Gorgeous antique pocketwatch LED retrofit

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

16 thoughts on “Gorgeous antique pocketwatch LED retrofit

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love it! Though I think I’d actually prefer a more standard hand advance and not the “sweep.”

  2. Math Campbell says:

    I’ve been dreaming about doing this to an old pocket watch for some time now….
    Pictured it almost the same as he’s done it, although I think I’d like a face that’s visible as well as the lights, so one can see the numbers; easily accomplished by a cover piece……

    Amazing quality work, and Paul, if you read this, you have done your Grandfather proud; I’m sure he’d be honoured…
    Really want the schematic for this; dunno if my soldering skills are up to 132 hand-soldered SMD LED’s, but I’d be willing to give it a try. A kit would be awesome…

    1. matt says:

      Yes I would love a kit for this build… I have been wanting a pocket watch for a long time, but something like this would be an amazing piece to talk about.

  3. ROB K636 says:

    I would buy it.

    I do like the sweep.

  4. Malcolm says:

    I, too, have a pocket watch that made its way to me from my Grandfather. He was a railroad machinist with an appreciation for all things mechanical.

    Unfortunately, the watch no longer functions and I have been told it probably isn’t worth the effort to have it restored. This is such a clever and practical recycling of an item bringing it into the 21st century!

    Any idea how long it would run on your power supply?

  5. Jatt says:

    but not elegant at all. Compared to a real train pocket watch from this era-a marvel of accuracy and dependability-it’s simply ghastly. The elegance of a porcelain dial with finely painted roman numerals, hair-thin, blued hands, and sub seconds dial, thick beveled crystal, etched plate workings….ah THAT’s a watch!

    Little batteries, over-reliance on lead, other heavy metals, plastic, etc. are ruining the environment. Think first!

    1. matt says:

      Man that is really nice of you to put someone’s hard work down like that….. It might not be a work of art to you, but it is to many of use here…. This guy took the skills he had and did something amazing and you come on here and knock on it like that? If you don’t like it then go somewhere else, no one is forcing you to click the link to get here.

  6. dman762000 says:

    There needs to be a kit for this somewhere. I would so do a refit of an old watch case I have. I would put a paper face over it though. with the lights shining through the paper it would look really good.

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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 makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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