Being both a vintage watch geek and a “Made In America” fan, Vortic Watch Co. seemed like the perfect fit. The company started out by taking vintage American-made pocket watches and “up-cycling” them into wearable, talking-piece wristwatches.
Being somewhat of an entrepreneur myself, I gravitate towards brands that have bootstrapped and in this case got their start on Kickstarter (see the archived campaign here on Kickstarter, back from November 2014).
I reached out to one of the company’s founders (“R.T.”) to see if a special watch could be commissioned from their custom “Convert Your Watch” service. I also expressed my further interest in highlighting this innovative brand on this very site. There would be a wait on the custom watch I wanted (please check back for a review at a later date), so he kindly offered to lend me a watch for a weekend to review.
A few days later “The Boston” model from their American Artisan series arrived at my door, and I was eager to get it on the wrist!
This article shall cover:
- A brief history of the firm (very brief, as I’d like to over the brand in greater depth once I visit their manufacturing facility),
- Current collections & offerings
- The American Artisan Series
- Review On The Wrist
- Especially my surprising discovery of the 46mm case’s wearability, as I typically favor small & vintage wristwatches (but more on this later!)
- Final thoughts on overall impression and value
Who, How & What Does Vortic Watch Co. Do?
Founded by two college buddies who were into watches and 3-D metal printing, Vortic has evolved into one of the most interesting American watch players in just a few short years.
They originally sought to convert old, well-made, and still highly accurate American-made pocket watch movements into modern day wristwatches by casing them in their own 3-D printed cases.
Since that time they’ve evolved their offerings, and are even seeking to make new high quality watches in the USA once again.
They’ve been featured in the likes of WSJ and Revolution Magazine and continue to grow their footprint from their Fort Collins, Colorado headquarters.
Current Collections & Offerings
At the time of writing there are five distinct services and product offerings:
- American Artisan Series – As seen in the article
- Railroad Edition – Made from vintage railroad grade movements
- Journeyman Edition – A collection of modern movements, with a full customization online builder
- Convert Your Watch – Exactly what it says
- Corporate Branding – For events and companies
Overall, it’s a pretty stellar lineup from such a young brand, and of most interest to me going forward is the development of the U.S.-made watches at an affordable price point. But for now we can jump into what got them on the map: the American Artisan series.
American Artisan Series
This series offers watches from a number of manufacturers, including but not limited to:
- Waltham Watch Company- “The Boston”
- Elgin National Watch Company – “The Chicago”
- Illinois Watch Company – “The Springfield”
- Too many more to name. Look into their “Rare & Limited” models
Each pocket watch is taken from its original housing, then cleaned, serviced, calibrated and remounted back into a custom-made Vortic watch case.
Price Of The American Artisan Watches
As each watch is unique, prices vary based on factors from its rarity to its condition. Generally, though, they seem to range in the $1,300 to $2,100 range.
The watch for this review was priced at $1,588.
It must also be noted that once you get your head around the differences between the series, the website is very functional. More importantly, the individual watch listings are very detailed.
You can visit their store for current inventory here.
What You’ll Get
I was very impressed with what I received, especially the degree of personal touches. These included a detailed breakdown of what movement was housed in your watch, down to the wax seal on the packaging.
What’s In The Box
I know that packaging does not add to a watch’s function, but for me it’s an integral part of the buying and ownership experience.
Brand like Omega have gone relatively HUGE on their boxes and packed a lot of polish and punch in them. The same can be said for Vortic with respect to polish and a brand identity in their packaging and presentation.
The watch came wrapped and wax sealed, encased in a custom-embossed wooden box. The watch was wrapped around a canvas pad. This gave off a nice vintage vibe, but also a highly polished one. I was impressed!
In addition to that (and more importantly for us watch geeks), there were two documents. The first one was an authentication card and the other was a “Watchmaking Certificate.” The latter document was very detailed and highly interesting. The watch I was reviewing, for example, has movement from 1935 and contains 17 jewels. There was a wealth of other information as well, far too much to list here.
This really connected me to the history of the piece I was about to have on the wrist.
Finer Details – From Watch Movement To Dimensions
Packaging aside, the customization continued on to the strap with a nice embossed Vortic icon and the lettering “Built in the United States, for Vortic Watch Co.”
The real star of the show is the perfectly encased vintage movement, with both the dial and movement side having large Gorilla glass. As with all exhibition case backs I could just stare at a movement for days, and this vintage piece was no different!
The dial’s patina really showed some age and character, whereas the movement looked brand new. That said, it had a lovely vintage vibe with its refined detail work etched into the plates.
The Vortic case itself is rustic and very solid-looking. Surprised as I was to think so, this is a great marriage of old-school chic and new-school 3-D metal printing technology. The merging of these two produced a visually appealing and solid look.
Again, that movement is like looking through a window back in time. Very impressive.
At 46 mm across this is no small piece, but it was highly wearable with its downward sloping lugs.
The Boston models main dimensions are:
- Case width: 46 mm
- Case depth: 12 mm
- Lug-to-lug width for strap: 21 mm (please note the need for custom straps to accommodate the crown, this may be a consideration)
Other interesting measurements that are important for a Vortic watch are:
- Lug-to-lug height: 54 mm
- Case to crown: 54 mm (slightly different as crown is at 12 o’clock)
- Lug to crown: 59 mm
On The Wrist Review
I was very happy to wear the piece for the few days I had it, making me even more excited get my chosen piece made soon!
Being a fan of traditionally small watches both new and vintage, I was pleasantly surprised at how wearable the watch was on the wrist. I think this comes down to three main points:
- Downward-sloping lugs
- Top-mounted crown
- Lightness (much lighter than I expected)
- Each watch is unique, and captures a great time in American manufacturing
- Fits very well on the wrist for its size
- Great talking piece
- Lots of bang for the buck, having such a high hands on an American-made piece
- Offered with a 2-year revolving warranty
- Regardless of how well such a large case size sits on the wrist, it’s still a bit big and may not be to everyone’s tastes
- The case is NOT waterproof to any degree, would only be rated to 1 ATM
- The need for custom / altered watch straps to accommodate the top crown
Final Thoughts Of Vortic Watch Co. – “The Boston”
I’m of two minds on the watch for a final recommendation.
On the one hand, it’s sad to see old pocket watch movements being uncased and used in this way. But that’s the romantic in me, as in many instances these cases are beyond repair. Furthermore, the vast majority of people (unlike myself) do not wear pocket watches anymore.
On the other hand, it’s fantastic to see these watches being brought back to life again as functional pieces of American history, doing the job they were made to do! America was the great mass manufacturer of watch movements over 100 years ago, so it’s great to see this legacy honored in such a contemporary and innovative way.
Although not to everyone’s visual taste, I highly recommend a Vortic watch to any watch fan, history fan, or those who like things made in the good ole US of A.
I’m looking forward to receiving my requested piece and making it a cornerstone of my casual watch collection.
To see the latest innovation and collections, please visit VorticWatches.com.
For more watch reviews and general horological insights be visit our Watch Homepage.
Reviewed by Paul Anthony, on
“The Vortic American Artisan Series pays great respect to the American watch makers of old, in a unique and modern way.
These watches would made a great addition to any collection, especially if you’re looking for a casual piece, that has a unique story.”
Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★