Craft & Design Technology
Gorgeous antique pocketwatch LED retrofit

So, you may think, somebody took an old pocketwatch and fit it with a PCB and some LEDs. Ho-hum, perhaps? Seen it? Done it? Got the T-shirt? My response: there’s concept, and there’s execution. The concept here may be of the non-earth-shattering variety, but the execution is exquisite. Must. Watch. Video. To appreciate just how cool this thing really is. It ticks, for one thing, and when the minute and hour “hands” advance they sweep around the face in a visual gesture reminiscent of John Taylor’s Corpus Clock. And besides flawless aesthetics and stellar workmanship, the watch has a great story, too. Its maker, Paul Pounds, explains:

My grandfather was a horologist. When he passed away in 2005 I inherited from him a collection of broken pocketwatches. As my skills are in microelectronics, rather than micromechanics, I felt it would be a fitting tribute to him to produce an electronic movement in place of one of the broken ones he’d never had the time to fix.

I never knew my grandfather very well, on account of our living some distance away from him all of my life. He struck me as a quiet, unassuming sort of man, but this fit very well with his astonishing skill as a horologist. In his heyday, he was among the best watchmakers in Australia. His steady and patient hand able to finely adjust the most diminutive gears and escapements of a clockwork mechanism. He was particularly recognised for his ability to perform delicate work in the smallest of mechanical movements, the lady’s wristwatch.

During the Second World War, his expertise was considered too valuable to allow him to go and fight, and instead he was sent to fabricate precision mechanical systems at the Toowoomba Foundry. He was told that if he tried to enlist he would be arrested and sent back!

Such was his skill that when the Australian Horologist journal issued a challenge to drill a pin from end to end, he achieved it by boring a hole by hand, using tiny drills he made from sewing needles. Not one to let it rest there, he topped this feat by filing and turning down another pin on a minature lathe, and threading it through the hole. Then he raised the bar again with a three-penny piece drilled and threaded through the edge of the coin. He produced a small number of these pins and coins to amaze his clients.

Although he never got to see it, I’d like to think he would have enjoyed seeing one of his old broken watches turned into something new and useful. This project is dedicated to his memory.

[via Hack a Day]

howard pounds master horologist 1914-2005.jpg

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan