Vortic Watch Company founders R.T. Custer and Tyler Wolfe knew it was a risk to raise money for their new watch brand through Kickstarter—but that gamble has brought a huge reward as Colorado Watch Company surpassed its crowdfunding target and is now moving forward into production.
Through its Kickstarter campaign this month, Colorado Watch Company raised $350,239 from 286 backers, which means Custer, Wolfe, and their team in Fort Collins, Colo., are going full steam ahead to make two watches, which they hope to have to customers by late spring 2024. Their goal had been to raise $250,000 on Kickstarter to launch Colorado Watch with two models—the Field Watch and the GCT.
“We hit our goal and exceeded it, which was really exciting,” Custer says. “We initially got feedback from Kickstarter and others who had done [similar campaigns] in the past that it was a bad idea to set such a high goal, because if you don’t meet it, you won’t receive the funds and all of the money could be refunded to backers.
“It was risky, but that was the whole point,” Custer says. “It costs a lot of money to do things the right way, and it takes a lot of money to build things in America. And that’s what we want to do.… If we couldn’t find 250 people to purchase a watch for on average $1,000, then maybe something else was wrong.”
This is Wolfe and Custer’s second successful Kickstarter fundraiser; their first, in November 2014, allowed the two friends and college classmates to begin making custom watches out of American-made pocketwatches, under the Vortic brand.
“We look at Kickstarter as a giant test,” Custer says. “We’re testing the market, we’re testing market fit. A lot of people say they want things made in America, but you vote with your wallet. And we got more than 300 votes.”
Colorado Watch’s dials, cases, and most other metal components, including the crown and buckle, will be manufactured in Vortic’s Fort Collins factory. Custer and Wolfe invited watch and jewelry media as well as the general public on a special tour in early September, showing how they have built the facility over the past decade.
Both new watches will be at least 87% American-made, according to Custer, who says he and his partner hope to boost that percentage, but they’re not yet ready to talk about the plans.
The custom black rubber straps of Colorado watches will be manufactured in Minnesota, and their sapphire crystals will be made in New Hampshire, Custer says. Colorado Watch Company works with Fine Timepiece Solutions, which will assemble the watches in Arizona.
While Wolfe and Custer work on getting Colorado’s new watches into the world, they’re focused on Vortic’s next military watch rollout, too. “We’re also making a YouTube show that documents the whole process, with an episode at least once a month on how [Colorado Watch Company watches] get made and what else we’re working on,” Custer says.
Top: Prototypes of the Field and GCT wristwatches by Colorado Watch Company, which achieved its funding goal in an October Kickstarter campaign (photos courtesy of Vortic)@jckmagazine
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