When Instructables user Othermachine uploaded their tutorial for building a binary digital watch called the Nerd Watch it became a bit of a sensation among, well, nerds. It mixed in several of the average nerd’s favorite things–complete impracticality, simple electronic projects and, of course, it was flashy enough to attract the attention of curious people that could then have the functions described to them in excruciating detail. But for inexperienced or beginning makers it turns out that the project wasn’t going to be especially easy for the average nerd to recreate.
Othermachine isn’t a single person but is actually the Instructables profile for Other Machine Co., designers of a small, desktop CNC milling machine. Their CNC machine is called Othermill and was used heavily in the fabrication of the Nerd Watch. The Instructable was more a proof of concept for their milling machine than realistic project for your everyday maker. Now don’t get me wrong, the Othermill is a great little machine, and at $2,199 comparable in price to an average 3D printer. But realistically most of the people who would want to build their own Nerd Watch probably aren’t going to have access to a milling machine unless they are lucky enough to be part of a makerspace that has a CNC machine on the premises.
But maker Tim Keeley liked the concept so much that he didn’t let his lack of a milling machine stop him from making his own version with a 3D printable case. So rather than milling the watch’s circuit board, he came up with a layout that used all through hole components instead of wires. He made the board as small as he possibly could, and saved space by forming the connections with solder bridges and the leads of the components. The brain of his version of the Nerd Watch is an ATtiny85 control chip which connects to the board via a socket, allowing the chip to be removed and reprogrammed. Which is a good thing it turns out, since the chip needs to be popped out and reflashed in order for the time to be reset.
“The entire housing prints in three pieces with no support material needed. The body, the face and the back (battery cover). The face holds a circular circuit board with a rectangular opening for the components. It prints face down and has two small clips to help hold the circuit board in place. I still used some hot glue just to be safe though but I use hot glue on everything. The face then slides into the body and snaps flush with the top,” explained Keeley.
The original Nerd Watch software was written by Othermill’s Sam DeRose, and Keeley just used the sketches written for their project, only needing to slightly modify their software. The software controls the two LED lights on the face of the watch that display the time, with the hour and minutes shown by flashing the two LEDs in sequences representing the two 4-bit binary numbers. The first LED light represents the hour of the day while the second LED light represents the ‘minute hand’ that flashes based on the time of the day.
Once he had made the circuit board small enough to realistically fit inside of a wearable watch, Keeley then fit a 3D printable case that was designed to fit around it. Because he started by designing the insides of the watch first, he says that the watch is quite sturdy and all of the parts hold together extremely well.
“There is an oval in both the body and face pieces that allow you to align the pieces when they are put together so the face cutout is square with the straps. The body has pin holes for you to add your own strap. After the circuit is in and the face and body are together the back piece is just a battery cover that friction fits completing the watch housing,” Keeley continued.
You can see some video of the watch in action here:
Keeley’s finished watch is a simplified version of the original Nerd Watch that makes the project considerably more accessible for the average nerd. However he does admit that it is rather impractical for daily use and is probably more of a fun DIY project than a fashion choice. Let us know what you think of Keeley’s version of the Nerd Watch over on our 3D Printable Binary Watch forum thread at 3DPB.com.