It’s Time To Roll Your Own Smartwatch

Giant wristwatches are so hot right now. This is a good thing, because it means they’re available at many price points. Aim just low enough on the scale and you can have a pre-constructed chassis for building your own smartwatch. That’s exactly what [benhur] did, combining a GY-87 10-DOF module, an I²C OLED display, and an Arduino Pro Mini.

The watch uses one button to cycle through its different modes. Date and time are up first, naturally. The next screen shows the current temperature, altitude, and barometric pressure. Compass mode is after that, and then a readout showing your step count and kilocalories burned.

In previous iterations, the watch communicated over Bluetooth to Windows Phone, but it drew too much power. With each new hardware rev, [benhur] made significant strides in battery life, going from one hour to fourteen to a full twenty-fours.

Take the full tour of [benhur]’s smartwatch after the break. He’s open to ideas for the next generation, so share your insight with him in the comments. We’d like to see some kind of feedback system that tells us when we’ve been pounding away at the Model M for too long.

[via Embedded Lab]

29 thoughts on “It’s Time To Roll Your Own Smartwatch

      1. 20 or 30 years ago, i would have been happy to wear a geek-built watch.

        but since about that time, I stopped wearing one. there are so many clocks around (including phones) that wearing watch is more ‘jewelry’ than pure function and I simply cannot be bothered with carrying around antiquated jewelry.

        1. Depends on your job (if you work on a non-networked computer, the display time and actual time can be wildly out of sync)… and if you use trains to get to / from work, accurate time on your watch is still helpful! I have one of the wwvb synced watches, and I really love it.

        2. But the time delay and hassle of removing a cell phone from a pocket/purse, (and letting those around you know you have a fancy phone) is less convenient than tilting your wrist.

          1. @Ren
            Agreed. I don’t understand why people are so happy to effectively revert to pocket watches.

            And in any case, lots of people in my area work in a SCIF, where using your phone as a watch isn’t an option.

  1. next rev: try to not use the display module with its usual carrier board; but buy the oled glass unit and solder THAT to your own board.

    nice build, though! its fun to try to squeeze things down as small as you can while still using OTS parts.

    1. Thanks! Yeah I agree with you. I’m looking for people interested in helping make this happen. I’m gonna improve the project and solder the components individually on a pcb/smd board. Also, I will reduce power consumption with the watchdog and sleep mode, so I expect the battery to last way longer. Perhaps change to a coin battery then.

  2. nice, a screen as small as a normal watch. But it’s smart, so you know, it’s good. Look, props to the guy who built it, but what I see if a crappy small screen in too big of container for it. I would be more impressed if he bothered to buy a bigger display, since they aren’t hard to get, and even more points if it was a touch screen.

    While this build might impress your few hacker friends, most people will wonder why you have an ugly digital watch on your arm when there are better smartwatch options out there.

      1. Seems like there’s ample space for a bigger screen. If the electronics cannot be shrunk, then surely the screen can inflate. The easiest improvement ever. It takes more effort to not care what other people think, than to press a few buttons on EBay to buy a bigger screen. The interface stays the same, they’re all I2C.

        1. Thanks for the comment. Good suggestion for my project. I’ll try to srink stuff down with a own made smd board. And of course… let’s see if I find a better display.

    1. Thanks. I’m searching for people to help me improve this project. I’ll buy a BLE piece and see if I learn how to control in order to put it into a newer version of my smartwatch.

  3. I really like the look of the watch too. Exposed circuitry has an appeal all its own. I built a watch around the Teensy 3.1 and put on Kickstarter, with little success. I hope you can keep refining yours and maybe sell it successfully one day!

  4. I was looking at the apple watch tear-down on ifixit and it’s amazing what miniaturization is done on those devices, they get specialized chip packagers to package a whole range of chips in one package and it’s very hard for a normal person to touch that kind of industry support.

    But having said that I think an amateur can still make a watch that’s more useful and interesting than an apple watch from my viewpoint.
    Odd huh.

    (and that’s not a jab at apple specifically incidentally, it is the same for the competition.)

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