The primary purpose of a wristwatch is to tell the time, which pretty much any watch does perfectly fine. It’s in the aesthetics, as well as features other than time-telling, where a watchmaker can really make their product stand out from the rest. Watchmaker and electronic artist [Eric Min] focused on those two areas when he designed the Time Machine Mk.8, which combines exquisite design with simple, offline smartwatch functionality.
The heart of the watch is a Microchip ATSAMD21G18 low-power 32-bit microcontroller. [Eric] chose it for its high performance, ease of use and large number of integrated peripherals, a real-time clock being one of them. With the basic clock function thus taken care of, he then decided to add several useful sensors: a battery fuel gauge to keep an eye on the 40 mAh rechargeable lithium cell, a three-axis accelerometer to enable motion sensing and an environmental sensor to track temperature, humidity and pressure.
The various functions are operated using four pushbuttons along with a 16-step rotary encoder set in the middle. The overall design of the watch is inspired by Formula 1 steering wheels, as well as various sports cars and media franchises like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Akira. [Eric] considered a few different options for the display but eventually settled on two four-digit seven-segment LCDs, which fit nicely into the retro-futuristic aesthetic of the Mk.8. It’s so retro, in fact, that it almost makes [Eric]’s faux 1980s magazine ad look genuine.
All components neatly fit together on a dual-layer PCB, which is a true work of art in itself. From the lightning bolt on the front to the hidden Frank Sinatra lyrics, it definitely stands out from the crowd of ordinary LCD wristwatches. It’s also quite a step up from [Eric]’s previous watch design, the Time Machine Mk.IV.
Over the years we’ve seen several other examples of how a bare PCB, or even a stack of them, can become a beautiful wristwatch.
There has been an argument raging for years over whether you should design circuit boards with 45-degree corners or 90-degree corners. Why make them with corners at all? This breathtaking circuit board art is from a digital watch circa 1975.
The Pulsar Calculator Watch was the first of its kind and came along with a stylus to operate the miniscule buttons. The circuit board traces would have been laid out by hand, explaining the gentle curves rather than straight lines. The chip-on-board construction is wild, with the silicon die bonded directly to those traces on multiple chips in this image. There is also a mercury tilt sensor on this model that would have switched the display off when not being held up to view the time (or calculate your tip at the Ritz).
We found working models of this watch for sale online for about $225-350. That’s a steal considering the original list price for these is reported to be $550 ($2600 considering inflation).
The beauty of the PCB artwork is hidden away, not just inside the watch case, but obscured by the plastic battery housing to which those tabs on the right are soldered. Think of how many geeks were lucky enough to have one of these and never realized the beauty within. If you’re looking to unlock more of these hidden masterpieces, check out [Greg Charvat’s] article on collecting and restoring digital wristwatches.
[via Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories link dump]
Electronics enthusiasts have the opportunity to be on the very cusp of a trend with vintage digital watches (VDW). Vintage digital watches are those watches that from the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s. They’re unlike any watch style today, and for anyone around when they made their debut these deliver a healthy dose of nostalgia.
Monetarily speaking, it is not worth the money to pay a watch maker to restore a digital watch but for those of us with basic electronics skills we can put the time and effort into making them run again and be one of the few in possession of functioning VDW. It’s a statement as well as a sign of your own aptitude.
Earlier this year, Steven Dufresne walked us through the history of the digital watch. In this article we will dive into the world of vintage digital watch repair.
Continue reading “Collecting, Repairing, And Wearing Vintage Digital Watches”