This was a triumph. Sorta. A serious labor of love and dedication, this thing took me about two months of evenings to make, or around 150 hours. I desired a watch with both an hour and minute exteral bezels for use in tracking time zones, elapsed hours, and elapsed minutes, so I set out and made one.
And let me preface that I've never modified or messed with any of my former watches AT ALL. I'm a complete scrub with this. But nevertheless, I've documented the journey, and thought someone here might appreciate it. So without further adieu, my Portal-inspired automatic time piece!
A scene from Portal, one of my favorite puzzle games. I needed two colors to contrast the bezels, so my mind instantly went to the theme you see here. And the rest was history!
An enjoyable anecdote meant to illustrate the lore behind this piece. I had an awesome writer friend come up with a character study to help guide the design of my watch, and here it is! Credit goes to IG: gundumgirl, for slaying this piece 😉
So it begins!
Messed with a few of my own watches to gather thoughts and ideas.
My main material of choice for this project was Delrin, a laser-safe cutting plastic of high strength. I found that blasting the material (which arrives gloss black), turns to a rad matte grey when blasted.
Sandblast test results
You can see the transition from the gloss coating to the neat matte finish. Reminded me of titanium, and I loved that, so I went with it for the entire watch.
The results of blasting and washing 3" delrin strips of various thickness. (.010", .020", .063", and .093") This material would make up the layers I eventually cut out and stack together.
Laser-cutting begins with my cheapo 40w chinese laser cutter. This is the bottom piece.
Watch bits arrive
To construct a watch, you need gaskets, all sorts of 'em. These rubber bits help keep things protected and in place. Cousins UK is the go-to place for this I found.
Layers coming together!
Top and bottom halves have been cut and adhesived together with double sided 3M adhesive sheets placed underneath each piece before being laser cut. Seen here is the L-ring being dropped in place for the crystal to fit into.
Body layering complete!
All the layers to construct the case have been stacked and compressed.
Spent a few stressful minutes freehanding the shape out with a dull belt sander. Not too shabby!
I also used this rotary stone to smooth down some bits. Really enjoy looking at the layers in this one.
Case shaping complete!
At this point, I've got the case about where I want it (without overdoing it), and ready to move forward with the scary part.
A quick shot at how much material I was using. This was about half way through the project.
My double bezel rail design
It came to me outta the blue, but I knew it would work! A simple T-shaped ring surrounding the crystal would allow for opposing bezels to click down over it and rotate along the surface.
Bezel making – Outer Minutes
Laser cut my bezel (which took days to finalize due to laser cutting restrictions. If only I knew how hard it was going to be to select a font that would work at this scale). Ready for glow paint! I used Glow Inc. day glow so that the paint would appear orange and blue during the day as well as night (instead of white). I spent a good week on testing paints to get this right.
Bezel making – Inner Hours
Laser cut and paint applied, with masking tape beneath. Mixed a dash of Ultra Blue glow paint and a lesser dash of Day Glow blue paint to achieve the right color.
Bezel making – Assembly
Assembled in order, these rings form the opposing shapes to rotate around the T-ring.
To decrease drag, I've sanded the inside and underside of each bezel to make sure things operate smoothly.
Boy were these a pain, but I'm okay with how they turned out. Working at this scale is tricky, and these was just about as good as it was gonna get.
Laser cutting the bit that eventually covers the movement on the base of the case.
In running with my narrative, this was what I ended up going for on the caseback 😛 Think of the watch as a graduation piece, and surviving at Aperture Labs long enough to make it to a Director position; Hastily muttered by Cave Johnson to one of his lab boys, and thrown together as a gift.
A look at my layers
A glance at one of my many Corel Draw documents I put together to facilitate my laser cutting. I ended up with about 20 more layers or so than this.
Laser-cutting my dial. Also took weeks to land on a final design.
Lume paint application
Using a pin-tip oil dropper one bit at a time, I meticulously filled each of the indices with Ultra Green V10 glow paint from Glow Inc.
Quite happy with how this one turned out. I made about a dozen others before I arrived at this one.
Krylon Clear Acrylic Coating
In flat finish, this was used to preserve the Delrin from wear and tear. Neat stuff.
Miyota 8215 Automatic (self-winding) 21-jewel mechanical movement. An affordable and simple work-horse of a movement that was great to work with.
Originally for a vintage Rolex, these were one of the few pairs of hands that I liked which could fit my movement. Came from China.
A simple grey nylon nato strap from Barton. Really comfortable, propulsion gel resistant, will keep the watch case on your wrist if a spring bar comes loose, and ultrasonic stitching for a super clean look. Just what the boys are issued at Aperture Labs.
Dial mounted to movement
Using bits of adhesive under the dial, the two are pressed together before fitting the hands.
Soldered spring bar holes
Was worried about the spring bars pulling through the layers, so I melted the area they fit into for added strength. (still an issue) But it works!
Pressed the crystal into the case with a crystal press. A pretty secure fit! Also seen are my mounted hands. I spent literal hours on these, only to find that I needed to sand down the thickness of my dial, as the hands were being lifted off their posts. I amended this and all went well.
At 5am after wrestling with watch hands that refused to stay in place. Pretty sure I broke the second hand unfortunately.
Attempted to make a bracelet using a titanium clasp (super cool), but I realized how much effort it would take to drill all the pin holes. I tried, but couldn't get it right. So I let this go for now.
Made a crown stem, with a glowing logo and all. But didn't end up wanting to worry about tapping it to thread it onto the stem. In the process of making it, I also managed to spill loctite on my desk. I had to sand it down just to get it off. Thanks, Mr. Stem
The movement/dial have been press fitted inside the case. Lookin' good.
These suckers clicked right on! (after further sanding sessions). But they work! I blew my own mind there for a minute.
That lume was so worth it. I mainly wanted to be able to reference such things at night while sleeping, but I'll be darned if this doesn't look rad too.
A quick shot of the movement inside the case. Perfect fit!
On the wrist
This was quite the moment. So much work to achieve this. But it felt great. And literally extremely light weight.
Lume on the wrist
Just gets better and better.
You made it! Now enjoy some beauty shots 🙂
Lab coat mandatory
Seen here is a quick compilation of about 50 design changes made over the course of the project. There were many more that I didn't document.
So there ya go! I'm pretty happy with the results, and wear it with great pride. But I think I'll leave this trade to the professionals form here on out 😛 Lemme know what you think!