Vortic’s Five-Year Vortex

I’m waiting for Hollywood to pick up this story:

For the past years, R. T. Custer (no one knows his real name except his parents, I think) has been battling Swatch Group. Some reporters in the watch biz have been watching the story with some trepidation, but few have been vocal for reasons that need a look elsewhere:

The details you can find here. In short: Vortic, a little outfit in Colorado founded by Custer, has been upcycling old pocket watches. He collected the discarded movements whose cases had been sent to the smelter.

Tyler Wolfe and R. T. Custer…. On the ball (and the Elgin, Hamilton, Illinois and other Good Ole Names in American watchmaking)

His intentions and business model have been clear as a bell since day one. One of the names appearing on these ancient dials is “Hamilton,” a brand that is now a part of the Swatch Group stable, a huge conglomerate of watch brands and other enterprises worth over $36 billion…

David and Goliath is not the right comparison. It’s more like drop vs. ocean. Five years ago, Hamilton thought it could squash the little non-competitor by suing for trademark infringement. Custer fought back. Now, the saga that brought him at times to the depths of despair, when he thought he’d have to fold his brilliant little business of making “museums for the wrist,” is over, thanks to the Southern District of New York. Federal Judge Alison Nathan validated the business model of recycling (upcycling) antique watches and hence any antique product, whether it bears an old brand name or not.

Needless to say, Custer and his partners and employees are happy. Not only has their watch business been a success, but it now became a test case for others who might be thinking of similar businesses with, maybe, other discarded objects.

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