Wristwatch PCB Swaps Must Be In The Air

Are we seeing more wristwatch PCB swapping projects because more people are working on them, or because we saw one and they’re on our mind? The world may never know, but when it comes to design constraints, there’s a pretty fun challenge here both in fitting your electronic wizardry inside the confines of an injection molded case, and in the power budget to make your creation run on a sippy straw of battery power.

Just this morning we came across [Joey Castillo’s] sensor-watch project. He chose the Casio F-91W as the donor wristwatch. It’s got that classic Casio look of a segment LCD display capable of displaying hours, minutes, and seconds, as well as day and date. But the added bonus is that we know these have decent water resistance while still providing three buttons for user input. Sure, it’s less buttons than the pink calculator watch we saw [Dave Darko] working on earlier in the week, but which would you trust in the pool?

Replacement PCB sized to use the same battery contact and CR2016 for power [via @josecastillo]
We see that [Joey] also chose to use the ATSAML22 microcontroller and sheds some light on why: it includes a built-in segment LCD controller! If you’re a peripheral geek like us, you can read about the SLCD controller on page 924 of the datasheet (PDF), it’s a whole datasheet onto itself.

The sensor part of the sensor-watch is a flex PCB breakout that allows you to swap in whatever sensor fits your needs. The first to be reflowed at [Joey’s] bench is a BME280 humidity sensor, which is most obviously useful for the included temperature measurements, but maybe it could also alarm at moisture ingress? [Joey] says you can swap in other parts as long as they’re in the QFN or LGA size range. We think an IMU is in order since there’s a lot of fun interaction there like the watch reacting to being positioned in front of your face, or to take tap-based inputs.

We think beginning with a donor watch is brilliant since pulling off a case, especially one that keeps water out, is 97% of the battle. But when your UI is unique to the watch world, sometimes you need to start from scratch like this wooden word clock wristwatch.

Do Wristwatches Get Any Better Than A Cuckoo Clock?

There are few better ways of asserting your independent spirit as a hardware hacker than by creating your own special timepiece. Even more so if the timepiece is a watch, particularly in this era of smartwatches. Few home-made timepieces though have come as near to wristwatch Nirvana as the cuckoo clock wristwatch from [Kiyotaka Akasaka], which we would venture to name as having won wristwatches. Nobody will top this one in the field of home-made clocks!

Superlatives aside, this is an electronic cuckoo clock on the wrist, with an LED ring dial and a motorised cuckoo, all clothed in an authentically rustic tiny wooden cuckoo clock case. It communicates via BLE with a smartphone, and even has a sound channel for a cuckoo sound. Frustratingly there’s little in the way of detail about the electronics themselves, but we’re guessing that almost Bluetooth-capable microcontroller could be pressed into service. Take a look at the video below the break.

So we’ve established that it’s a cuckoo clock wristwatch, and that we like it, a lot. It is however not the only novelty cuckoo clock we’ve brought you.

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Modding A Casio W800-H With A Countdown Timer

Stock, the Casio W800-H wristwatch ships with dual time modes, multiple alarms, and a stopwatch – useful features for some. However, more is possible if you just know where to look. [Ian] decided to dive under the hood and enable a countdown timer feature hidden from the factory.

The hack involves popping open the case of the watch and exposing the back of the main PCB. There, a series of jumpers control various features. [Ian]’s theory is that this allows Casio to save on manufacturing costs by sharing one basic PCB between a variety of watches and enabling features via the jumper selection. With a little solder wick, a jumper pad can be disconnected, enabling the hidden countdown feature. Other features, such as the multiple alarms, can be disabled in the same way with other jumpers, suggesting lower-feature models use this same board too.

It’s a useful trick that means [Ian] now always has a countdown timer on his wrist when he needs it. Excuses for over-boiling the eggs will now be much harder to come by, but we’re sure he can deal. Of course, watch hacks don’t have to be electronic – as this custom transparent case for an Apple Watch demonstrates. Video after the break.

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1975 Circuit Board Was A Masterpiece Hidden On Your Wrist

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]

Clear Some Space And Build A Cosmo Clock

Like many of us, [Artistikk] is inspired by astronauts and space travel in general. To keep the inspiration coming, he made the Cosmo Clock — a sleek little clock that changes color whenever an astronaut is launched into space.

As awesome as space is, we’re inspired by the amount of Earth-saving reuse going on in this project. The actual time-telling is coming from a recycled wristwatch movement. [Artistikk] cut a bigger set of hands for it out of a plastic container, and used the lid from another container for the clock’s body.

The launch inquiries are handled by an ESP8266, which uses a Blynk app and some IFTTT magic to get notified whenever NASA yeets an astronaut into space. Then the ESP generates random RGB values and sends them to a single RGB LED. The clock body is small enough that a single LED is bright enough to light up all the parts that aren’t blacked out with thick paper. In case you’re wondering, the pattern around the edge isn’t random, it’s Morse code for ‘sky’, but you probably already knew that, right? Make a dash past the break to take the tour.

Clocks that wind up in space are much more complicated. Check out this tear-down of the clock from a late-90s Soyuz spacecraft.

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Hands-On: CCCamp2019 Badge Is A Sensor Playground Not To Be Mistaken For A Watch

Last weekend 5,000 people congregated in a field north of Berlin to camp in a meticulously-organized, hot and dusty wonderland. The optional, yet official, badge for the 2019 Chaos Communication Camp was a bit tardy to proliferate through the masses as the badge team continued assembly while the camp raged around them. But as each badge came to life, the blinkies that blossomed each dusk became even more joyful as thousands strapped on their card10s.

Yet you shouldn’t be fooled, that’s no watch… in fact the timekeeping is a tacked-on afterthought. Sure you wear it on your wrist, but two electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors for monitoring heart health are your first hint at the snoring dragon packed inside this mild-mannered form-factor. The chips in question are the MAX30001 and the MAX86150 (whose primary role is as a pulse sensor but also does ECG). We have high-res ADCs just waiting to be misused and the developers ran with that, reserving some of the extra pins on the USB-C connector for external devices.

There was a 10€ kit on offer that let you solder up some electrode pads (those white circles with gel and a snap for a solid interface with your body’s electrical signals) to a sacrificial USB-C cable. Remember, all an ECG is doing is measuring electrical impulses, and you can choose how to react to them. During the workshop, one of the badge devs placed the pads on his temples and used the card10 badge to sense left/right eye movement. Wicked! But there are a lot more sensors waiting for you on these two little PCBs.

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Simple Timer Evolves Into Custom Kid’s Watch

Sporting a new wristwatch to school for the first time is a great moment in a kid’s life. When it’s a custom digital-analog watch made by your dad, it’s another thing altogether.

As [Chris O’Riley] relates, the watch he built for his son [Vlad] started out as a simple timer for daily toothbrushing, a chore to which any busy lad pays short shrift unless given the proper incentive. That morphed into an idea for a general purpose analog timepiece with LEDs taking the place of hands. [Chris] decided that five-minute resolution was enough for a nine-year-old, which greatly reduced the number of LEDs needed. An ATtiny841 tells a 28-channel I2C driver which LEDs to light up, and an RTC chip keeps [Vlad] on schedule. The beautiful PCB lives inside a CNC machined aluminum case; we actually commented to [Chris] that the acrylic prototype looked great by itself, but [Vlad] wanted metal. The watch has no external buttons; rather, the slightly flexible polycarbonate crystal bears against a PCB-mounted pushbutton to control functions.

With a snappy wristband, [Vlad] will be rolling fancy on the schoolyard. It’s a great looking piece that needed a wide range of skills to execute, as all watches do. Check out some other watch builds, like this lovely pure analog, another digital-analog hybrid, or this pocket watch that packs an Enigma machine inside.

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