LED Pocket Watch


Today, it is not difficult to find all kinds of watches with LED displays. After [Paul]’s grandfather, a master horologist and pocket watch collector, passed away, he decided to retrofit a broken watch left to him with a custom LED face. Starting from scratch, he designed a PCB complete with 133 (hand soldered) LEDs, room for a temperature controlled oscillator for real time clock capabilites, a LiPo battery, and a cell phone vibrator to provide a simulated “second hand tick” feeling. The whole watch is powered by a PIC 16F946.

This is currently version 1, and he has already begun work on version 2. He plans on adding a more compact, lower power TCXO, automatic NTP syncing, and a USB port for charging and reprogramming. He has a number of detailed videos, and we have a demo video after the break.


[youtube = ‘http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lex53AY7Fmo’%5D

59 thoughts on “LED Pocket Watch

  1. Sweet! It’d be great for a steam punk Halloween costume, hell it’d be great for everyday use. I’d like to see one with color LCD. Maybe yank the screen from an old cell phone or one of those “wrist TVs”.

  2. Pretty slick job.

    He could charge it inductively if the case is not made of ferrous metal. Only requires a coil and a diode in the watch.

    The NTP update could be done when in the charger and also inductively (by amplitude modulating the charge waveform, which could be detected easily on the watch). At setting time, the PIC should look at the time error and adjust the compensation factor to maintain accuracy.

  3. ntp would require a network connection, no?… does he plan on adding wifi?

    An LCD would be interesting, but I doubt you will find one that is circular and sized right for the watch.

  4. Love it, I feel a little bit unsure about the case though. I think a cleaner specimen would appeal to me more and some kind of mask for the led’s to reduce leakage would be nice.

    Overall though, absolutely love this.

    I was thinking yesterday about building a sound and light generator into a pocket watch as I do hynosis.

    So really this project couldn’t have been better timed, nice work.

  5. Come on people… RTFA…

    @kfkboys – Right at the top of the article.. Build time: 20 weeks (over 2 years)

    @Peter / Eric – The goal is to make a time settings and alarms adjustable with a simple application on a host computer, and also to have automatic NTP time updating whenever the watch is hooked up to a PC on the Internet.

  6. Very impressive but if I may may I would suggest some sort of chime/bell emulation instead of a buzzer for the alarm. it would be a finishing touch and I’m sure something can be thought up, perhaps use some sort of tiny brass pin like musicboxes have and have something move against that by electronic means?

  7. Well I think for those talking about LCD’s OLED etc you are just plain WROOONG. This is SO MUCH better, anyone could make an LCD/OLED based one! But this is SO MUCH more a true piece of art and an object of such beauty.

    Lets hope he does get to making a kit or something out of this for sale, if not too hefty I would buy one.

  8. Paul,

    Well done! I was thinking of something like a desk clock version of an LED clock some time ago but, this is way cooler. Excellent work.

    Your grandfather would most certainly be proud.

    Would love to see more about your design, schematics / code etc..

  9. My first thought was disappointment – here he was replacing the wonderful intricacies of miniaturised clockwork with solid state electronics. Then I looked a bit more and realised that it’s a really neat piece of miniaturised engineering in its own right, and a fantastic tribute expressed in his own skills. Brilliant.

  10. that’s really cool. i’ve been working on something quite similar for a long time. i like the idea of bringing modern technology together with the amazing art and craftsmanship of the old time watchmaker. i’m finishing up my second version, and starting the third. seeing this inspires me to put a bit more resources into my old project.

  11. Wow, simply gorgeous…

    I’ve got two vintage pocket watches given to me by my grandmother because she thought I was so much like my grandfather who I had never met. When I was first given them, neither worked, but as I got older (and into engineering and electronics) I decided to try and get them to work.

    After many discussions with a local watchmaker, I managed to get one working with parts from both and a little playing around with the spring mechanisms. But the second, sadly, will never work. The main gearing and mechanics are too far gone with time, so something like this would be an amazing project! I third (or fourth) the PCB and source code posting! I don’t care if I have to take the back down to charge it, I’ll do it everyday!

  12. Damn! Beat me to it. I had seen a site full of clock PCBs like that, and got the idea to make a pocket watch like this.

    My idea was to use all orange/amber LEDs and have the microcontroller give them a very slight pulse/flicker effect to look like neon bulbs or nixies. :3

    Very nice work, and I’d love to see source/CAD files, too!

  13. Hi all,

    Thank you for all the amazing comments! I’m quite gratified that people have enjoyed seeing the project so much.

    To answer a few comments: I’ve had a lot of suggestions of induction charging – I think it’s a fine, and I have a bit of experience with it (for another hush-hush project), but I’m concerned about the practicality as odds are good whatever case I used for v2.0 will be ferrous. I’ll keep it in mind, though!

    As for a kit, or selling them, I’m hoping that v2.0 will be of high enough quality to sell in limited quantities but it all depends on the availability of cases. I’m looking for a decent manufacturer of modern cases just in case. A kit is definitely on the cards once I’ve got all the bugs out, but please note that standardisation was not a big theme in pocket watches. That’s why horologists had to be so skilled – they often manufactured replacement parts entirely by hand because they were not available anywhere. Consequently, it would be a bit of a hunt to find a suitable case for the kit (but it would go fine as a deskclock in a wood enclosure)

    As I’m already elbows deep in v2.0, I think it would be a bit premature to release the design files – especially if I intend to market them. But rest assured I do very much intend to release the source when it’s done; I’ll probably include it with a kit, and on post it on the website.

    Once again, I’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response I’ve received. Thank you all very much.



  14. @Paul:
    Thank you for sharing this awesome piece of engineering skill! I suspect if your Grandfather were alive today, he would have to agree that your electronics work is of a master caliber.

    Inspired me enough to pick up a basic hunter-style watch off eBay to start tinkering with. Hope you manage to get the kit marketable. Cheers!

  15. hmm, instead of readjusting time via computer for 2.0 you could have it receive radio signals from the atomic clock. as well as a coil for wireless charging. But still very amazing piece of art and tech

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