays extremely well with one another. And for the purist within us all, the dial configuration still resembles the very watch the original watchmaker created decades ago.
A first for me is that the oversized crown is positioned in the 12 o’clock portion of the case. While a bit odd at first, I have come to enjoy it since it’s easier to wind.
In fact, from a practical standpoint it’s completely out of the way of your hand when your wrist flexes.
Other crown positions are available within their Commissioned Watch section, but for the purpose of this is review, we will focus on mine. My crown’s material is labeled ‘raw’ within the watch builder, but that wasn’t always so. I ordered a rose gold crown, luckily for me someone much smarter than me, (RT Custer) respectfully interjected. He believed the watch would look best with a more subdued crown. While every order won’t be pored over, I’m happy to know that there are people within our business that care enough to steer some of us noobs in the right direction.
After receiving the watch, it turns out that RT Custer was spot on with his overall assessment. The raw, bronze-looking material my crown is made of matches best with the gold undertone of the dial.
For those with a more creative eye, the watch builder is a breeze to use, and it changes on screen as you select the options available to you: case size, movement/ dial, case finish, strap, and engraving. Designing a watch was a huge part of the buying experience, as the possibilities are endless. I found myself trying to outdo each of my previous designs in search of what I believed to be the perfect watch. After hours of playtime, I realized the perfect design was whatever I created and after receiving my Vortic Watch Co., I knew I had hit a home run.
Once you review your completed order and verify that everything is ‘perfecto’, you’ll receive a confirmation email that contains importance pieces of information like Vortic Co.’s phone number should you have immediate questions for Vortic’s staff.
Right out of the gate, I’ll say that Vortic Watch Co.’s current lead times are anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks, but I would assume that as the brand’s popularity grows so will their delivery times.
For some, this may be off-putting, especially in a world where instant feedback has become the expected norm. Remember that the Vortic timepiece you created is as unique as you are, and you took 9 months to perfect! Give them ample room and time to work, and I’m certain you’ll be as proud of the outcome as your mother was many moons ago.
So, what happens next? After your selected dial and movement are pulled from their stock, Vortic Watch Co. sends them to their team of master watchmakers who are trained to work on vintage watch movements.
My 1926 Springfield movement (with a production run of only 2,000) was serviced and inspected (and photographed) by the watchmaker himself to better highlight the effort Vortic Watch Co. puts into each of their orders.
The vintage dial is also given TLC to ensure that any loose coating is addressed before the dial is encased. Once the Vortic Watch Co.’s watchmaker gives the movement a clean bill of health, it’s sent back to Vortic Headquarters for the watch to be built to your exact specifications.
Remember that if you’re less adventurous or less patient, and would rather purchase a pre-built Vortic watch, you can do so by clicking their “shop now” button right from their landing page. Just scroll down to their Pre-Built section about 2/3s of the way down and voila.
Have your own pocket watch you’d like for Vortic Watch Co. to convert? Yes, they do that too! Simply click the “Convert Your Watch” tab and a team of professionals will guide you through the conversion process.
For those who braved the watch builder and anxiously awaited for their masterpiece to set sail, a shipping confirmation email comes soon enough.
Within a few days, your Vortic watch arrives securely packaged, as one would expect.
Once you unbox your Vortic, you’ll come to realize how well-thought out the delivery experience is to Vortic Watch Co. The packaging is beautiful and Vortic’s wax seal is an elegant touch class. Brown paper wrapping surrounds the personalized wooden box that entombs the watch, along with a healthy helping of packing foam, to ensure the watch arrives unharmed.
An authentication card accompanies the package, along with an impressive watchmaking certificate that outlines the watch’s serial number, the movement’s serial number, run quantity, location of manufacturing, country of manufacturing, grade, jewels, case finish, case material, timekeeping and the name of the watchmaker who serviced your watch.
This important piece of paper can be thought of your watch’s birth certificate and it’s something you’ll enjoy glancing at for years to come.
To round out the included paperwork, Vortic Watch Co. has added a watch care guide. Follow it closely to help ensure your Vortic will be around for generations to come.
Scroll through the pictures found within this review for reference as mere words don’t seem to do the packaging justice.
Things to consider. Vortic watches, while beautiful, are not as water resistant as I would like. Of course this is subjective since many will never come in contact with a substantial body of water, but it’s worth mentioning. The second being that their revolving warranty period restarts every two years, which would require for the watch to be sent in for service every 24 months of ownership.
I also found that there are two camps within the vintage pocket watch segment. Those that hate the thought of a vintage pocket watch being removed from its case only to be scrapped, and those that utterly despise the idea that a vintage pocket watch would be mounted to anything other than an authentic pocket watch case. Either way, many aren’t very receptive to what you have to say. Should they listen, they’d discover that Vortic Watch Co. is one of the good guys within this micro-niche hobby. Most of the movements and dials being used by Vortic Watch Co. were removed from their cases way before the brand’s co-founders were out of diapers. And by giving new life to movements that haven’t seen the light of day in decades, Vortic Watch Co. is rescuing American horological history. Hopefully, reviews such as this will continue to highlight the importance of their work.
To some this will have read like a shill-like review so I’ll conclude by saying this. I am enamored by the brand, and the entrepreneurial spirit that gave it life. It’s not often I review a piece and think, “I wish I could have been a part of this.” In part, it’s because it’s exciting to know that although you weren’t present throughout many of history’s most iconic moments like Filming of the MGM Lion, The Cuban Missile Crisis, Man Landing on the Moon, or Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, your Vortic Watch Co. watch was! Or perhaps it’s because RT Custer and Vortic Watch Co. itself embodies our shared American dream: that vision, hard-fought execution and relentless perseverance will lead to overwhelming success.
(c) Ariel Soltura
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