Hackaday Prize Entry: Neopixel Pocket Watch

A timepiece is rather a rite of passage in the world of hardware hacking, and we never cease to be enthralled by the creativity of our community in coming up with new ones.

Today’s example comes from [Joshua Snyder], who has made a pocket watch. Not just any pocket watch, he’s taken the shell of a clockwork watch and inserted a ring of Neopixels, which he drives  from an ESP8266 module. Power comes from a small LiPo battery, and he’s cleverly engineered a small push-button switch so that it can be actuated by the knob from the original watch. Different colour LEDs traverse the ring to simulate the hands of a traditional timepiece, and the whole nestles behind the perforated cover of the watch shell for something of a steampunk feel.

He admits the battery life is not very good at the moment, probably because for now the WiFi is always enabled so he can reach its web interface for debugging. Sadly he appears to have not yet posted the software, but he does tell us it uses NTP to update its time, and that it supports over-the-air updating for new versions. He suggests a future version might dispense with the ESP and use an ATtiny or similar with a real-time clock giving better battery life.

We’ve covered a lot of LED timepieces over the years, including quite a few watches. Only a small selection are this PIC LED ring in a pocket watch case, another LED ring this time powered by an ATMega645, and this very stylish OLED wristwatch.

Hacklet 123 – Watches

Time and tide wait for no man. Chaucer may be right, but a man (or woman) wearing a watch can get ahead of time before it sneaks up on them. People aren’t ever satisfied with just the time though. They want the date, the phase of the moon. [Woz] summed it up pretty well when he said “I want the entire smartphone, the entire Internet, on my wrist”.   Hackers love watches too, which means there are plenty of watch projects out there. Some of them even tell time. This week we’re looking at some of the best watch projects on Hackaday.io!

chronioWe start with [Max.K] and Chronio. You might think Chronio looks a bit like the Pebble Time, and you’d be right! [Max] based his design heavily on Pebble’s case design. Pebble even has their CAD files on GitHub, which helped [Max] with his modified, 3D printed version. Chronio is Arduino based, using an ATmega328p microcontroller with the Arduino bootloader. The display is Sharp’s 96×96 pixel Memory LCD. A DS3231 keeps the time accurate, and provides a free temperature sensor. The entire watch is powered by a CR2025 battery. Running a 20uA sleep current, [Max] estimates this watch will last about 6 months on a single battery.

neopixel-pocketNext we have [Joshua Snyder] and Neopixel pocket watch. Who said a watch has to go on your wrist? [Joshua] brings some steampunk style to the party. His watch uses an Adafruit 12 NeoPixel ring to tell time. Red, blue, and green LEDS represent the hour, minute and second hands. The watch is controlled by an ESP8266. The time is set via WiFi. Between the LEDs and the power-hungry ESP8266, this isn’t exactly a low-power design. A 150mAh LiPo battery should keep things running for a few hours though. That’s more than enough time to make a splash at the next hackerspace event.

pi-watchNext up is [ipaq3115] and The Pi Watch. Round smartwatches have created a market for round LCD screens. These screens have started to trickle down into the hacker/maker market. [ipaq3115] got his hands on one, and had to design something cool with it. The Pi Watch isn’t powered by a Raspberry Pi, but a Teensy 3.1. [ipaq3115] included the Freescale/NXP Kinetis processor and MINI54 bootloader chip on his own custom board. He used the Teensy’s analog inputs to create his own 10 element capacitive touch ring. This watch even has a LSM303  magnetometer/accelerometer. All this power comes at a cost though. It takes a 480 mAh LiPo battery to keep The Pi Watch Ticking.

vikasFinally we have [Vikas V] and ScrolLED watch. Who says a watch has to have an LCD? [Vikas V] wanted a scrolling LED display on his wrist, so he built his own. An Atmel ATmega88V-10AU controls a 16×5 charlieplexed LED array. [Vikas] included a character font with many of the ASCII symbols in flash, so this watch can display messages. Power comes from a CR2032 watch battery in a custom PCB mounted holder. [Vikas] biggest issue so far has been light leaks from LED to LED. He’s considering mounting the array on the bottom of the watch. Shining the LEDs up through holes in the PCB would definitely help with the light leakage.

If you want to see more watch projects, check out our new watch projects list. Notice a project I might have missed? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Is That a Tuner in Your Pocket…?

As a musician, it’s rare to consistently recognize with the naked ear whether or not a single instrument is in tune. There are a number of electronic devices on the market to aid in this, however if you’re leading into an impromptu performance to impress your friends, using one feels about as suave as putting on your dental headgear before bed. When tuning is necessary, why not do so in a fashion that won’t cramp your style?

To help his music-major friends add an element of Bond-like flare to the chore, [dbtayl] designed a chromatic tuner that’s disguised as a pocket watch, pet-named the “pokey”. The form for the custom casing was designed in OpenSCAD and cut from aluminum stock on a home-built CNC mill. Under its bass-clef bedecked cover is the PCB which was laid out in KiCad to fit the watch’s circular cavity, then milled from a piece of copped-clad board. The board contains the NXP Cortex M3 which acts as the tuner’s brain and runs an FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) that uses a microphone to match the dominant pitch it hears to the closest note. Five blue surface-mount LEDs on the side indicate how sharp or flat the note is, with the center being true.

[dbtayl’s] juxtaposition of circuitry in something that is so heavily associated with mechanical function is a clever play on our familiarity. You can see a test video of the trinket in action below:

Continue reading “Is That a Tuner in Your Pocket…?”

Retro Time Tech: [Fran] and Pocket Watches

Whether you own a pocket watch, want to own one, or just plain think they’re cool, [Fran’s] video on setting and regulating pocket watches provides a comprehensive overview on these beautiful works of mechanical art. After addressing the advantages and disadvantages between stem, lever, and key set watches, [Fran] cracks open her 1928 Illinois to reveal the internals and to demonstrate how to adjust the regulator.

Though she doesn’t dive into a full teardown, there’s plenty of identification and explanation of parts along the way. To slow her watch down a tad, [Fran] needed to turn a very tiny set screw about a quarter of a turn counterclockwise, slowing down the period: an adjustment that requires a fine jewelers screwdriver, a delicate touch, and a lot of patience. Results aren’t immediately discernible, either. It takes a day or two to observe whether the watch now keeps accurate time.

Stick around for the video after the jump, which also includes an in-depth look at a 1904 Elgin watch, its regulator and other key components.

Continue reading “Retro Time Tech: [Fran] and Pocket Watches”

Go Vintage! Learn to Repair and Restore Mechanical Pocket and Wrist Watches.

pw tear down 1

Until recently, watches have been entirely mechanical where each wheel, gear, and mechanism representing a milestone in our understanding of precision manufacturing and timekeeping.

One of the very first watches, created by a locksmith.
One of the very first watches, created by a locksmith.

Today it is nearly impossible to find watchmakers to service or repair vintage mechanical pocket and wristwatches, so we have to do it ourselves. Learn to repair vintage mechanical watches. You can do this and we’ll show you how.

They tick, mechanical watches have a pulse. First created in the 16th century by locksmiths, these early watches could only resolve time down to the hour and for this reason displayed time with only one hour hand.

By the 18th century fusee technology enabled watches to achieve accuracies to within seconds.

Continue reading “Go Vintage! Learn to Repair and Restore Mechanical Pocket and Wrist Watches.”

LED Pocket Watch

LED Pocket Watch

[Frank] wanted a classy way of telling the time, so he built up a LED Pocket Watch. The watch features 132 LEDs for displaying the time, two buttons to activate and change modes, a vibration motor, and a buzzer.

It’s controlled by a picoPower ATmega645P, which has enough pins to drive the array of LEDs, an internal real time clock, and low power consumption. The device is housed behind laser cut acrylic face, and sits in a 3D printed case.

To power the device, [Frank] used a rechargeable lithium coin cell battery. The charging circuitry is based on a MCP73831, which is an easy to integrate charge control IC. A USB connector is used to provide power to the board.

One of the bigger challenges of the design is driving the large array of LEDs. [Frank] uses Charlieplexing to group the LEDs and reduce the number of pins required. Another trick he used was offsetting the ISP header pins. This allows for programming the AVR without soldering a connector to the board.

[Frank]’s Instructables write-up is very detailed, and includes explanations of the schematic, PCB layout, software design, and case design. It’s a good read that details his design decisions.

After the break, watch [Frank]’s video overview of the project.

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Unique Li-Ion battery tester


[moris_zen] found himself with a hand full of Li-Ion batteries and no good way to see what their capacities were. He built a this unique tester really quick to get the job done. He’s using off the shelf components and a cheap pocket watch which he bought in Taiwan for $1. You hook the circuit up to your battery, click the button and the watch starts working. When it stops, you multiply that number by .38 to get your amp/hour results. Sure, he could have just used a counter, but this is an interesting approach. All he needs to do now is make a nice container to hide all of the circuitry. How could he change the circuit to make the end multiplication unnecessary?