‘It’s been a journey.’ Bellefonte native’s locally inspired watch collection to launch this month
[Originally published in the Centre Daily Times on November 4, 2019 by Marley Parish]
As a kid, Zack Rackovan was intrigued by watches and in awe of nature. Now, the Bellefonte Area High School graduate and designer is combining his passions into a line of watches that are “forged for adventure.”
Ardor & Forge — an independently-owned company — designs small batch watches meant for every day carry. The first collection, dubbed The Rothrock, are inspired by Rothrock State Forest. Designed with oak accents, matte finishes and in an earth tone pallet, the watches range between $350-$550. After three years of work, the company is set to launch Nov. 19 with orders to be delivered in April.
“I’ve drawn from all the experiences in my career and the things I’m passionate about in life to build this brand,” Rackovan said. “Ardor & Forge channels those elements to deliver fresh, inspired watch designs for guys who, like me, are constantly awestruck by nature and are willing to fight to preserve it.”
Rackovan attended Auburn University, where he studied industrial design. He has worked with Gilson Snow, Urban Outfitters, Hunter Fan, Hershey Co., Miracle Recreation, Ridgid Tools and Penn State to help design products for the retail market, but this is the first brand he can call his own.
The Rothrock collection includes four watches. Each inspired by a different section of the forest — Detweiler, Juniata, Seeger and Thickhead — the watches are designed with a sand-cast texture and are water resistant.
Rackovan’s personal favorite in the collection is the Thickhead, but he said the line is geared toward people who like to have “every day carry” gear on hand.
“They like gear and to be prepared for whatever the day might hold,” he said.
Getting up and running came with support from Penn State, local businesses, other watch companies, Startup Alleghenies and Happy Valley LaunchBox.
So far, Rackovan said feedback has been “really, really encouraging.” He has taken the prototypes to shows in New York and the District of Columbia and said they’ve been held by over 100 people who have been impressed by their intricate design and unique colors.
“I’ve never seen anything like (this collection),” he said. “I’m always looking for ways to make something more interesting and intriguing than what is out there.”
The most validating feedback he’s heard so far, Rackovan said, is when someone says they want to visit Rothrock State Forest after seeing the collection.
“Rothrock encompasses many natural and wild areas, which are home to some of the oldest and largest trees you will ever encounter, and are teeming with all sorts of wildlife,” he said.
A member of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation and Friends of Rothrock, Rackovan said as Ardor & Forge grows, he would like to help further efforts to preserve and conserve wildlife around the world so that future generations will be able to appreciate the same sights that inspired his work.
Moving forward, Rackovan said he would like to station the business in Tyrone and creating employment opportunities in the region. Until then, the watches will be produced in China, and orders can be placed online. He isn’t sure what the next collection will look like but said he would love to spend time in the Great Smoky Mountains or Yellowstone National Park.
“It’s about travel. It’s about the journey that people are on,” he said. “The inspiration to be drawn from nature can be limitless.”