A 1960s Copal flip clock

Classic 1960s Flip Clock Gets NTP Makeover

Many of the clocks we feature here on Hackaday are entirely built from scratch, or perhaps reuse an unusual display type. But sometimes, an old clock is just perfect as it is, and only needs a bit of an upgrade to help it fit into the modern world. One such example is the lovely 1960s Copal flip clock (in German, Google Translate link) that [Wolfgang Jung] has been working with — he managed to bring it squarely into the 21st century without changing its appearance one bit.

Like most flip clocks from the 60s and 70s, the Copal clock uses a small synchronous AC motor to advance the digits. Because this motor runs in step with the mains frequency, it also acts as the clock’s timing reference. However the original motor had died, and a direct replacement was impossible to find. So [Wolfgang] decided to replace it with a modern stepper motor. He designed a small PCB that fit the original housing, on which he placed a Trinamic TMC2225 stepper motor driver, a Wemos D1 Mini and a small 5 V power supply.

A flip clock mechanism with a PCB attached to itThanks to its WiFi connection, the D1 can find out the correct time by contacting a Network Time Protocol (NTP) server. Displaying that time would be tricky with the original hardware though, because there is no indication of which numbers are displayed at any time. [Wolfgang] cleverly solved this problem by placing an IR proximity sensor near the lowest digit, allowing the D1 to count the number of digits that have flipped over and thereby deduce the current state of the display.

There’s plenty of fun to be had with classic flip clocks like this, and with a bit of hacking any old split-flap display should be usable for your own clock project. If none are available at your local thrift store or yard sales, you can always roll your own.

A Solari Mechanical Digital Clock Hack With A Little Extra

[Alfredo Cortellini] was perusing an antique shop in Bologna, and came across a nice example of a late 1950s timepiece, in the shape of a Solari Cifra 5 slave clock, but as the shop owner warned, it could never tell the time by itself. That sounded like a challenge, and the resulting hack is a nice, respectful tweak of the internals to bring it into the modern era. Since the clock requires a single pulse-per-minute in order to track time, the simplest track often followed is to open the back, set the correct time manually by poking the appropriate levers, and then let an external circuit take over clocking it. [Alfredo] wanted autonomy, and came up with a solution to make the thing fully adjust itself automatically.

Electronics-wise, initial prototyping was performed with a Nucleo 32 dev board and a pile of modules, before moving to a custom PCB designed in Altium Designer. An STM32G031 runs the show, with a few push buttons and a SSD1306 OLED display forming the UI.

Using some strategically-placed magnets and hall effect sensors, the status of the internal mechanism could be determined. Minute advancements were effected by driving the clock’s 24V electromagnet with a DRV8871 motor driver IC, the power supply for which was generated from the USB supply via a TPS61041 boost converter. In order to synchronise the mechanism with the electronics, the unit could have been driven to advance a minute at a time, but since every hour would need sixty pulses, this could take a while given the limited speed at which that could be done reliably. The solution was to sneak in a crafty MG996R high-torque servo motor, which pushes on the hour-advancement lever, allowing the unit to be zeroed much faster. Sensing of the zero-hour position was done by monitoring the date-advance mechanism, that is not used in this model of clock. Once zeroed, the clock could then be advanced to the correct time and kept current. Firmware source, utililising FreeRTOS can be found on the project GItHub, with schematics and Fusion360 files on the Hackaday.IO project linked above.

If you were thinking you’ve seen these Solari soft-flap displays here before, you’d be quite correct, but if you’re not so much interested in marking the passage of time, but bending such devices to your other indication whims, we’ve got you covered also.

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Flip-up clock

A Flip Clock That Flips Up, Not Down

The venerable flip clock has become an outsized part of timekeeping culture that belies the simplicity of its mechanism. People collect and restore the electromechanical timepieces with devotion, and even seek to build new kinds of clocks based on split-flap displays. Designs differ, but they all have something in common in their use of gravity to open the leaves and display their numbers.

But what if you turned the flip clock on its head? That’s pretty much what [Shinsaku Hiura] accomplished with a flip clock that stands up the digits rather than flipping them down. The clock consists of three 3D-printed drums that are mounted on a common axle and linked together with gears and a Geneva drive. Each numeral is attached to a drum through a clever cam that makes sure it stands upright when it rotates to the top of the drum, and flops down cleanly as the drum advances. The video below makes the mechanism’s operation clear.

The build instructions helpfully note that “This clock is relatively difficult to make,” and given the extensive troubleshooting instructions offered, we can see how that would be so. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a mechanically challenging design from [Shinsaku Hiura]; this recent one-servo seven-segment display comes to mind.

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A stepper-powered flip clock

Steppers And ESP32 Make This Retro-Modern Flip-Clock Tick

Before LEDs became cheap enough to be ubiquitous, flip-card displays were about the only way to get a digital clock. These entirely electromechanical devices had their own charm, and they have a certain retro cachet these days. Apart from yard sales and thrift stores, though, they’re a bit hard to source — unless you roll your own, of course.

Granted, [David Huang]’s ESP32-based flip clock is worlds apart from the flip cards of the “I Got You, Babe” era. Unfortunately, the video below is all we have to go on to get the story behind this clock, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. [David] started the build by making the flip cards themselves, a process that takes some topological tricks as well as a laser cutter. 3D-printed spools are loaded with the cards, which are then attached to frames that hold a stepper motor and a Hall-effect sensor. The ESP32 drives the steppers via L298N H-bridge drivers, but it’s hard to say if there’s an RTC chip or if the microcontroller is just getting time via an NTP server.

[David] might not be the only one trying to recapture that retro look, but we’ve got to hand it to him — it’s a great look, and it takes a clever maker to not only build a clock like this, but to make a video that explains it all so clearly without a single word of narration.

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A Vintage Flip Clock Gets Some Modern Love

There are multiple reasons why we like [iSax]’s rebuild of a Bodet flip clock from the early 1980s. First there’s the retro charm of the timepiece itself, then the electronics used to drive it, its electromechanical month length and leap year system, and finally because here is a maker lucky enough to have a beautiful tabby cat to share the workbench with.

For those of you unfamiliar with a flip clock, these devices have their digits as a series of hinged cards on a central rotor, with each one being exposed in turn as the rotor turns. This one is part of a distributed clock system in which the clients receive a 1 Hz pulse from a central time server to drive their motors, something easily replicated with an Arduino and an H-bridge. Particularly fascinating though is the month length mechanism, part of the calendar rotor system, it has a small DC motor that is engaged to advance the days automatically by whichever number as part of the month transition. Originally this was powered by a couple of AA batteries, which have now been replaced with a small DC to DC converter. You can see it in action in the video below the break.

With or without tabby cats, we see quite a few projects featuring them. If you can’t find one, you can always make your own.

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3D Printed Flip Clock Is Worth A Second Look

Flip clocks: they were cool long before Bill Murray was slapping one repeatedly in Groundhog Day, they were cool in 1993, and they’re still cool now. If you can’t find one on the secondhand market, you’re in luck, because [iz2k] has laid out an extensive blueprint for building a gorgeous retro-looking clock with some modern touches.

There’s a Raspberry Pi to fetch the time, the weather, and the Spotify. Old flip clocks invariably tuned in FM radio, so [iz2k] used an RTL-SDR dongle and a software decoder for the deed. This clock even has a big snooze bar, which functions like a night light when there is no alarm actively going off. The three groups of painstakingly-printed flaps are controlled with stepper motors and an IR transmitter/receiver pair to do the counting.

For the interface, [iz2k] kept things nice and simple. The big-knobbed rotary encoder handles volume up/down/mute, and the little one on the front switches between FM radio, Spotify, and silence. Moving either knob generates feedback by flashing LEDs that sit underneath the display. Take a few seconds to flip past the break and check out the short demo.

If you do find a nice flip clock out in the wild, maybe you can retrofit it.

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Retro Flip Clock Gets A Retrofit

Retro tech is almost always ripe for the hacking — be it nostalgia, an educational teardown, or acknowledging and preserving the shoulders upon which we stand. Coming across an old West-German built flip clock, YouTuber [Aaron Christophel] retrofitted the device while retaining its original mechanical components!

No modern electronics are complete without LEDs of some kind, so he has included a strip in the base of the clock face for visibility and cool factor. He doesn’t speak to the state of the clock beforehand, but he was able to keep the moving bits of the clock working for its second shot at life.

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