Until recently, watches have been entirely mechanical where each wheel, gear, and mechanism representing a milestone in our understanding of precision manufacturing and timekeeping.
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.
Wearables are all the rage lately. Have you been eyeing the Pebble or one of the new smart watches lately but are not sure if it’s for you? With [GodsTale’s] “Retro Watch” you can now build your own, allowing you to try out a smart watch without making a huge investment.
This smart watch uses very common and easy to obtain parts: Arduino Pro Mini, HC-06 Bluetooth module, Adafruit’s 0.96’’ OLED display, and a lithium battery. It is amazing how few parts can be used to make such a functional project. While the example packaging shown is a bit rugged around the edges, it gets the job done. Having such simple hardware allows [GodsTale] to focus on the software. One of the coolest aspects of this project is the Android app [GodsTale] provides. The app provides basic functionality, such as viewing RSS feeds and Android notifications. Check out the GitHub and a more detailed write-up for more information.
It would be great to see this project evolve in the future, it has so much potential. We would love to see a custom circuit board, or a model for a 3D printed case for this awesome smart watch. See a video of the Retro Watch in action after the break. If you thought this was cool, check out a few of these recent hacks.
The above may look like a Nixie tube, but it’s a Numitron: the Nixie’s lower-voltage friend, and part of [pinomelean’s] single-digit Numitron clock. If you’re unfamiliar with Numitrons, we suggest you take a look at our post from a few years ago, which includes a helpful tutorial to catch you up to speed.
[pinomelean] built this little device to capture a steampunk-ish look on the cheap for a clock small enough to fit on a wrist. The build uses a PIC16F84A uC and a 4MHz crystal on a custom PCB. A small button on the side lets the wearer set the time. Similar to the Vibrating Timepiece from last month, the Numitron clock isn’t perfect, though it is more accurate: gaining only one minute every 3 days.
Check out the video after the break to see it being set and keeping track of the time. It may take a moment to understand how to read the clock, though. Each of the four LEDs indicates where the number in the Numitron tube belongs. The LEDs light in sequence from left to right, displaying the clock one digit at a time.
It may not look like much, but the above pictured device is [qquuiinn’s] handy little watch that indicates time through pulsed vibrations. Perhaps we should refrain from labeling it as a “watch,” however, considering it’s [qquuiinn’s] intention to remove the need to actually look at the thing. Vibrations occur in grandfather clock format, with one long vibration for each hour, accompanied by one, two, or three short pulses for the quarter-hour increments.
The design is straightforward, using an ATTiny85 for the brains along with a few analog components. The vibration motor sticks to the protoboard with some glue, joining the microcontroller, a coin cell battery, and a pushbutton on a small protoboard. The button allows for manual time requests; one press responds with the current time (approximated, probably) in vibrations. The build is a work in progress, and [qquuiinn] acknowledges the lack of an RTC (real-time clock) causes some drift in the timepiece’s accuracy. We suspect, however, that you’d address that problem—twice daily—when you replace the battery: it only lasts ten hours.
A few days ago [Andrew] contacted us to offer his help for the design of the mooltipass project case. While introducing himself, he casually mentioned his OLED watch that you can see above.
The watch is based on the low-power MSP430F microcontroller from Texas Instruments. It can consume as little as 1.5uA while maintaining a real-time clock and monitoring interrupts. It also uses ferroelectric RAM, which doesn’t need any power to retain its memory contents. That means there’s no need to set the time again if you remove the CR2016 battery that powers the watch.
[Andrew] chose an 0.96″ OLED display that only consumes up to 7mA. He also included an accelerometer that allows him to interact with the watch through its single and double tap detecting feature. He modeled his PCB using EagleCAD and the whole assembly using Sketchup. Most of the components were soldered in his reflow (toaster) oven. The final result is a mere 8.8mm thick and looks very professional in our opinion.
Creating wearable electronics that are functional and not overly bulky is very, very hard. [Zak], though, makes it look easy. He started his DIY digital wrist watch to see how much he could cram into a watch-sized device. The finished product is really incredible, and one of the most amazing DIY watches we’ve ever seen.
The electronics for the watch include an ATMega328p, a DS3231M Real Time Clock, a Microchip battery charger, and a few resistors and caps. The display is an OLED, 1.3″ wide and only 1.5 mm thick, contributing to the crazy 10mm overall thickness of the watch.
The software is where this watch really shines. Along with the standard time and date functions, [Zak] included everything and more a wrist watch should have. There is an interface to set up to ten alarms on different days of the week, a Breakout and ‘Car Dodge’ game, a flashlight with integrated ‘rave’ mode, and a stopwatch. On top of this, [Zak] included some great animations very similar to the CRT-like animations found in Android.
It’s a fabulous piece of kit, and if any project were deserving of being made into an actual product, this is it.
You can check out [Zak]’s demo of all the functions of his watch below.
Our cats were both sleeping near the computer and these videos were driving them nuts. To our ears these birdsongs sound pretty good. They didn’t trick the cats into stalking mode, but they did spark an audible complaint. So the predators aren’t drooling but the mechanical engineers reading this should be. These automata combine the precision of a mechanical clock with a bellows and specialized whistle to recreate birdsong.
You’ve got to hear it for yourself to appreciate the variety produced by the mechanisms. The first video shows off the device seen on the left. This particular model is from the 1890’s and the demo gives a good look at the arms that open and block a passageway to alter the sound. After seeing that link — which was sent in by [Stefan] — we started searching around for more info on the devices. The one pictured to the right turned up. It’s from YouTube user [Singing Bird Boxes] who has many videos showcasing these types of devices. We picked this one because he tried to explain how each part of the mechanism works. These are still being made today, but there’s something magical about seeing one built during the steam age.
We’d like to make Retrotechtacular a weekly feature every Tuesday. Help us out by sending in links to projects that highlight old technology, instructional videos of yore, tours of museums or similar relics.