How Watches Are Made: VERO (Portland, Oregon)

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Today, we’re kicking off a new video series we’re calling How Watches Are Made. Each installment will focus on bringing you a behind-the-scenes look at the the manufacturing capabilities of different watch brands—both big and small. For our first episode, we’re checking in with VERO, a relatively young company out of Portland, Oregon, which has, over the last four years, done some pretty big things.


“I really just want to make a watch.” These eight words, spoken over a couple of beers one night in 2014, launched VERO, a young watchmaking outfit based in Portland, Oregon. But friends and co-founders Chris Boudreaux and Danny Recordon were not watchmakers. They were simply enthusiasts who loved watches. Still, the thought of contracting the work out to a factory in the Far East didn’t cross their mind. “We knew we wanted to make them,” explains Danny, the self-taught engineer on the team. “Rather than prototype somewhere else . . . we wanted to design [and] prototype in our own shop, on our own timeline, and have full control.”

A tray of prototype dials.

In many ways, VERO embodies a new, spunkier wave of American watchmaking. It’s worth noting that watches produced in The States are few and far between. There’s RGM, of course. Then there’s Weiss in California and Vortic in Colorado. But beyond that, the vast majority of American brands rely on overseas production. That’s not a value judgement—it’s simply a reality.

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When we visited VERO’s facility (their workshop shares a building with a winery) in Portland a few months back, what we saw was a company attempting to bring watchmaking, piece by piece, back to the US. That’s not necessarily the intended goal, mind you. Before VERO, Chris and Danny worked in retail, but over time grew tired of selling other people’s products, only to have customers come back with complaints about issues that were out of their control. Keeping things in-house was a way to work around that. “Danny came to me and said, ‘we can do this ourselves,’” explains Chris, the company’s business guy. “That’s kind of his MO for every idea I have. And that was great because that meant we would have an answer for everything we do.”

Chris Boudreaux.
Danny Recordon.

And with that, Chris and Danny went to a trade show and purchased an 8,000-pound mill before they even had a place to put it. “We didn’t have an address for them to ship to,” Chris recalls with a smile. “We scrambled to find a space and we found one the day we took delivery of the machine. That’s when it felt real.”

Danny quickly set out to learn how to make cases. Chris brought in their friend Dan to help with some of the design work, and in no time VERO’s first watch, the Verus, was born.

In keeping with their name (“Vero” is Latin for “True”), VERO emphasizes transparency. “We wanted to say, ‘this is who made it,’” explains Danny. “We want our customers, our clients, to know this is what goes into . . . that watch you’re wearing.” VERO’s packaging makes clear where each component, if not created by them, is sourced.In short time, the capability of the brand grew. The 2,000 square foot space, which initially felt huge for the fledgling company, felt smaller as VERO expanded. “Everything that’s in here has grown out of necessity,” explains Danny. VERO now operates two mills—a three-axis and a five-axis mill—and a dual-spindle Y-axis lathe, in all totaling about 25,000 pounds of machinery.

Production wise, VERO can take a stainless steel or titanium billet through three different machines to get a functional case. All finishing is done in-house, too, from graining and sandblasting to intricate hand-polishing. Dials are also produced in-house, where they’re cut, painted, and pad-printed. And there’s also a clean room where the watches are assembled.

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HURCO mill control panel.
Vice with metal shavings (crown production).
Second operation SW case.
SW case (unfinished) right out of milling.
Dial cutouts.

VERO has since grown beyond a three-person unit to meet the growing demand for their products and services. There’s Kaine, who tests and assembles all the watches, and Roger, who takes lead on the production of the dials. Then there’s Andrea, an industry veteran who is responsible for hand-finishing all of VERO’s cases. And the most recent addition is Ben, a machinist who’ll be working with Danny on making cases. “We’re already short on work benches and polishing benches,” Chris admits. “We’re growing out of this space, but I’m cautious. We’ll go somewhere bigger when we’re falling out of this place.”

VERO has recently expanded into the production of hands and applied indices, a necessary step in creating new designs down the road. They’ve also re-engineered all of their gaskets to work as running pistons, which means that the crown is as water tight when it is closed as it is when it is open and being set. Danny’s also working on a couple of things for the future, among them figuring out how to photo-chemically etch hands in-house, ceramic-coating dials, and how to increase the anti-shock properties of future watches.

For their newest collection, VERO is taking a sportier approach. The SW and SW-GMT both feature a new case design. Measuring 41mm in diameter and rated to 200 meters, the SW series is meant to be an all-purpose sports watch. “One of the things that we really wanted to do was build a sporty watch the dressed up really well,” explains Danny. “We took a lot of what we learned making our first watch to get this one just right.” The SW and SW-GMT are currently available for pre-order through VERO’s website (a new version of the website will launch later this month).

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VERO SW – final prototype.
VERO SW – final prototype.
Components of the SW-GMT.
Case (work in progress).
GMT ring.
Dial and ring prototype.

In its short existence, VERO has grown by leaps and bounds. But the team is not lacking in ambition. “Long-term, we want to refine the process. We want to make it better and less expensive,” explains Chris. “We want to be fully capable of handling our manufacturing in its entirety. We want to bring more in-house, and eventually we want to be able to create a fully in-house watch, including the movement.” A lofty goal for any brand, but VERO has shown it’s got the guts and talent to make it happen.

To learn more, visit VERO.

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