Building a watch winder

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28800bph
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Building a watch winder

Post by 28800bph »

I was recently in the market for a new watch winder and started searching to see what was available. I was drawn to some of the custom designs by Buben & Zorweg, Scatola del Tempo, and Orbita. Admiring their work made me realize that it would be fun to design and build my own winder. I had some ideas for new features and functionality that I don't think are available in the winder market. Well, it's done now -- so I'll share the project details in an article here.

Here it is in CAD rendering:

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And here it is in real life:

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The heart of my system is the Portescap Stepper Hybrid Motor. Portescap, situated in La Chaux-de-Fonds, has a history rooted in Swiss watchmaking. In 1933 they invented the Incabloc shock absorber for balance wheel jewel bearings, still widely used today. They also launched the well-known Vibrograf instrument line for timing of watches. In recent years they have evolved away from watch components and are now an industry leader in high-precision motors and industrial automation.

I have never seen a stepper motor used on a watch winder. All winders that I have seen use a brush DC motor or in a few instances an electronically commutated motor. They are coupled with a reduction gearbox to run at a proper speed. Or to drive a freefall swinging motion as in the Orbita Rotorwind system.

A brush DC motor will rotate continuously when voltage is applied. Steppers are different. They are brushless DC motors that have multiple electromagnets around a central gear-shaped core. This divides a full rotation into 3200 equal steps. The motor's position can be commanded to move and hold at any one of these steps.

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This design allows for high torque with precise control of speed, acceleration, rotational direction, and position. And there are no gearboxes required. The direct drive system is very robust for long term operation. Another advantage is the motor will not burn out if it were to be stalled, as is the case for brush motors (a leading cause of death for cheap e-bay winders).

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I designed the drivetrain with Teflon-impregnated bronze sleeve bearings from Spyraflo, a 316L stainless drive shaft with a Teflon thrust bearing, and an Oldham shaft coupling from Huco. The four drivetrains are designed to last for a lifetime of smooth maintenance-free operation. A system with four steppers opens up the possibility for controlling a symphony of complex choreographed motion.

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Many people ask about magnetic fields on watch winders and the potential for magnetizing a movement. Every motor runs on the principle of magnetic fields. My philosophy was to keep the motor far away from the watch so that the field would be undetectable. Thus a 10 inch drive shaft for separation. I confirmed that there is no measurable field near the watch carriers by testing with a high-sensitivity magnetometer.

Another improvement I wanted to address was the mechanism for mounting the watch on the rotating carrier. It had to be 100% secure, very fast to load and unload, impossible to scratch the watch, and instantly adaptable to straps or bracelets sized for me or my wife. I don't like a winder where there is any outward stress applied on a leather strap, especially if the strap has to be closed with the tang in a notch that I don't normally use. That can leave a mark or crease where it doesn't belong.

My solution was to use a microfiber "beanbag". I slide it inside the strap, then mount it on the carrier head by closing two torque hinges. Note: torque hinges are not spring loaded, but are designed to hold their position. The watch only touches microfiber, and the only material in close proximity is Dupont Delrin thermoplastic. This mechanism will hold a watch sized for any wrist between 5 and 9 inches. The grip is rock-solid, it won't budge even if you pick up the whole unit and shake it hard.

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The next design issue was picking a control system. I decided to use the Arduino platform. It is an open-source microcontroller that is made in Italy. I used one Arduino UNO:

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In cooperation with one Arduino MEGA:

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Rather than create a bird's nest of messy wiring, I designed a two-sided circuit board:

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Then had it printed at a rapid prototyper:

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Here it is filled in with components after a bit of soldering:

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The circuit board houses four stepper motor drivers, a few voltage regulators, a switch debouncer, and a real time clock module with battery back-up. It also consolidates the input and output wiring terminals. In case you're wondering, Kierto is the Finnish word for Rotation.

Here is a view of all the controls with the top lid removed:

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The winder structure is made out of extruded aluminum and is held together by aluminum and Dupont Delrin joining plates. All fasteners are 18-8 stainless steel. It is built like a tank. I was going for massive and imposing.
I made the custom Delrin plates by laser cutting:

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I also did laser cutting for the top covers in Evonik Acrylite. This specific style is called Platinum Ice. It has a soft reflective finish with a crystal-clear water edge. The matte frosted surface is resistant to fingerprints. For decoration, I added laser etching on the surface. I chose some pictures of watch movements that I drew in CAD. Here is the setup file I sent to the laser cutter along with some close-ups of the real thing:

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For the display I selected a high-contrast OLED screen from Seetron. Unlike an LCD, this looks perfect at any viewing angle, and is bright even in full daylight.

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I also included a GPS receiver. This receives the atomic time from the satellites. I find this is more reliable than the NIST radio signal from Boulder. And service is available anywhere on Earth. The winder displays the time so I can check and set my watches. This also allows the winder to schedule its running time. For example, I have it set up to only spin during waking hours. Here is a close-up of the GPS receiver:

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There is a push-button at the top of each of the four stations. This allows me to start or stop individual watches. The stainless steel buttons have built-in bicolor LEDs to indicate status (blue = run, red = stop). I forgot to take a picture of it glowing. The LEDs are programmed to turn off after 10 minutes.

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The user control is all done through one knob on a push-button rotary encoder. It is a Bourns optical encoder, most commonly seen in high-end audio equipment.

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The winder holds a program recipe that is customized for each watch in my collection. I just use the knob to select which watch model is loaded on each station. I don't care to remember the exact recipe of turns per day and direction of rotation required for each watch, so that info is baked into my database. As I buy new watches, I upload their specific recipe by USB cable from my laptop.

A status screen on the winder display shows how many turns have already completed for the day. Right now all watches spin at 6 rpm in the proper direction(s) until they reach their target number of turns for the day. I will probably experiment with that strategy in the future. For example, I could run continuously at 0.5 rpm to achieve exactly 720 turns per day. Anything is possible since it is open source.

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I've decided to produce this winder in a limited series of one. On to the next project!
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by AliBar »

28800bph comes through again. A stunning project with great looking results and, I am taking from the brill phtographs, a bullet proof build. You sir, must have a brain the size of a planet :).

What's next then... a personal teleport system or just proof of cold fusion using a few kitchen utensils ? Both look to be well within your capabilities. Top man :)
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by Viognier »

28800bph - HOLY SH*T!!!

OK, I am speechless......BEST POST EVER on the forum!!!!!!!

How long did it take to make this......start to finish?
Were you able to do it for under $1000 USD?

You must have an unbelievable network of contacts to source everything, coupled with your obvious talented skillset. What an incredible project - you must be very proud.

In awe.

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asqwerth
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by asqwerth »

Yet again, you really are The Man!

This project turned out really well, not just functionally and in the amount of tech you crammed into it, but the sheer aesthetic beauty of the same. I really like the engraved design, the translucent luminescence of the acrylic panels, and the audiophile hifi look of the control panel.
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Amor Vincit Omnia
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia »

I have no idea how you can even conceive of such a thing, let alone put it together - congratulations! :clap:
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downer
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by downer »

Once again I am impressed with both your ingenuity and your ability to describe complex solutions in a language I can (sort of) understand.

The outcome of this project is a beautiful machine. Wonderful!

Surely, if you industrialised some of your ideas, you would be able to make a thriving business? Although, maybe your obvious enjoyment would be somehow reduced.....
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by synthdood »

Wow!

Being a trained electronic engineer myself I really appreciate and have a deep respect for what you have done here. Mechanically, electronically and aesthetically this project has been executed to perfection. Hats off!
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by Lamps »

WOW. Very impressive

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by welshlad »

In. Awe. :shock:

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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by nathanclarinet »

Bloody hell, you are a genius. :grin:
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by ianblyth »

So what do you do for relaxation? :lol:
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by SteveM »

What a fantastic thread. I absolutely love what you have produced; an industrial look, but with elegance and superb finishing & attention to detail. Superb work - when does the production line open up :lol:
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by footycrazy »

Absolutely incredible.

:clap:
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by Phil0886 »

:god: There may come a day when we cease to be amazed by what 28800bph can do but I don't think we are there yet !!
by Viognier » Thu Oct 04, 2012 5:47 am

28800bph - HOLY SH*T!!!

OK, I am speechless......BEST POST EVER on the forum!!!!!!!
@Viognier - our resident knight has previous, if you think this post was good you might want to check out one he did earlier.... http://www.christopherwardforum.com/vie ... 0&start=45
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Re: Building a watch winder

Post by Kip »

asqwerth wrote:Yet again, you really are The Man!

This project turned out really well, not just functionally and in the amount of tech you crammed into it, but the sheer aesthetic beauty of the same. I really like the engraved design, the translucent luminescence of the acrylic panels, and the audiophile hifi look of the control panel.
I can't say it any better then asqwerth. Absolutely Marvelous!!!!

You continue to amaze me with your developments. :clap:
downer wrote:Once again I am impressed with both your ingenuity and your ability to describe complex solutions in a language I can (sort of) understand.

The outcome of this project is a beautiful machine. Wonderful!
I am astounded by your attention to form and function without missing any of the details. We are honored to have you in "The Asylum".

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful project with us. :thumbup:
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