Evolution of my Wood Watch Project

(I originally posted this on my blog)

My younger brother came home from a summer job last year with a wood watch. We all thought it was pretty darn cool. When I saw “we all” I mean the boys in the family, although I’m sure the girls thought it was cool too. My Dad is a darn good wood worker and has some pretty cool machines in the garage, so everyone in our family is relatively familiar with what goes into making things out of wood. Whether its carving things from whistles to figurines or just whipping out a few wood picture frames, we’re all pretty comfortable with things like that. So someone in the family  making a wood watch shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anybody, what did come as a surprise to me was the cost of the professionally made wood watch.


There are 2 major companies that produce wood watches (in reality there are a lot more) and those 2 are WeWood and Mica. My brother had a WeWood produced watch. Like I said, I thought a wood watch was a pretty cool idea. When I looked them up online however the price for one of those was not so cool. You couldn’t get one for under a hundred dollars.

Granted they used some high quality wood, they had a lot of different options, they came with a couple replaceable links and a warranty, but shelling out over a hundred bones for a watch piece attached with 50 odd small pieces of wood and some minuscule metal parts was not my idea of a bargain. I’m sure that WeWood and Mica make some serious bank on their wood watch business. And to prove it I decided I would make my own wood watch. Having never done it before I decided to go with quick prototype to prove the concept.

The first one I made ,although it may not look it, was a success. It’s role was to prove that with the tools I had I could make the wrist band part of the watch, since that seemed like it was going to be the hardest part.

I actually cut the pieces by hand, and by hand I mean with a saw. I drilled the holes and put a paper clip in, bent the end and clipped the other side and bent that side down too. It was a little time consuming but definitely not as much as the other ones. This was my attempt at the clasp mechanism. It fits together by threading a paper clip through the watch face and out the other side. It’s not easy, by yourself, to put it on but since my main motivation was to make a wood wristband I didn’t really care. I would improve upon that in the next model.

Which lead to Alpha v. 2.0. Basically the same as the first but with some noticeable improvements. I tried to make the band pieces uniform and spent some time sanding them and putting them in an aesthetic order, lining them up by grain direction.

It didn’t turn out perfect though, I spaced the links too far away from each other which gave it a look I didn’t like. I improved upon that in the next version. I decided I could live with the paperclips since I couldn’t think of any other material we had lying around that would do the job. I improved the clasp, which made it a lot easier to put on. I intended to put a watch face in this version but after seeing the way the band looked I decided it wasn’t worth it. Even though it didn’t turn out perfect I definitely enjoy putting together an idea you have in your mind and trying to translate that into real life. This version made some serious improvements and brought the concept a lot closer to reality which gave me hope that I could not only make a wooden wristband with a watch implant but that it could even look cool.

With some new ideas I actually spent money on Alpha v. 2.1. I improved the overall look and spaced the links as close as I could, which I still think looks pretty legit! I intended for this design to be the clincher, the finisher, the final version. But like the last one it ended up having its own set of problems and prompting me to get back to the drawing table to improve it if I wanted to ever wear one of these in public.

I had a fun time figuring out the right drill bit and nail size. The trick was to make it a snug fit in the outer edges of the band so that it would not allow the band to fall apart but not tight enough to bust the fragile pieces of Pine wood. The inside middle pieces just have a slightly larger drill bit size to allow rotation. I cut out each piece and then rounded them by sanding so that they would rotate while still being so closely packed. After hammering in the nails I used a grinder to grind off the extra nail sticking out of the band. It looked pretty knarly with the nails ungrinded, looked like a weapon with all the spikes sticking out of the band. I also counter sunk 2 magnets into the middle of the band so that the band automatically claps together and keeps itself on your wrist. The watch is just a watch from Walmart I clipped the band off and countersunk into the face.

The downfalls to this design; I cracked the glass face while it was still in production. I finished the watch like that anyways but felt like an idiot for being careless. The magnets is a good idea but just 2 wasn’t strong enough so I added more in the next version. I also began to see a problem with the band. It rotated perfectly but it is super rigid. In the picture you can see my fears realized. I broke one of the links. It was easy enough to glue back together but the problem is its inability to absorb any sort of impact. The wood is not strong enough in that form especially with a relatively large hole in it. Wood is never a good material if there is any torque or impact involved.

With some more good ideas I felt like I was getting close to a final design. I followed with another design,  Alpha v 3.0. I felt confident enough to use some quality wood, the brown is Rose wood and the lighter colored is still Pine. I spaced the links a bit farther in an attempt to allow more room for the links to flex and absorb more impact. I added 2 more magnets to strengthen the clasp and I used an old watch I had instead of buying a new one. I also added 2 coats of sealant to make the links more durable.

What I’m really proud of in this design is that I didn’t just counter sink the watch into the wood face. I took apart the watch and put in only the parts I needed. Which it turns out is not very much at all. Its just a little bit of mechanical parts and a battery about the size of a nickel. I used the metal back part of the actual watch and hammered it onto the back of the wood face. There is actually a glass covering I spaced just above the watch hands by bending a paper clip into a circle. The paper clip sits between the glass and the wood that the hands spin around. Making the thin wood circle was a tricky one, it had to been thin enough to allow the hands to still connect to the gears below and be a perfect enough circle to not look ghetto. A couple tries and some raw fingers later I got it.

The downfalls of this design was that the band was just still to rigid to be viable and I was just not feeling the magnets anymore. The good part was that the magnets could unclasp if it got caught on something instead of breaking the links but that’s just embarrassing if your watch falls off when it gets caught. I wanted my watch to be a little more tough than that. I’m still way proud of this design though, this is as close to a wood watch as you can get. One thing I wanted to change in the next design though was the face, this one is kind of plain. I spent more time on the way the band looked that the face was more of an afterthought.

Last but not least Alpha v. 4.0. This is the last one I have made but not the last I will ever make. It’s just the most current version. It’s durable with the stretchy string and 4 coats of sealant. (Many thanks to Greg for coming up with the idea for stretching string to weave the links together!) I went a little overboard with the face. The thing is huge. I went from plain looking faces to in your faces watch design. I have to admit I wanted to create a little bit of an eyesore when I made this watch. I wanted you to see it and have to say something about it, or at least think to yourself “Wow! That is a unique watch!” I’ve only worn it a few times and I have to say it is a great conversation starter. A wood calculator watch is kind of a self conflicting piece of work.

Since it’s an Alpha version that means it’s not a finished product. If it was then I have to admit it would be a little bit of a bummer because I enjoy designing and making them so much. Downfalls to this design is that it’s a little bit of a hassle to put on. You just slide it over your hand but it takes a few seconds to get it completely on. Plus the watch face is a little over the top. Granted I designed it in my head to be that way but I want to make another one that is more classy than shouting for attention. This one is cool though, it’s a legitimate wood watch. It accomplishes what I set out to do. It’s durable enough to wear around, it was over 10 times cheaper than a WeWood or Mica watch, and it brings me some satisfaction to accomplish that.

If I wanted I could make more and try and sell them. I don’t have the time to even try right now though, and I wouldn’t want selling them to take the fun out of it for me.  Plus you can buy cheaper wood watches from shady online retailers and I don’t really want to compete with them. If you read the whole post I’m impressed, and you learned about one of my hobbies. If you have any suggestions for improvements (for a watch, not my blog) let me know. If you want to compliment me then you can do that too, I love compliments.

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