Clocks. You love ’em, we certainly love ’em. So you hardly need a reason to take on a new clock build, but it makes it much sweeter when you know there’s a horde of people waiting to fawn over your creation. Hackaday’s Tell Time Contest is a celebration of interesting timepieces. Show off a clever way to mark the passage of time and gain the adoration of your peers, and maybe even score a prize!
From now until January 24th, you can enter your Hackaday.io project by using the “Submit project to…” menu on the left sidebar of your project page. There is only one main constraint: it needs to somehow represent time. Microseconds or millennia, minutes until the next bus arrival or centuries until Pluto completes its next orbit, we don’t care as long as you find it interesting.
Document your timepiece with pictures, a description, and all of the technical details. Three outstanding entries will each receive a $100 cash prize, based on craftsmanship, function, and creativity.
Tick-tock… don’t delay. Time’s slipping away to have your quirky clock immortalized on Hackaday.
Our community never seems to tire of clock builds. There are seemingly infinite ways to mark the passage of time, and finding unique ways to display it is endlessly fascinating.
There’s something about this analog voltmeter clock that really seems to have caught on with the Redditors who commented on the r/DIY thread where we first spotted this. [ElegantAlchemist]’s design is very simple – just a trio of moving coil meters with nice industrial-looking bezels. The meters were wired for 300 volts AC, so the rectifier and smoothing cap were removed and the series resistance was substituted for one more appropriate for the 0-5VDC range needed for the project. New dial faces showing hours, minutes and seconds were whipped up in Corel Draw, and everything was put into a sturdy and colorful aluminum “stomp box” normally used for effects pedals. An Arduino Nano and an RTC drive the meters with a nice, bouncy action. Simple, cheap to build, and a real crowd pleaser.
The observant reader will note a similarity to a clock we covered a while back. That one chose 3D-printed cases for an airplane instrument cluster look. We like the spare case design in [ElegantAlchemist]’s build, but wonder how this clock would look in a fine wood case.
Around Father’s Day each year, we usually see a small spate of dad-oriented projects. Some are projects by dads or granddads for the kids, while others are gifts for the big guy. This analog meter clock fits the latter category, with the extra bonus of recognizing and honoring the influence [Micheal Teeuw]’s father had on him with all things technological.
[Michael] had been mulling over a voltmeter clock, where hours, minutes and seconds are displayed on moving coil meters, for a while. A trio of analog meters from Ali Express would lend just the right look to the project, but being 200-volt AC meters, they required a little modification. [Michael] removed the rectifying diode and filtering capacitor inside the movement, and replaced the current-limiting resistor with a smaller value to get 5 volts full-range deflection on the meters. Adobe Illustrator helped with replacing the original scales with time scales, and LEDs were added to the meters for backlighting. A TinyRTC keeps time and generates the three PWM signals to drive the meters. Each meter is mounted in its own 3D-printed case, the three of which are linked together into one sleek console. We love the look, which reminds us of an instrument cluster in an airplane cockpit.
In an age of smartwatches, an analog watch might seem a little old-fashioned. Whether it’s powered by springs or a battery, though, the machinery that spins those little hands is pretty fascinating. Trouble is, taking one apart usually doesn’t reveal too much about their tiny workings, unless you get up close and personal like with this microscopic tour of an analog watch.
This one might seem like a bit of a departure from [electronupdate]’s usual explorations of the dies within various chips, but fear not, for this watch has an electronic movement. The gross anatomy is simple: a battery, a coil for a tiny stepper motor, and the gears needed to rotate the hands. But the driver chip is where the action is. With some beautiful die shots, [electronupdate] walks us through the various areas of the chip – the oscillator, the 15-stage divider cascade that changes the 32.768 kHz signal to a 1 Hz pulse, and a remarkably tiny H-bridge for running the stepper. We found that last section particularly lovely, and always enjoy seeing the structures traced out. There are even some great tips about using GIMP for image processing. Check out the video after the break.
There are usually two broad user interfaces for clocks. On the one hand you’ve got the dial clock, the default display for centuries, with its numbered face and spinning hands. The other mode is some form of digital clock, where the current time is displayed directly as alphanumeric characters. They’re both useful representations of time, but they both have their limits.
Here’s a third model — the linear clock. [Jan Derogee] came up with it thanks to the inspiration of somewhat dubious run-ins with other kinds of clocks; we feel like this introductory video was made with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Whatever the inspiration, we find this idea clever and well executed. The running gear of the clock is just a long piece of M6 threaded rod and a stepper motor. A pointer connected to a nut rides on the rod, moving as the stepper rotates it. There are scales flanking the vertical rod, with the morning hours going up the left side and afternoon hours coming down the right. The threaded rod rotates one way for twelve hours before switching to the other direction; when the rotation changes, the pointer automatically swivels to the right scale. For alarms, [Jan] has brass rods running along each scale that make contact with the pointer; when they encounter a sliding plastic insulator to break the contact, it triggers an alarm. An ESP8266 controls everything and plays the audio files for the alarm.
As if building tiny mechanisms with dozens of moving parts that all need to mesh together perfectly to work weren’t enough, some clock and watchmakers like to put their horology on hard mode with tourbillon movements. Tourbillons add multiple axes to the typical gear trains in an attempt to eliminate errors caused by the influence of gravity — the movement essentially spins on gimbals while tick-tocking away.
It feels like tourbillons are too cool to lock inside timepieces meant for the ultra-rich. [Alduinien] agrees and democratized the mechanism with this 3D-printed tourbillon. Dubbed “Hawkeye,” [Alduinien]’s tourbillon is a masterpiece of 3D printing. Composed of over 70 pieces, the mechanism is mesmerizing to watch, almost like a three-axis mechanical gyroscope.
The tourbillon is designed to be powered either by the 3D-printed click spring or by a small electric motor. Intended mainly as a demonstration piece, [Alduinien]’s Thingiverse page still only has the files for the assembled mechanism, but he promises to get the files for the individual pieces posted soon. Amateur horologists, warm up your 3D-printers.
Do you know what time it is? Chances are good that you used a computer or a cell phone to answer that question. The time on your phone is about as accurate as chronometry gets these days. That’s because cell networks are timed from satellites, which are in turn timed from atomic clocks. And these days, it may be that atomic clocks are the only clocks that matter.
Before this modern era of quartz and atomic accuracy, though, timepieces were mechanical. Clocks were driven by heavy weights that made them impractical for travel. It wasn’t until the mainspring-driven movement came along that timekeeping could even begin to become portable.
But while the invention of the mainspring made portable timepieces possible, it hurt their accuracy. That’s because the driving force of a tightly wound spring isn’t constant like that of an inert, solid weight. So pocket watches weren’t exactly an overnight success. Early pieces were largely ornamental, and only told the hour. Worst of all, they would slow down throughout the day as the mainspring unwound, becoming useless unless wound several times a day. The mainspring wasn’t the only problem plaguing pocket watches, but it was the among the most obvious.