Back in Time: An Evening with Vortic Watch Co.

When I first announced my transition from fine jewelry retail to 3D printing tech, the responses varied from a tentatively supportive “sounds… interesting” to something like “tech? But what about jewelry?!” and even “does that mean you’ll wear jeans and t-shirts and use words like ‘bandwidth’?” (yes, no, and yes, for the record).

The truth is, I’ve been even more involved with the jewelry industry since I took on this role, and it’s been the most amazing experience to have the privilege of meeting people like R.T. Custer, co-founder and CEO of Vortic Watch. He had the brilliant notion to take US-made, early-20th-century pocket watches that were sitting around unused and unloved, and convert them into chic, industrial wristwatches.

What does this have to do with me? Well, the original pieces he produced involved serious Solidworks CAD skills and some impressive wrangling of a little old 3D printer. R.T. and his business partner Tyler Wolfe (Vortic COO) have grown this original Kickstarter into a full-fledged business, producing custom casements and reviving an American watchmaking tradition many believed had died off in the post-industrial era.

Vortic Watch hosted a special event last weekend at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, which houses an incredible collection of historic pieces from the American Industrial Revolution. They were kind enough to invite me as both a representative of the technology used to bring these magical devices to life, and as a jewelry and watch nerd who seriously can’t stop using their design tool to play with the custom watch builder options.

There are few things that appeal to me more than a seamless integration of old-world style and modern techniques, so this company truly hits it out of the park. From their tough-but-elegant styling to the significant history behind the movements, these timepieces absolutely belong both on the wrist and in the enthusiast’s collection.

Take a look at a few highlights from the event in the slideshow below!

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Happy Trails

Everyone is familiar with the old chestnut, “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Usually it’s used in the context of loss — a person, a thing, a relationship — but I’d like to turn that around and apply it to losing a feeling.


Of course, I knew I was stressed. I talked about being stressed, feeling stressed, and Oh, the ache in my shoulders! Everyone around me expressed concern, sometimes with sympathy but often with increasing frustration at my inability to truly grasp how unhealthy my life had become.

I was allowing the things in my life I hated most to completely control me, and I let it happen for far too long. I got so accustomed to the weight of the world on my shoulders that I couldn’t imagine daily life without it, so I stopped trying.

But no more! To paraphrase a truly terrible pop hit, I can breathe for the first time (yeah, yeah). Now that I’m moving past the horrors of leaving a job, moving, and starting a new job in the space of two weeks (not a path I recommend, by the way), the realization that I am in control of my life again is dawning. That weight has been lifted and it feels damn good.

In related news, prepare for a focus shift on this here blog. I still consider myself a member of the jewelry industry, but my attention will be directed toward the advancement and adoption of new technologies and how we as a group can move forward into a new era of creating, buying, and selling.

You’ll see the hashtag #womenintech popping up, alongside #jewelrypeople and of course #3dprinting. I’m still working on some sort of jewelry-tech hybrid hashtag (#3Diamonds?), and genius suggestions are welcome. Find me on other social channels and please do say hello! I’m busting out of the retail box and I’m ready to forge ahead, blazing new trails.

There’s a lot of hard work and excitement headed my way. Carpe opportunitatem!


True (Blue) Tech

Now that I’ve covered the philosophical angle of my recent life changes, it’s time to begin introductions for my exciting new focus: technology & jewelry.

If you’ve asked me about my industry at any point in the last few years, you probably got an earful about my frustrations with jewelry people’s tendency to ignore, withhold, refute, squelch, circumvent, or otherwise deny the demand for the adoption of new technologies. Everything from mining and manufacturing to sales and advertising is in desperate need of an update, of the kind that will integrate all the good stuff of the “old” ways — personal service, strong relationships, gemological & bench expertise — with the many benefits of the new and forward-thinking.

This is not to say that the industry doesn’t already utilize some of the wonders of today. Advances in laser welding, gemstone treatment, pearl farming, metallurgy, CAD/CAM, and e-commerce have been adopted to great effect, though not as universally as I would like. We’ve come a long way, but there is far to go.

Today’s customers are rapidly losing interest in a world they see as a paragon of by-gone ideals, and nostalgia only opens the wallet to far. I want to see an engaged clientele who demand excellence in service, quality, source transparency, and storytelling… you know, all the things we do best.

Top to bottom: castable resin, rough casting, polished ring

So I have joined a company that is “new tech” to the core, with the goal of bringing their fresh-eyed approach to the world of jewelry. These people are smart, savvy, and looking to make an impact on how we make stuff (all kinds of stuff), which will have a massive impact on how we design, create, advertise, and sell stuff. Replace “stuff” with “jewelry” and you have my full attention and dedication.

What does this mean for my daily life? Well, more denim and flats (and fewer diamonds), for one thing! It means I can turn my focus to the building blocks of the industry, perhaps helping to affect change and influence the direction we take in the coming years. I want to see the jewelry industry emerge from years of tech denial and embrace the power of doing things in new ways in order to achieve long-term stability and growth. I want more people wearing beautiful things that are made well.

Buckle up, people. No more hiding behind half a century of how-it’s-always-been-done. Wake up and smell the lasers, folks — I’m coming for you.