Vortic Turns WWII-Era Pocket Watches Into Wristwatches

Emily Engle
by Emily Engle 3 months ago 3 min read

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Colorado-based watchmaker Vortic Watch Company uses Fusion 360 and Haas machines to convert antique American World War II-era pocket watches into highly desirable wristwatches. History buffs, collectors, inheritors, and enthusiasts alike are able to send their pocket watches to Vortic from anywhere in the world, and Vortic turns them into wristwatches as a service. In addition to their regular projects, every year, Vortic salvages pocket watches to produce a limited number of Veterans Day wristwatches. The company donates a significant amount of these proceeds to the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative, a non-profit organization supporting US veterans to learn new skills.

“Most pawnshops in America scrap pocket watches for the gold or silver of their case, and the piece of American history inside of it is quite literally trashed,” explains R.T Custer, founder and CEO of Vortic. “All we had to do was create a preservation system to save these pieces of American history, one watch at a time.”

To bring each piece from pocket watch to wristwatch, Vortic first restores the guts of the old pocket watch, then manufactures the rest, including the case, crown, glass, and leather strap. Since every Vortic watch is one-of-a-kind, the team needs to do a lot of CAD modeling for small, individual pieces. “There are a lot of one-off tiny little parts that we basically have to reverse engineer for manufacturing today,” says Custer. The founder had prior experience with CAD modeling from his time in school, but upon graduating, the costs of most software were too high to maintain. “[Our previous CAD software] became very expensive, very quickly.” 

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After learning about Fusion 360, however, Custer and his team never looked back. “Fusion 360 allows us to pay monthly instead of annually, and there weren’t all kinds of hidden fees for extra stuff that we needed for the CNC Mills. It’s extremely versatile, very cost-effective, and easy to use in our efforts to preserve these pieces of American history.”

Instead of redesigning from scratch, the Vortic team employs a clever workflow that enables them to quickly redesign pieces and turn their designs into metal parts in just a few minutes. “These parts have not been made for over 100 years, so we quite literally have to take a photo of the part, uploaded into Fusion 360, and design around it.”

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Vortic recently brought their machining in-house thanks to Haas’ affordable, high-quality machines. “Once we saw the Haas equipment in person, we were completely sold before they even told us how much it cost,” says Custer. Vortic started off with a Super Mini Mill since they focus on tiny parts but soon added a Haas VM-2 to their collection to work on tight tolerance parts. “One of the best things about the integration between Haas machines and Fusion 360 is the fact that so many other machinists and small business owners use that same integration for almost everything,” continues Custer. “It takes the speed to market to a whole other level.”

Once a year on Veterans Day, Vortic releases a 50 edition run of their Military Edition watches. The company donates $500 USD from the sale of each watch to a nonprofit called the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative, which teaches US military vets how to become watchmakers. “Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, so I know that it’s extremely important to give purpose to veterans when they come home so they can continue to serve our country in a different way,” says Custer. 

Learn more about Vortic’s process here, and be sure to download Fusion 360 for all your design and machining needs. Now you can even boost the core CAM capabilities of Fusion 360 with access to advanced 3- and 5-axis strategies, toolpath optimization, and process automation. Learn more here.

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