The Tourbillon: Anti-Gravity for Watch Movements

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.

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Chronio DIY Watch: Slick and Low Power

[Max K] has been testing the battery life of his self-designed watch under real-world conditions. Six months later, the nominally 3 V, 160 mAh CR2025 cell is reading 2.85 V, so the end is near, but that’s quite a feat for a home-engineered smart watch.

We’ve tipped our hats to the Chronio before in this Hacklet, but now that the code is available, as well as the sweet 3D-printed case files, it’s time to make your own. Why? It looks sweet, it plays a limited version of Flappy Bird (embedded below), and six month’s on a button cell is a pretty great accomplishment, considering that it’s driving a 96×96 pixel LCD display.

The Chronio is more than inspired by the Pebble watch — he based his 3D model directly on theirs — so that’s bound to draw comparisons. The Pebble is color, and has Bluetooth and everything else under the sun. But after a few weeks away from a power socket, ask a Pebble wearer what time it is. Bazinga!

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Look What Showed Up For Bring-A-Hack At OSH Park

Hackaday was in Portland last weekend for the Open Hardware Summit. I did a brief recap earlier this week but this post has been on my mind the entire time. The night before the summit, OSH Park (the Purveyors of Perfect Purple PCBs which we all know and love) hosted a Bring-A-Hack at their headquarters. [Laen] knows how to throw a party — with a catered spread and open bar which all enjoyed. The place was packed with awesome hackers, and everyone had something amazing to show off.

In fact, there were far too many people showing off hardware for me to capture all in one evening. But join me after the jump for six or seven examples that really stuck out.

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Hacklet 123 – Watches

Time and tide wait for no man. Chaucer may be right, but a man (or woman) wearing a watch can get ahead of time before it sneaks up on them. People aren’t ever satisfied with just the time though. They want the date, the phase of the moon. [Woz] summed it up pretty well when he said “I want the entire smartphone, the entire Internet, on my wrist”.   Hackers love watches too, which means there are plenty of watch projects out there. Some of them even tell time. This week we’re looking at some of the best watch projects on Hackaday.io!

chronioWe start with [Max.K] and Chronio. You might think Chronio looks a bit like the Pebble Time, and you’d be right! [Max] based his design heavily on Pebble’s case design. Pebble even has their CAD files on GitHub, which helped [Max] with his modified, 3D printed version. Chronio is Arduino based, using an ATmega328p microcontroller with the Arduino bootloader. The display is Sharp’s 96×96 pixel Memory LCD. A DS3231 keeps the time accurate, and provides a free temperature sensor. The entire watch is powered by a CR2025 battery. Running a 20uA sleep current, [Max] estimates this watch will last about 6 months on a single battery.

neopixel-pocketNext we have [Joshua Snyder] and Neopixel pocket watch. Who said a watch has to go on your wrist? [Joshua] brings some steampunk style to the party. His watch uses an Adafruit 12 NeoPixel ring to tell time. Red, blue, and green LEDS represent the hour, minute and second hands. The watch is controlled by an ESP8266. The time is set via WiFi. Between the LEDs and the power-hungry ESP8266, this isn’t exactly a low-power design. A 150mAh LiPo battery should keep things running for a few hours though. That’s more than enough time to make a splash at the next hackerspace event.

pi-watchNext up is [ipaq3115] and The Pi Watch. Round smartwatches have created a market for round LCD screens. These screens have started to trickle down into the hacker/maker market. [ipaq3115] got his hands on one, and had to design something cool with it. The Pi Watch isn’t powered by a Raspberry Pi, but a Teensy 3.1. [ipaq3115] included the Freescale/NXP Kinetis processor and MINI54 bootloader chip on his own custom board. He used the Teensy’s analog inputs to create his own 10 element capacitive touch ring. This watch even has a LSM303  magnetometer/accelerometer. All this power comes at a cost though. It takes a 480 mAh LiPo battery to keep The Pi Watch Ticking.

vikasFinally we have [Vikas V] and ScrolLED watch. Who says a watch has to have an LCD? [Vikas V] wanted a scrolling LED display on his wrist, so he built his own. An Atmel ATmega88V-10AU controls a 16×5 charlieplexed LED array. [Vikas] included a character font with many of the ASCII symbols in flash, so this watch can display messages. Power comes from a CR2032 watch battery in a custom PCB mounted holder. [Vikas] biggest issue so far has been light leaks from LED to LED. He’s considering mounting the array on the bottom of the watch. Shining the LEDs up through holes in the PCB would definitely help with the light leakage.

If you want to see more watch projects, check out our new watch projects list. Notice a project I might have missed? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

The Three Week Three Dollar Binary Watch

There’s a Maker Faire in three weeks, and your group wants to design and build a binary watch to give to attendees. You don’t have much time, and your budget is $3 per watch. What do you do? If you are [Parker@Macrofab] you come up with a plan, buy some parts, and start prototyping.

[Parker] selected the PIC16F527 because it had enough I/O and was inexpensive. A cheap crystal and some miscellaneous discrete parts rounded out the bill of materials. Some cheap ESD straps would serve for a band. He did the prototype with a PICDEM board and immediately ran into the bane of PIC programmers: the analog comparators were overriding the digital I/O pins. With that hurdle clear, [Parker] got the rest of the design prototyped and laid a board out in Eagle.

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Strapping an Apple II to Your Body

Now that the Apple wristwatch is on its way, some people are clamoring with excitement and anticipation. Rather than wait around for the commercial product, Instructables user [Aleator777] decided to build his own wearable Apple watch. His is a bit different though. Rather than look sleek with all kinds of modern features, he decided to build a watch based on the 37-year-old Apple II.

The most obvious thing you’ll notice about this creation is the case. It really does look like something that would have been created in the 70’s or 80’s. The rectangular shape combined with the faded beige plastic case really sells the vintage electronic look. It’s only missing wood paneling. The case also includes the old rainbow-colored Apple logo and a huge (by today’s standards) control knob on the side. The case was designed on a computer and 3D printed. The .stl files are available in the Instructable.

This watch runs on a Teensy 3.1, so it’s a bit faster than its 1977 counterpart. The screen is a 1.8″ TFT LCD display that appears to only be using the color green. This gives the vintage monochromatic look and really sells the 70’s vibe. There is also a SOMO II sound module and speaker to allow audio feedback. The watch does tell time but unfortunately does not run BASIC. The project is open source though, so if you’re up to the challenge then by all means add some more functionality.

As silly as this project is, it really helps to show how far technology has come since the Apple II. In 1977 a wristwatch like this one would have been the stuff of science fiction. In 2015 a single person can build this at their kitchen table using parts ordered from the Internet and a 3D printer. We can’t wait to see what kinds of things people will be making in another 35 years.

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Enigma Machine Wristwatch

We don’t find smartwatches to be supremely usable yet. This one sets a definition for usefulness. The Enigma machine is of course the cipher process used by the Germans during World War II. This Enigma Machine wristwatch is not only functional, but the appearance is modelled after that of the original machine. With the speckled gray/black case and the Enigma badge branding [Asciimation] has done a fine job of mimicking the original feel.

Driving the machine is an Arduino Pro Mini. We’ve seen Arduino Enigma Machines in the past so it’s not surprising to see it again here. The user interface consists of an OLED display at 128×64 resolution, three buttons, with a charging port to the right and on/off switch on the left.

The device is demonstrated after the break. Quite a bit of button presses are used to set up each of the three encoder wheels. But that’s hardly avoidable when you’re not committing to a full keyboard. We’re pretty impressed by the functionality of [Asciimation’s] interface considering it’s hardware simplicity.

This seems perfect for kids that are proving to have an interest in engineering. They learn about ciphers, embedded programming, and mechanical design and crafting (this is a hand-sewn leather wristband). Of course if you build one and start wearing it into the office we won’t judge.

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