Nixoid made their classic Nixie tube watch back in 2018, and now they’re back with a redesigned case for it, better charging, and some new features. If retro-futurism is your vibe, this is for you.
What is a Nixie tube watch?
Nixie tubes are cold-cathode tubes with elements in them in the shape of numbers. By applying power to the different elements, the tube can indicate ten different numbers, 0-9. There have been a number of hobby clock projects, and even a few watch projects, but turning such a thing into a manufacturable product has been difficult.
What’s challenging about making the Nixoid watch?
The challenges for such projects are always around power and parts supply. Nixie tubes have been out of production a long time. Each tube requires as much as 170 volts at a few milliamps to drive them. In terms of size, packaging it all up into something that can be worn on the wrist is tough: you need a battery, a charge mechanism, and because you can probably only fit two tubes, you need a micro controller to give a user interface for setting the time, and switching between hours and minutes.
How did Nixoid solve this?
In a word, luck.
They found a supply of old tubes in a warehouse that had been boxed up for 25 years. This is extremely lucky: there’s really no telling how few tubes are left in the world, especially as new old stock.
Nixoid also managed to design a watch case around the two tubes, a magnetic charging point, and a button to operate a switch for the user interface. Somehow in all this, they also managed to fit a battery and an accelerometer.
How does it work, and what’s battery life like?
You can see the time by pressing a button or by gesture. The watch does not respond to accidental hand movements. All movements of the watch are processed by a separate core, to see the time you need to turn your wrist away from you, and then back, towards you. This gesture is programmed intentionally, and several times reduces false actuations, which has a good effect on the battery life.– the Nixoid Next kickstarter
- The autonomy of the watch with the accelerometer on is up to 10 days in everyday use;
- The autonomy of the watch with the accelerometer turned off is up to 25-30 days in everyday use;
- With the accelerometer disabled, the watch can be stored for up to two months in sleep mode.
How is this different from other Nixie tube watches?
Nixoid made great effort to keep the large visible parts symmetric, something that wasn’t always done on past Nixie tube watches. It has a machined aluminum case, with lugs that fall low on the case to make it wear comfortably on the wrist. The watch is shown on four colors of rubber strap, as well as leather and a metal bracelet. That is, it’s designed with thought about what makes a watch a wristwatch, not just a project with time-telling tubes.
What do you get with your Nixoid Next watch?
$240 gets a basic watch without the accelerometer tilt, which causes it to display the time when rotating your wrist. $399 gets the pro version with accelerometer tilt. The watches are available in Deep Black, Polished Classic, Mars Red, or Military Green. Metal straps were a stretch goal that’s been met, as are leather straps and additional case colors. Check it out at kickstarter.