Spikenzie Labs Solder: Time II Review

The Solder : Time II™ watch kit from Spikenzie Labs is a build-it-yourself watch kit that features a 7 X 20 dot matrix red LED display with a programmable Arduino microcontroller.  To me, quite simply, it’s a fun afternoon DIY kit with red lights.  What could be better?

According to Spikenzie Labs, The Solder : Time II uses the ATmega328P used in many of the current versions of Arduino.  It’s capable of displaying the date, month, words, scrolling messages, graphics, and special characters.  A piezo buzzer works with the alarm, and is programmable as well.  I’m not an Arduino programmer, but I have no fear of soldering and building stuff.  Let’s dive in!

Features:

  • It’s an “Arduino” easy to hack / reprogram
  • Unique conversation starter
  • Display is made of four 5 X 7 LED matrix modules (Total 140 pixels)
  • Two button interface
  • Display Text, time, numbers, graphics etc …
  • Create graphic animations and scrolling text
  • On board full size (.1″ spacing) FTDI style header for reprogramming
  • ATmega serial port (TX & RX) not used by the watch circuit, available to interface accessories
  • Low power sleep mode
  • Self-contained; battery, circuits and displays all contained in watch body
  • Stylized laser cut clear acrylic watch body
  • One-size-fits-all Velcro wrist band
  • Dallas 1337S+ Real time clock (RTC)
  • Hours, Minutes, Seconds
  • Year, Month, Day, Day of week
  • Two separate Alarms possible
  • Piezo alarm buzzer
  • SMT parts come pre-assembled, tested and programmed

Includes:

  • Solder : Time II PCB with SMD (surface mount parts) assembled and tested.
  • Four 5 X 7 LED Matrix
  • Buttons
  • Piezo alarm
  • Clock crystal
  • Screws
  • Laser cut acrylic watch housing
  • Velcro wrist strap
  • Battery
  • Battery holder

Tools & Supplies required:

  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Flush Cutters

Spikenzie Labs generously provided me with the kit, as well as a fully completed Time II watch.

First, the kit itself.  The black thing on the right is the hook-and-loop strap.

Here’s the kit, unbagged.

Note the size of the crystal. Tiny, tiny tiny. Don’t sneeze.

The kit does not come with printed instructions.  Instead, you can view them on the website.  The photos and descriptions are excellent.  They are far superior to anything I could photograph, but I’ve taken a few snapshots of my own.

As advised, I taped the battery holder to the circuit board as I soldered them together.

Soldering the LED displays. Oops, I put too much solder on a few leads. I better clean those up.

Circuit board fully assembled. The piezo buzzer is on top, and the two buttons flank the battery holder.

Believe it or not, peeling off the protective blue overlay on the plastic bits was the most time consuming step of the entire build. The stuff is tenacious and builds up static cling!

All the clear plastic bits, unwrapped.

Making a clock sandwich with the provided hex screws.

All done, and keeping time!

Let’s be honest.  This thing is huge.  I don’t see myself wearing the Time II as a wrist watch, except as a novelty.  The LED display is exposed and is not covered by the clear plastic.  Nothing about it is water-tight.

The two buttons provide a fairly puzzling user interface that’s definitely not suited for everyday use.  Click picture for larger image.

There is a programming port on the back of the Time II.  I did not attempt this.

Size comparison next to a Casio G-Shock watch.

The rear panel has slots so you can feed the hook and loop strap.

It’s hard to tell from this photo, but the LED display is very, very red.

Is the Time II neat?  Yes it is!  Is it practical?  That depends!  It’s even cooler if you can unlock the Arduino end of things.  It’s a nifty novelty that only took me about half an hour to complete.  I’m not sure I’d recommend it to complete novices to soldering, as some of the pins are fairly close together, and the crystal is just microscopic.

Out of the box, the Time II can show the time, set an audible alarm, has a basic stopwatch, can display a sample scrolling text for demo purposes, and has a little “worm” animation.  The display automatically goes to sleep after a short period to save battery life.  It doesn’t do much as-is, but the possibilities are enormous, if you dare!  I’ve already got a few ideas for future kid halloween costumes.  It might even get me to learn Arduino programming.

 

Product Information

Price:$59 for kit, $65 fully assembled
Manufacturer:Spikenzie Labs
Requirements:
  • Soldering iron, solder, flush cutters, some soldering skills.
Pros:
  • Easy to assemble. Lots of potential if you're familiar with Arduino programming.
Cons:
  • Pretty limited out of the box, but I suspect the target market won't care. Red LED display somewhat hard to read in bright light.
Posted in: Do-It-Yourself, How-To, Reviews, Watches, Clocks

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