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!

The Three Week Three Dollar Binary Watch

There’s a Maker Faire in three weeks, and your group wants to design and build a binary watch to give to attendees. You don’t have much time, and your budget is $3 per watch. What do you do? If you are [Parker@Macrofab] you come up with a plan, buy some parts, and start prototyping.

[Parker] selected the PIC16F527 because it had enough I/O and was inexpensive. A cheap crystal and some miscellaneous discrete parts rounded out the bill of materials. Some cheap ESD straps would serve for a band. He did the prototype with a PICDEM board and immediately ran into the bane of PIC programmers: the analog comparators were overriding the digital I/O pins. With that hurdle clear, [Parker] got the rest of the design prototyped and laid a board out in Eagle.

Continue reading “The Three Week Three Dollar Binary Watch”

Strapping an Apple II to Your Body

Now that the Apple wristwatch is on its way, some people are clamoring with excitement and anticipation. Rather than wait around for the commercial product, Instructables user [Aleator777] decided to build his own wearable Apple watch. His is a bit different though. Rather than look sleek with all kinds of modern features, he decided to build a watch based on the 37-year-old Apple II.

The most obvious thing you’ll notice about this creation is the case. It really does look like something that would have been created in the 70’s or 80’s. The rectangular shape combined with the faded beige plastic case really sells the vintage electronic look. It’s only missing wood paneling. The case also includes the old rainbow-colored Apple logo and a huge (by today’s standards) control knob on the side. The case was designed on a computer and 3D printed. The .stl files are available in the Instructable.

This watch runs on a Teensy 3.1, so it’s a bit faster than its 1977 counterpart. The screen is a 1.8″ TFT LCD display that appears to only be using the color green. This gives the vintage monochromatic look and really sells the 70’s vibe. There is also a SOMO II sound module and speaker to allow audio feedback. The watch does tell time but unfortunately does not run BASIC. The project is open source though, so if you’re up to the challenge then by all means add some more functionality.

As silly as this project is, it really helps to show how far technology has come since the Apple II. In 1977 a wristwatch like this one would have been the stuff of science fiction. In 2015 a single person can build this at their kitchen table using parts ordered from the Internet and a 3D printer. We can’t wait to see what kinds of things people will be making in another 35 years.

Continue reading “Strapping an Apple II to Your Body”

Enigma Machine Wristwatch

We don’t find smartwatches to be supremely usable yet. This one sets a definition for usefulness. The Enigma machine is of course the cipher process used by the Germans during World War II. This Enigma Machine wristwatch is not only functional, but the appearance is modelled after that of the original machine. With the speckled gray/black case and the Enigma badge branding [Asciimation] has done a fine job of mimicking the original feel.

Driving the machine is an Arduino Pro Mini. We’ve seen Arduino Enigma Machines in the past so it’s not surprising to see it again here. The user interface consists of an OLED display at 128×64 resolution, three buttons, with a charging port to the right and on/off switch on the left.

The device is demonstrated after the break. Quite a bit of button presses are used to set up each of the three encoder wheels. But that’s hardly avoidable when you’re not committing to a full keyboard. We’re pretty impressed by the functionality of [Asciimation’s] interface considering it’s hardware simplicity.

This seems perfect for kids that are proving to have an interest in engineering. They learn about ciphers, embedded programming, and mechanical design and crafting (this is a hand-sewn leather wristband). Of course if you build one and start wearing it into the office we won’t judge.

Continue reading “Enigma Machine Wristwatch”

Open Source Binary Wristwatch Is Professional Quality

If you want to proclaim to the world that you’re a geek, one good way to go about it is to wear a wristwatch that displays the time in binary. [Jordan] designs embedded systems, and he figured that by building this watch he could not only build up his geek cred but also learn a thing or two about working with PIC microcontrollers for low power applications. It seems he was able to accomplish both of these goals.

The wristwatch runs off of a PIC18F24J11 microcontroller. This chip seemed ideal because it included a built in real-time clock and calendar source. It also included enough pins to drive the LEDs without the need of a shift register. The icing on the cake was a deep sleep mode that would decrease the overall power consumption.

The watch contains three sets of LEDs to display the information. Two green LEDs get toggled back and forth to indicate to the user whether the time or date is being displayed. When the time is being displayed, the green LED toggles on or off each second. The top row of red LEDs displays either the current hour or month. The bottom row of blue LEDs displays the minutes or the day of the month. The PCB silk screen has labels that help the user identify what each LED is for.

The unit is controlled via two push buttons. The three primary modes are time, date, and seconds. “Seconds” mode changes the bottom row of LEDs so they update to show how many seconds have passed in the current minute. [Jordan] went so far as to include a sort of animation in between modes. Whenever the mode is changed, the LED values shift in from the left. Small things like that really take this project a step further than most.

The board includes a header to make it easy to reprogram the PIC. [Jordan] seized an opportunity to make extra use out of this header. By placing the header at the top of the board, and an extra header at the bottom, he was able to use a ribbon cable as the watch band. The cable is not used in normal operation, but it adds that extra bit of geekiness to an already geeky project.

[Jordan] got such a big response from the Internet community about this project that he started selling them online. The only problem is he sold out immediately. Luckily for us, he released all of the source code and schematics on GitHub so we can make our own.

The ChronodeVFD Wristwatch

Not just another steampunk fashion statement, [Johngineer’s] ChronodeVFD wristwatch is as intricate as it is beautiful. Sure, we’ve seen our share of VFD builds (and if you want a crash course in vacuum fluorescent displays, check out Fran’s video from earlier this year) but we seldom see them as portable timepieces, much less ones this striking.

The ChronodeVFD uses a IVL2-7/5 display tube, which in addition to being small and low-current is also flat rather than rounded, and features a transparent backing. [Johngineer] made a custom board based around an AtMega88 and a Maxim DS3231 RTC (real time clock): the latter he admits is a bit expensive, but no one complains about left-overs that simplify your design.

The VFD runs off a Maxim MAX6920 12-bit shift register and is powered by a single alkaline AA battery. A rechargable NiMH would have been preferable, but the lower nominal voltage meant lower efficiency for his boost converters and less current for the VFD. [Johngineer] won’t get much more than 6-10 hours of life, but ultimately the ChronodeVFD is a costume piece not meant for daily wear. Swing by his blog for a number of high-res photos and further details on how he built the brass tubing “roll cage” enclosure as well as the mounts for the leather strap.

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.”